Everything to know about sleep gummies

Alcohol and Sleep: What that nightcap is really doing to your sleep

Written by: Alec Tremaine



Time to read 5 min

Picture this: You've had a long day, and you're ready to unwind with a drink or two before bed. You figure a nightcap will help you relax and drift off to sleep more easily. But hold on a minute - have you considered how alcohol and sleep really mix?

As someone who's been there, I can tell you from experience that while a glass of wine might make you feel sleepy initially, the effects of alcohol on your sleep quality are anything but restful. Let's dive into what really happens when you combine alcohol and sleep, and why you might want to rethink that bedtime beverage.

Key Takeaways

Alcohol disrupts sleep cycles and reduces REM sleep.

It suppresses melatonin production, affecting circadian rhythms.

Alcohol worsens insomnia and sleep apnea.

Avoid drinking at least 3 hours before bed.

Improve sleep with a consistent schedule and relaxing routine.

How Alcohol Affects Your Sleep Cycle

To understand how alcohol impacts sleep, we need to look at the stages of sleep our bodies go through each night. A typical sleep cycle consists of four stages: three stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, followed by rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

When you drink alcohol before bed, it can alter this natural sleep cycle. Initially, alcohol's sedative effect might make you feel drowsy and help you fall asleep faster. However, as your body metabolizes the alcohol throughout the night, it can lead to more frequent awakenings and disrupt the quality of your sleep.

Studies have shown that alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can suppress REM sleep - the stage associated with vivid dreams, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation.  One review found that alcohol reduced REM sleep in a dose-dependent manner, meaning the more you drink, the less REM sleep you're likely to get.

Alcohol Suppresses Melatonin Production

In a subtle yet significant way, a study published in Nature.com found alcohol can disrupt our bodies' natural production of melatonin, throwing off our internal clock and making it tougher to fall asleep. Your body relies on this hormone to synchronize its rhythms with the outside world, and suppressing its production can wreak havoc on your circadian rhythm.

When your melatonin levels are out of whack, it can lead to sleep problems like insomnia and restless nights. So, while that glass of wine might seem like a good idea in the moment, it could be setting you up for a less-than-stellar night's sleep.


Try an alcohol replacement option like Slumber's Afternoon Delight Gummies. These gummies are designed to give you the relaxation and the "buzz" you are looking for without the side effects that come from alcohol.

Alcohol's Impact on Sleep Disorders

Beyond disrupting normal sleep patterns, alcohol can also exacerbate existing sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnea. Let's take a closer look at each:


While alcohol might help you nod off initially, it can contribute to insomnia symptoms like difficulty staying asleep and waking up too early. Research suggests that chronic alcohol use can lead to a vicious cycle: drinking to fall asleep, experiencing sleep disruptions, and then drinking again the next night to combat the resulting fatigue.

Sleep Apnea

Woman with sleep apnea mask

Alcohol relaxes the muscles in your throat, which can cause or worsen sleep apnea - a condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep.  One meta-analysis found that alcohol consumption increased the risk of obstructive sleep apnea by 25%.

Even for people without being diagnosed with sleep apnea, alcohol can increase snoring and breathing difficulties during sleep. I remember nights when a few drinks left me snoring loudly and waking up with a dry mouth and sore throat.

When to Stop Drinking Before Bed

So, how long before bed should you stop drinking to minimize sleep disruptions? Experts generally recommend avoiding alcohol entirely. However, if you are going to drink, we recommend at least three hours before bedtime. 

However, the exact timing can vary depending on factors like your body weight, gender, and how quickly you metabolize alcohol. A good rule of thumb is to give your body ample time to process the alcohol before attempting to sleep.

 Alcohol Consumption 

 Estimated Sleep Quality Decrease 

1 drink (women), 2 drinks (men)


2 drinks (women), 3 drinks (men)


3+ drinks (women), 4+ drinks (men)


As you can see, the more alcohol you consume, the more your sleep quality is likely to suffer. When I realized how much even a couple of drinks were impacting my sleep, I started being more mindful of my cutoff time.

Tips for Better Sleep Without Alcohol

If you're used to having a drink before bed, giving up that habit can be challenging. Here are some tips that helped me improve my sleep quality without relying on alcohol:

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for 7-9 hours per night

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine, like reading or taking a warm bath

  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet

  • Avoid caffeine and large meals close to bedtime

  • Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime

Remember, everyone's sleep needs are different. It might take some trial and error to find what works best for you. But prioritizing sleep and being mindful of your alcohol intake can make a world of difference in how rested you feel each morning.

FAQs about Alcohol and Sleep

How does alcohol affect sleep?

Alcohol can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, leading to more frequent awakenings and less restorative REM sleep. While it might help you fall asleep initially, the overall quality of your sleep is likely to suffer.

What is the alcohol sleep rebound effect?

The alcohol sleep rebound effect refers to the phenomenon where alcohol's initial sedative effects wear off, causing a " rebound " of lighter, more fragmented sleep later in the night. This can leave you feeling tired and unrefreshed in the morning.

Why do I wake up at 3am after drinking?

Waking up in the middle of the night after drinking is common. As your body metabolizes the alcohol, it can interfere with your sleep cycle and cause you to wake up prematurely. Alcohol can also act as a diuretic, increasing the likelihood of needing to use the bathroom during the night.

When does sleep improve after quitting alcohol?

Sleep quality can start to improve within a few days to a week after quitting alcohol. However, for heavy drinkers or those with alcohol dependence, it may take several weeks or even months for sleep patterns to fully normalize. Seeking professional help and support can be crucial for long-term recovery and improved sleep.


The relationship between alcohol and sleep is complex, but one thing is clear: drinking before bed seriously disrupts your sleep quality. By understanding how alcohol affects your sleep cycle and making informed choices about your drinking habits, you can set yourself up for more restful, restorative nights.

As someone who's experienced the negative impact of alcohol on sleep firsthand, I encourage you to prioritize your sleep health. Trust me, waking up feeling refreshed and energized is worth skipping that nightcap. Your mind and body will thank you.

Alec Tremaine

Health and Wellness Enthusiast