Sleep, Alcohol: How People Deem Their Relationship
To induce sleep, alcohol has been significantly used by the general population because there is this intense notion that the consumption of alcohol can help a person take a nap, which is essentially helpful for those suffering from sleeping problems. But how much trust do people really place on alcohol as a sleep-inducer?
Alcohol is Widely Used
In a recent survey conducted by a certain group of researchers, 28% of insomniacs indicated that they had consumed alcohol to make them go to sleep. Periodic insomniacs used alcoholic drinks for an average of 3.6 nights/month. On the other hand, chronic insomniacs used alcohol for an average of 6.8 nights/month. An equal number of occasional insomniacs and persistent insomniacs (67%) described alcohol as an effective or very effective method to bring about sleep.
On the other hand, not only insomniacs benefit from alcohol use. To achieve a more speedy induction of sleep, alcohol is taken even by normal individuals who want to doze off in a snap. Consequently, if alcohol can induce sleep very rapidly, what could be the substance in it that triggers slumber?
Alcohol’s Substance that Affects Sleep
According to researchers, the substance ethanol, which is present in alcohol, is the one that has a direct effect in sleep. Ethanol can change the time one takes to fall asleep; it can disrupt the sleeping rhythm of a person; modify the total length of his/her regular sleep, and reduce the length of the stages of sleep.
However, although ethanol can hasten sleep, it can also cause disruptions such as giving someone some trouble in falling back to sleep if in case he/she has awakened abruptly. This disruption may cause fatigue and sleepiness the following day.
Furthermore, even though it is effective in the induction of sleep, alcohol affects sleep during the second half of the night, and this causes a decrease in one’s overall sleeping time. As a result, this decreased length of sleeping leads to daytime somnolence. It is of interest to emphasize that even if one has consumed alcohol early during the day and the substance has already been cleared out of the body’s system, it still has the tendency to disrupt sleep later in the night. This would further indicate that ethanol also affects one’s brain systems.
Most insomniacs have often depended on alcohol to help them be in the arms of Morpheus. Thus, this habitual act has developed into alcohol dependence and alcoholism – and this is very alarming as alcoholism itself is associated with complaints of poor sleep characterized by a prolonged time to fall asleep, multiple awakenings, and decreased delta and REM sleep.
Using alcohol to induce sleep has unfortunate effects as it can increase the intensity of the sleep apnea syndrome, and it may cause prompt apneas even in persons without a history of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. It can also cause major cognitive problems.
In one study by Tivis (1995), which has aimed to study the effects of chronic alcoholism using a Neurocognitive Assessment Approach, the study has found that alcoholic individuals, even if they were detoxified, still exhibit deficits in their four cognitive domains such as: abstract thinking and problem solving, verbal and memory skills, perceptual-motor skills, and visual-spatial skills. Therefore, prolonged use of alcohol in aiding sleep is not a wise choice to make since the long-term effects of it are quite life disrupting.
In conclusion, alcohol is a commonly used substance for sleep induction, but the public must be informed that because it can disrupt sleep, alcohol is a poor choice as a hypnotic. The habit of using alcohol to hasten sleep may lead to alcohol dependence and alcoholism, and may even escalate to sleep-related breathing problems. Individuals who have sleeping problems then should not rely on booze to get them to sleep, instead, healthier options are recommended.