Alcohol and Sleep Disorders - Why 28% of You Are at Risk

by: Sherry L Harris

Whether you are a once in a while insomniac, or you constantly can't sleep, there is a good chance you have drank alcohol to help induce sleep, or at least been tempted to. Even though 28% of insomniacs use alcohol as a sleep aid according to Medscape, it turns out alcohol and sleep disorders aren't exactly compatible.

So if alcohol and insomniacs are so wrong for each other, why do so many people think otherwise? Rest assured if you are one of that 28%, you aren't delusional. Alcohol leads to rapid induction of sleep and helps you stay asleep for about two hours because of its relaxing properties. The problem is that once the alcohol metabolizes, withdrawal symptoms begin to occur. These include shallow sleep, multiple awakenings, nightmares and vivid dreams. This increases the adverse affects of sleep deprivation, leading to fatigue and lack of alertness.

Beyond these affects; however, there are more serious issues when alcohol is mixed with insomnia. One of these is the increased likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea. Florence Cardinal, whose husband suffered from sleep apnea, knows firsthand the kind of affect alcohol can have on this particular sleep disorder.

"He'd awaken more frequently, frightening me with his gasping for breath," said Cardinal on Health Central. "He'd get up, disoriented, not knowing where he was or who I was."

Different studies suggest the affect alcohol will have on a person's insomnia depends on the person. In young women, for example, alcohol deepens sleep while it is in the body, decreasing REM sleep and increasing Stage 4 deep sleep. The major risk with this is the chance of being unable to wake up quickly in the event of an emergency.

Another group who is specifically affected by alcohol when sleeping is the elderly. The elderly achieve higher levels of alcohol in the blood and brain than younger persons after consuming the same amount of alcohol. The elderly are also at risk because alcohol consumption leads to unsteadiness, and can result in falls and injuries if they get up and walk around during the night.

Alcoholics are also affected a little differently when using alcohol to help insomnia. When they drink anytime from late afternoon to right before bed, sleep consists almost entirely of brief periods of REM sleep, disrupted by numerous awakenings.

Even if you don't belong to any of these specific groups, it is still not a good idea to drink alcohol to induce sleep. This may become a habit, which not only leads to fatigue during the day, but also possible alcoholism. There are many other methods of helping to induce sleep that are safer and more effective ways to get a good night's rest.

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