Dietitians have revealed how alcohol affects your sleep, and why even just one glass of wine can have a disastrous impact on your liver and brain.
Ahead of ‘Dry July’ – where thousands of Australians ditch alcohol for 31 days in a bid to be healthier – Sydney-based experts Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod shared how alcohol immediately damages your system.
‘One of the main bodily functions alcohol can affect in the short term is our sleep,’ Chloe explained to the lifestyle publication Bed Threads.
She added that even one or two drinks can negatively impact the quality and quantity of your sleep, so if you are going to drink, you need to carefully consider your timing.
Dietitians revealed how alcohol affects your sleep, and why even one glass of wine can have a disastrous impact on your liver and brain (Chloe McLeod and Jessica Spendlove pictured)
‘One of the main bodily functions alcohol can affect in the short term is our sleep,’ Chloe said. Alcohol lowers your sleep quality, as well as your restorative REM sleep (stock image)
1. It lowers your sleep quality
The first and biggest thing that alcohol does is it lowers the overall quality of your sleep.
While you might feel as though it makes you drowsy and therefore it’s easier to fall asleep, Jessica and Chloe warned that the quality when you get there is not the same as it would have been without alcohol.
‘You may find that when you have been drinking, you frequently wake in the middle of the night,’ Chloe told the publication.
While alcohol does increase a particular ‘sleep-inducing brain chemical’ which helps with the onset of sleep, it doesn’t hang around – meaning you’re likely to wake before feeling truly rested.
2. It lowers your REM sleep
Light, deep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep are all very important to have a full sleep cycle.
But drinking – even just a glass – significantly lowers and can even block the restorative REM cycle.
‘REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is where most of our dreaming, memory consolidation and learning occurs, and non-REM sleep, where our brain activity is at its lowest and it helps us feel refreshed in the morning,’ Jessica said.
If you wake and don’t feel fully rested after drinking, it’s likely that your REM rest was compromised.
Light, deep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep are all very important to have a full sleep cycle; but drinking – even just a glass – can block this (stock image)
Revealed: Other long-term effects of drinking
Brain: Drinking too much can affect your concentration, judgement, mood and memory. It increases your risk of having a stroke and developing dementia.
Heart: Heavy drinking increases your blood pressure and can lead to heart damage and heart attacks.
Liver: Drinking 3 to 4 standard drinks a day increases your risk of developing liver cancer. Long-term heavy drinking also puts you at increased risk of liver cirrhosis (scarring) and death.
Stomach: Drinking even 1 to 2 standard drinks a day increases your risk of stomach and bowel cancer, as well as stomach ulcers.
Fertility: Regular heavy drinking reduces men’s testosterone levels, sperm count and fertility. For women, drinking too much can affect their periods.
Source: Health Direct
What are the Australian drinking guidelines?
The Australian Guidelines recommend healthy adults should drink no more than 2 standard drinks on any day to cut the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
They also recommend consuming a max of 4 standard drinks on a single occasion to reduce the risk of alcohol-related injury.
A standard drink contains about 10 grams of alcohol – the amount your body can process in an hour.
The average glass of wine served in a pub contains 1.5 standard drinks.
New draft guidelines recommend healthy Australian women and men drink no more than ten standard drinks a week.
Source: Health Direct
3. It will make you snore
The dietitians also said that alcohol will not just impact the quality of your sleep, but it also ‘acts as a muscle relaxant’ – which has an effect on the throat and can lead to snoring.
Snoring often reduces your sleep quality, too, meaning you wake up more in the middle of the night.
4. It causes you to need the bathroom
As alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes the body to expel water, it causes people to need to go to the bathroom.
This might mean that you wake up earlier in the morning.
5. It dehydrates you
Finally, alcohol will make you feel dehydrated – which could also wake you up as you feel as though you need a drink.
Speaking previously on the Elevate podcast, Australian personal trainer and lifestyle/nutrition coach, Sarah Hopkins, and yoga and Ayurveda teacher, Amanda Nog, broke down the impact that heavy drinking has on your body.
They noted that a moderate amount of alcohol elevates blood sugar, which can cause you to carry excess body fat.
Australian personal trainer and lifestyle coach, Sarah Hopkins (pictured), and yoga and Ayurveda teacher, Amanda Nog, broke down the impact heavy drinking has on your body
‘Some people call the gut the second brain – if it is not functioning in a healthy way then it’s really messing up everything, not just our digestion,’ Amanda (pictured) said
Alcohol consumption causes an increase in insulin secretion, which leads to low blood sugar (otherwise known as hypoglycaemia).
This causes light headedness and fatigue, and is also responsible for a host of longer-term alcohol-related health problems.
As well as this, they said alcohol impacts the body’s hormone systems and their ability to work properly, therefore impacting reproduction, energy levels, blood pressure, development and mood.
‘Alcohol is an oestrogenic agent so it’s going to elevate your oestrogen levels which for most women will result in a higher accumulation of body fat and hormonal imbalances,’ Sarah said.
‘If you’ve got something like PCOS, endometriosis or fibroids it’s almost imperative that you significantly reduce alcohol and certainly consider completely cutting it out.’
Other things that are impacted include your mental health, cravings and gut health.