• Alcohol consumption can have negative effects on your sleep, which then can lead to problems with mental health.
  • For example, alcohol represses REM sleep, contributes to sleep apnea and snoring, keeps you up, and brings on some crazy dreams.
  • This damage to your sleep quality can then have harmful effects on your mental health and contribute to the development of various illnesses like depression.
  • Making sleep a priority again starts with recognizing all it does for your health, including neuron repair, protein production, hormone balance, and mood regulation.

If you drink alcohol from time to time—even a couple glasses of wine or a few beers every so often—you’ve probably experienced its effects on your sleep patterns. Whether you just couldn’t fall asleep, you found yourself tossing and turning throughout the night, or you had some pretty frightening dreams. But maybe it never clicked that your no-good night’s sleep was due to one or two “harmless” drinks.

The Ripple Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Sleep and Mental Health

Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach at SleepZoo.com, says the consumption of drugs and alcohol can negatively affect our sleep and subsequently our mental health in a multitude of ways. “One thing that is often overlooked is how drug and alcohol use negatively impacts sleep and how that can affect mental illness.” Brantner delves into a few of these cascading effects below:

“Both drug and alcohol use can lead to sleep disruption. Alcohol acts as a sedative during the first part of the night. It essentially acts like anesthesia, knocking you out. As you can imagine, this isn’t natural sleep. Furthermore, alcohol represses REM sleep, pushing and holding you into deep, slow-wave sleep throughout the first half of the night. While this might sound like a good thing, your sleep cycles are naturally structured to give you what you need, cycling through light sleep, deep sleep, and REM. Getting a majority of deep sleep isn’t necessarily good for you, and it can also contribute to the trouble breathing and snoring you may experience when intoxicated.”

After about four hours, your body has metabolized the alcohol and the sedative effects wear off and you experience what is known as the rebound effect. This makes you feel as if you’ve now received a dose of a stimulant, which is when you wake up and stare at the ceiling. Getting back to sleep proves difficult, as you’re all out of whack. And when you finally do get back to sleep, your brain will now work to catch up on REM sleep. REM sleep is easier to wake up from, so you’re more likely to wake up more. Also, interestingly enough, your body is basically doing a REM sprint, which makes you have those crazy dreams you’ll often have after a night of drinking. Think of it as pent-up pressure from not dreaming. Once the alcohol sedation wears off, it’s like a geyser of dreaming erupts.

While we often focus on the physical consequences of lack of sleep, it’s crucial to look at the mental health effects of sleep deprivation. It’s important to look at sleep at the time your mental housekeeper functions best. And research increasingly suggests that sleep deprivation can play a crucial role in the development of some mental health conditions.

Give Credit Where Credit’s Due: Here’s How Sleep Keeps Us Sane

A lot of us (I might go as far as saying the majority of us) love our sleep. We thoroughly enjoy camping out under the covers and drifting off into a deep, restful sleep. But we don’t necessarily give sleep all of the credit it deserves. Aside from that relaxation factor, sleep is a wonderful thing that really keeps our physical, mental, and emotional health in check. How? By accomplishing the following important jobs:

1) Neuron repair. First, sleep is crucial to neuron restoration. “Sleep allows neurons time to shut down and repair,” Brantner explains. “And not getting enough sleep can result in depleted neurons that malfunction.”

2) Protein production. Sleep is also vital to protein production, which then plays a role in fixing the damage caused by stress, as explained by Brantner: “Sleep also increases protein production, which fuels growth as well as repair to damage caused by stress.”

3) Hormone balance. “Sleep is also necessary for balancing hormones,” says Brantner. “If you haven’t slept enough, the hormone imbalance can exacerbate anxiety. Proper sleep regulates the flow of epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine—the ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals.”

4) Mood regulation. And lastly, sleep plays a vital role in mood regulation—and when you don’t get enough of it, your mood suffers. “Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on stress and anxiety levels, as well as your ability to deal with them. Sleep deprivation acts as a chronic stressor, which can cause an overload on your body’s system. This results in brain fog, irritability, depression, and lower self-esteem.”