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Can alcohol help you sleep?

This is another question I get asked a lot and just in case you ever wondered… I’ll try to be brief…

Apparently some people find that an alcoholic drink helps them sleep during periods of insomnia, stress or anxiety.

Even if you don’t use it for those reasons, perhaps like me you sometimes just quite enjoy a glass of your favourite tipple in the evening to relax after long day.

Whatever the reason for having an evening drink or nightcap, this is quite a popular habit, as surveys and polls have frequently shown.

In a large British survey in 2014, 16% of the respondents said they had an alcoholic drink before bedtime. In a 2008 poll of 1000 people in the US, 8% said they drank alcohol a few nights a week to help them sleep. In another US poll, 30% of people with persistent insomnia reported having used alcohol to help them sleep in the past year, and 67% of those said it was effective.

I imagine that you most likely already know how alcohol personally affects you at night. However, much of the medical advice about sleep suggests that you should avoid having alcohol before going to bed.

This advice is based on research on the effects of alcohol on the quality of sleep. There’s also evidence that drinking alcohol regularly before going to bed may lead to sleep disorders and other health problems. I can tell you from my experience that if I drink alcohol shortly before going to bed, I fall asleep quickly but I tend to wake up about an hour after falling asleep. There are several physiological reasons which explain that. I can also tell you that I get a lot more complaints about snoring after drinking alcohol (and I don’t mean only from the neighbours).

Can alcohol really help you fall sleep faster? The short answer is ‘yes’ but it’s not recommended. However, at the end of the day (pun meant) this is very much a personal lifestyle choice.

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