close-up photo of liquor bottles in rack

Because alcohol can make you drowsy and help you fall asleep faster, it is often used as a sleep aid. However, studies show that the consumption of alcohol before bedtime results in poorer sleep quality through the night. Here are some ways that the consumption of alcohol can have adverse effects in the quality of your sleep:

Alcohol Interrupts your circadian rhythms

Chronic alcohol consumption is often associated with the disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep. Circadian rhythms regulate nearly all of the body’s processes such as metabolism, immunity and cognitive functions. The disruption of circadian rhythms suppresses melatonin, which is a key facilitator of sleep. Studies show that even moderate consumption of alcohol up to an hour before sleep can reduce melatonin production by nearly 20 percent. Since circadian rhythms have a major influence in how our bodies function. The disruptive effects of alcohol can be widespread affecting not only sleep but also other systems.

Alcohol suppresses REM sleep

brown and white bed linenThere are four different stages of the human sleep cycle: three non-rapid eye movement (NREM) stages and one rapid eye movement (REM) stage. REM sleep kicks in around 90 minutes after you initially fall asleep. It is an important part of the sleep cycle because it stimulates areas of the brain that are essential in learning and making or retaining memories. Drinking alcohol before bed can lead to the suppression of REM sleep, thereby reducing the amount of time your brain spends in this important stage of sleep. It also decreases the overall sleep quality which can result in shorter sleep duration and more sleep disruptions. 

Alcohol worsens breathing problems while sleeping

Some studies also show that alcohol contributes to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) because it causes the throat muscles to relax, which creates more resistance during breathing. Sleep apnea causes sleep disruptions and a decreased quality of sleep. Consuming just one serving of alcohol before bed can lead to sleep apnea and heavy snoring even for people who have not been diagnosed with OSA. 


In order to reduce the risk of sleep disruptions, it is recommended that you stop drinking at least four hours before bedtime. If you are experiencing insomnia and are looking to improve the quality of your sleep, the Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre offers treatments that are tailored to help you. Click here to learn more about how Neurofeedback treatments can help improve your sleep quality.