Sleep is a crucial element in maintaining your health, but there are many factors that can impact the quality of sleep you get each night. Below, we discuss how being alcohol-free can benefit your sleep!
There is nothing better than an uninterrupted night of deep sleep, waking up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. However, getting this quality of sleep each night is easier said than done. Ensuring you have all the right ingredients for a good night’s sleep is important and while alcohol might be something you find helps you drift off, it can have a negative impact on the quality and productivity of your sleep over time.
What is sleep health?
Most of us will experience some form of sleep each time we go to bed at night – but are we getting the kind of rest we need to maintain our health? Sleep is a vital activity that we must experience in order to carry out a variety of biological processes, such as storing information gathered throughout the day or repairing and restoring vital cells or hormones. Research suggests that adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to complete the necessary sleep cycles optimally, but how do we know if we are getting a quality night of sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation published a report where they suggested some indicators for a good night's sleep, including; falling asleep within 30 minutes, waking up for less than 5 minutes once per night, and spending 85% of the time you spent in bed, sleeping. While it is hard to know the exact amount of time or percentage spent sleeping each night, most of us will be able to tell if we wake feeling refreshed and rested, or tired and sluggish.
Improving your sleep health
If you feel you may be on the lower scale in terms of your average sleep quality, then don’t fear! There are a number of things you can do to help improve your sleep health, including establishing a regular sleep schedule, try to avoid napping, don’t drink any caffeine after a certain time of day and put any screens away at least an hour before bed time to allow your brain to recalibrate after exposure to blue light.
Additionally, one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep quality is to reduce your alcohol intake. Alcohol can interfere with a number of the hormones and bodily functions required for an optimal night’s sleep. By ensuring you are consuming below the recommended 14 units per week, or cutting alcohol from your diet completely, you will offer your body the best chance at being able to fall asleep, and stay asleep long enough to complete the necessary cycles.
Ways alcohol can interrupt your sleep:
- Alcohol alters your sleep cycles and reduces the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep (the important, deep, restorative kind of sleep!) you experience each night.
- Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it acts on your kidneys to make you urinate more often, meaning more night time dashes to the loo!
- Alcohol dehydrates the body which in turn can have a negative impact on your body’s ability to get a good night's rest.
- Whilst often used as a stress reliever, alcohol can actually have the opposite effect over time, causing increased anxiety which too can lead to trouble with sleep.
So what happens to sleep when you go alcohol-free?
As with any lifestyle change, there is likely an adjustment period before everything is sunshines and rainbows. However, your body is a clever machine and it will learn to fall asleep without alcohol in your system and you should quickly start to notice an increase in your energy levels. The hormones that regulate when you fall asleep and when you wake up will begin to find balance, no longer being interrupted by alcohol and can function as intended. Pairing this the other advice as outlined above will stand you in good stead for a restful night.
Some sleep aid recommendations
As well as sticking to your nighttime routine, there are a few sleeping aids available that might be helpful when drifting off. Here are a few of our recommendations!
Creating a relaxed environment for you to wind down in can make all the difference in supporting a solid night of sleep. Try to make your bed a nice place to be with a comfortable mattress and pillows, and use products such as pillow sprays – there are a variety of scents so you will likely find one that suits you! This can all contribute to creating the sensory response to settle in for the night.
Weighted blankets are not for everyone, but they have been known to help those who suffer from anxiety to fall asleep as the pressure helps to relieve the nervous system, signalling it is time to relax. If a full on blanket is not your speed, you can try out weighted eye masks which can have a similar effect.
Black out blinds or eye masks
One of the reasons why people struggle to sleep, or wake up before they are ready is due to distracting light waking up the brain. If this lightsource is coming from outside, such as an awkwardly angled street light or the sunrise over a hill then a black out blind might be a good option. Alternatively, if it is the light of a screen, hallway or other flashing device inside your bedroom, you may opt for an eye mask to block out any interruptions.
White noise machine or sleeping podcasts
Some have found that falling asleep listening to a white noise machine can be the key to creating the perfect relaxing environment to sleep in. Essentially, they are small machines that create a blanket of sound that lays over the existing sounds. The idea being that this white noise is calming, consistent and pleasing to the ear and means you can no longer hear any less pleasant noises such as traffic, allowing you to fall asleep easier.
Finally, if white noise isn’t your thing, you can explore the vast library of sleeping podcasts available on most podcast platforms – just as you may have fallen asleep listening to stories told by your parents as a child, there are hundreds of specially designed podcasts for you to listen to as you drift off to sleep.
Sleep is arguably one of the most important things you will do each day (doesn’t sound so bad, does it?!) so let’s try to make it the most positive experience we can for ourselves. Hopefully you have picked up some tips and tricks to try when you head off to bed tonight, and can improve your sleep health for the long haul!