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Nightcap to Help You Sleep? Bad Idea.

july 3 exercise instead of nightcapsCould a nightcap before bed be the cure for your insomnia? Experts say no. In reality, alcohol and insomnia may actually go hand-in-hand.

Alcohol and REM Sleep

You’ve probably heard of REM sleep at one time or another. REM is an acronym for rapid eye movement. REM sleep is the stage of sleep where your mind is able to begin dreaming — a healing process. You need enough hours of REM sleep each night in order to feel well rested, otherwise you’ll stumble through your day feeling tired, irritable, anxious and with delayed reaction times to stimuli.

Sadly, while alcohol helps you fall asleep, it also has a tendency to disturb your hours of REM sleep, depending on how many you’ve tossed back before turning in. Small amounts, such as a simple drink or two, may have minimal effect. But that effect increases as you ingest more alcohol.

Alcohol and Sleep Disorders

woman drinking wine-1.jpgAlcohol can also contribute to certain sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, sleep talking and sleep apnea. People who regularly consume alcohol as a sleep aid also suffer the risk of forming a dependency on the depressant. Because alcohol slows heart rate and respiration, someone who suffers from sleep apnea could even conceivably die after consuming large amounts of alcohol.

It may seem like a great idea at the time, but continually turning to alcoholic beverages to help you get to sleep each night will eventually backfire, making it more difficult to score a good night’s sleep either with or without it.

Alcohol and Dependency

Dependency on alcohol, also called addiction, can happen to anyone at any time. There are no hard and fast rules that dictate exactly how much alcohol will tip you over the edge into addiction, but if you’re currently drinking to help yourself fall asleep, it’s time to stop. If you’re someone who’s at higher risk of addiction, things could go south sooner than you think. Someone who’s at high risk may have these risk factors:

    • They grew up in a household with parents or family members who regularly used drugs or alcohol.
    • They regularly hang out with people who drink.
    • They have easy access to alcohol.

These are only a few of the risk factors that are typically instrumental in helping addiction become a reality, but if they describe you, drinking alcohol every night before bed could be a really bad idea.

Better Sleep Aids

There are much healthier and more reliable ways to help yourself sleep easier, and they won’t lead to harmful dependency on a chemical substance. If you currently suffer from a sleep disturbance, like falling asleep and staying asleep, give these techniques a try instead:

    • Set the mood. At least an hour before turning in for the night, power down all electronic devices and put a routine in place to help your body recognize that it’s time for bed. This could include a hot shower, meditation, or listening to soft, relaxing music.
    • Get more exercise throughout the day. Exercise is a great stress-reliever and it causes your body to expend energy, making you feel tired afterward.
    • Change your diet. Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine — a stimulant that can make it hard to sleep at night.

If you’re turning to alcohol as a sleep aid, stop now before alcohol sleep problems begin. Use the tips suggested here to help you improve the length and quality of your sleep, or see a sleep specialist for help managing your insomnia.

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