Alcohol has many negative effects on human health. Cancer is the most alarming effect while cosmetic inconveniences like premature aging signs may seem minor. Alcohol generally hides many toxic effects that slowly take a toll on the health of a person. Most people think that a person is out of the negative reach of alcohol unless they drink heavily or have an alcohol dependency problem. However, research has revealed a different conclusion.
For instance, research has shown that having just a single drink per day can shorten the lifespan of a person. No study has comprehensively concluded that moderate drinking is good. However, some studies have suggested that even a light drinker is at the risk of developing cancer because of alcohol intake. Perhaps, such revelations may prompt you to stop drinking alcohol once for all.
But, more revelations of the negative effects of alcohol are emerging as scientists continue their research. For instance, a Finnish-based researcher, Julia Pietila, has added to the dire prospects of alcohol. This researcher from the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering at the Tempera University of Technology in Finland has authored a paper that has been published in the JMIR Mental Health Journal. In this paper, Julia reveals how alcohol intake affects the cardiovascular automatic regulation within the first sleep hours.
Sleep Quality and Alcohol
Julia used real-life information to make this study unique. Data from 4,098 women and men between the age of 18 and 65 years were examined. A special device was used to record the variability of the subjects’ heart (HRV) in real-world, uncontrolled conditions.
According to the author, no study has focused on the association of acute alcohol consumption with physiological changes in real-world, uncontrolled settings.
The scientists accessed sleep HRV recordings from at least 2 nights. In one recording, the participants had drunk alcohol and in the other, they had not. HRV is the measure of the variations between heartbeats. The autonomic nervous system regulates the variations.
This system comprises the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for controlling the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, causes the rest-and-digest state.
HRV measurements made assessing the restful state quality of participants assessable by the researchers. The participants were examined during the first 3 sleep hours after consuming alcohol.
The researchers broke down alcohol intake into high, moderate, and low categories. The bodyweight of the participants formed the basis of calculating the categories.
Perhaps, this is a major reason to quit drinking. According to this study, alcohol reduces restorative sleep quality. Specifically, physiological recovery decreased after low alcohol intake.
Sleep quality was impaired by even a single drink. Restorative sleep quality was lowered by moderate consumption by 24%. High alcohol consumption lowered sleep quality by up to 39.2%.
Both women and men had similar results and alcohol affected active and sedentary individuals alike. But, alcohol had more pronounced harmful effects on young individuals than on seniors.
According to Tero Myllymaki, a co-author of this paper, younger or physically active people can easily feel like they are invincible easily and naturally. Tero is a Department of Sports Technology and Exercise Physiology professor at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.
But, this evidence indicates that people are susceptible to the harmful impact of alcohol despite their activeness or young age. Alcohol affects recovery for everybody during sleep.
Overstating the importance of quality sleep is not easy. That’s both in terms of quantity and quality. Although it’s not always possible to add the number of hours a person sleeps, insight into the way behaviors influences the quality of restorative sleep can help. With the right insights, a person can learn how to stop drinking to ensure a more efficient sleep. Even a small change can have a major impact provided it’s right.
Breathing and Urination Aggravation
Alcohol aggravates breathing in people that have respiratory problems. That’s because it causes relaxation of the entire body including throat muscles. This makes a person more prone to sleep apnea and snoring.
Naturally, the human body knows the right time to sleep. For instance, the body knows it should sleep at night instead of going to the bathroom. The body has been accustomed to put the bladder into hibernation at night. However, alcohol is a diuretic. That means it can make a person want to go to the bathroom more. These bathroom trips interrupt the natural sleep pattern.
Alcohol Reduces the Rapid Eye Movement Sleep
Research has shown that alcohol affects rapid eye movement sleep during the first half of the sleep. The study shows that alcohol may enable a healthy person to fall asleep faster and even get into a deep sleep for a while. However, the reduction in rapid eye movement (REM) affects sleep quality negatively.
These effects are more pronounced in people that drink more before bed. REM sleep occurs about one and a half hours after falling asleep. This is the sleep stage when a person dreams. It is the restorative stage of sleep. When REM sleep is disrupted, a person can have poor concentration and drowsiness during the day.
So, if you’re having a hard time trying to concentrate during the day, it might be high time you considered quitting alcohol. The issue can be worsened by the fact that alcohol can suppress breathing and precipitate sleep apnea. Thus, alcohol can cause breathing pauses throughout the night, thereby lowering the quality of sleep.
The Bottom Line
The short-term and immediate effect of alcohol is to lower the time a person takes before they fall asleep. This happens during the first half of the time a person spends sleeping and it’s partly why some individuals with insomnia consider alcohol a sleep aid. However, sleep disruption during the second half of a night offsets this. What’s more, alcohol can cause breathing and urination aggravation and reduce eye movement sleep. All these have negative effects on the overall quality of sleep. So, if you suspect that you’re already suffering these effects, cut down or stop drinking alcohol, especially before bedtime.