How To Enjoy Alcohol and to Not Have it Affect your Sleep

TLDR – 1 drink 3-4 hours before you sleep probably won’t affect you. 2 may not either but 2 may lead to 3 and that’s trouble. It also depends on how you “enjoy” alcohol. Basically, if you go to sleep feeling like you’ve drank that day or evening because you are slightly buzzed or recovering from a buzz you had earlier, the alcohol will affect your sleep quality

As humans, alcohol has been in our culture for thousands of years. It’s an effective social lubricant at parties and social gatherings. It provides us with some escapism when we need to temporarily forget about our problems and provides us with a sense of elation when we want to celebrate events. It also can be used to enhance the flavor of foods and your dining experiences.

Alcohol is Healthy Says ___ Study!

Despite the latest pop research and marketing hype about the latest “healthy” alcoholic beverage, alcohol is physically unhealthy for you and I challenge anyone to dispute this fact.  Let’s forgo the talk about all the potential adverse health effects alcohol can contribute to and just focus on sleep.

Alcohol and How it Affects Sleep

Study after study talk about how alcohol can negatively affect your sleep. Yes, you can feel tired after you drink and “pass out”, but that’s not restorative sleep. A little alcohol can even help you sleep faster than usual, otherwise known as “sleep latency”.  If I drink enough alcohol, I too can pass out on alcohol, but I tend to wake up a little bit afterward, feeling shitty. It’s like the opposite of a power nap.

Alcohol can have dramatic effects on your sleep quality. The one thing you notice first when wearing the Oura ring is how alcohol affects your sleep. It lowers my heart rate variability, increases my resting heart rate while increases the frequency of waking up in the middle of the night.

That being said. I quite enjoy alcohol for many of the reasons mentioned above. Having a cold beer or bloody mary when the suns still out during a sporting event, music or food festival is one life’s minor pleasures. So is enjoying sushi with a little beer and sake or steak with some red wine. Despite greatly enjoying alcohol, even having some alcohol rarely fails to worsen my sleep quality. 

I’m not talking about pounding shots at the club or drinking out of beer bongs. Getting blasted has ridiculous effects on my sleep, physical recovery and how I feel the next day. I’m talking about even having a few drinks at the end of the day.

So that brings me to the title of this article.

How can you enjoy alcohol and not have it affect your sleep?

It depends on how you enjoy alcohol. If you must get a heavy buzz on or get drunk before you “enjoy” alcohol, then alcohol will affect your sleep. If you enjoy having a single glass of wine with your meal to enhance the taste, then chances are that single glass of wine won’t be too detrimental to your sleep.

Going to sleep buzzed or even not 100% clear-headed and sober will lead to negative effects on your sleep quality. That means if you wake up, get trashed during the day at a football game at 11 am in the morning, then sober up by the time you sleep, it will still affect your sleep. Why? you might ask. It’s because you may not be piss-drunk anymore, but you’re not as “sober” as you think.

You may not be buzzed anymore, but do you feel like you would have if you didn’t drink at all during the day? If the answer is not really, then your body is still recovering from you heavy drinking session which means you won’t sleep as well as you would have if you haven’t drunk any alcohol at all that day.

It’s not clear cut. Mainly because people have very different drinking habits and alcohol tolerances. So let me give you specifics about how alcohol affects me personally.

When I have a single glass of wine or beer with dinner or at least 2-3 hours before I sleep or when I have 1-3 drinks in the afternoon, my sleep is not affected. And that’s it.

That’s the safe zone for me. Everything else will affect my sleep, even if its because my heart rate is slightly elevated during sleep. Even if I feel fine in the morning, having excess alcohol can and will increase my resting heart rate and lower my heart rate variability during sleep. The more buzzed I am, the higher my resting heart rate gets. 

For those who love pounding shots at happy hour then going out bar hopping with the yuppie party crew, have fun, God knows we’ve all had those nights. Just understand that your sleep will be negatively affected. Sometimes it’s worth it. =)

You can also try hangover pills that supposedly help you curve the deadly hangover symptoms. I’ve tried them all. I think the only effect it has is the placebo effect but hey, the effect is real!

Update – While Training Hard

When I train hard and my body feels exhausted, I often feel like relaxing with a glass of wine at night. I have noticed that even a glass of wine may affect my sleep and therefore my recovery. This is not something I even want to take a chance on so for those days I avoid alcohol. Instead, I drink a nice glass of soda water and throw in some ginger, cinnamon, and apple cider vinegar. I know it may sound weird but it’s oddly refreshing and you not only get used to it but miss it after a while. Why risk your gains by not getting the proper sleep you deserve?

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