This Is How Alcohol Disrupts Your Sleep

Man drinking wine while reading a book

Most people have heard a glass of wine before bed isn’t always bad but that is false.

Relying on a drink to fall asleep is an unhealthy crutch many people depend on. While alcohol can initially deepen sleep during the early part of the night, it also disrupts sleep during the latter part of the night; this is called a “rebound effect.”

According to recent findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

Alcohol Before Bed is Linked to Dysfunctional Sleep Patterns

Drinking alcohol before bed is linked with more slow-wave sleep patterns called delta activity. That’s the kind of deep sleep that allows for memory formation and learning. At the same time, another type of brain pattern—alpha activity—is also turned on.

While you may fall asleep quickly after drinking, it’s also common to wake up in the middle of the night. One explanation is that alcohol may affect the normal production of chemicals in the body that trigger sleepiness when you’ve been awake for a long time, and subside once you’ve had enough sleep.

After drinking, the production of adenosine (a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain) is increased, allowing for a fast onset of sleep. But it subsides as quickly as it came, making you more likely to wake up before you’re truly rested.

Alcohol Before Bed Blocks REM Sleep

Another reason people get lower-quality sleep following alcohol is that it blocks REM sleep, which is often considered the most restorative type of sleep. With less REM sleep, you’re likely to wake up feeling groggy and unfocused.

Alcohol causes your whole body to relax, including the muscles of your throat. And that makes you more prone to snoring and sleep apnea.

Alcohol is Not Good For Your Brain

Not only will alcohol disrupt your sleep but it’s also bad for your brain. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can affect brain function and studies show that people who drink every day have smaller brains than nondrinkers. And when it comes to the brain, size matters!

Sleep Your Way to A Better Brain

The Amen Clinics biomedical evaluation is part of the Amen Method Four Circles Approach to mental and physical health. We treat each patient as an individual and take a full personal history before beginning SPECT imaging or recommending any treatment program. Call us today at 888-288-9834 or schedule an appointment online.


  1. Since adding Neurofeedback and Biofeedback to my psychology practice (South Africa) I have learnt critically important facts about Dr Amen’s seven (maybe already eight) types of ADD, and ADD related symptom maintaining and reinforcing behaviour between disputing couples. I am in the process of becoming BCIA accredited. My BCIA supervisor Introduced us to Dr Amen for which I am very grateful. I also find Dr Amen’s “Healing ADD Brain Type Test” very useful indeed. Does Dr Amen have a view on current trends and research in intermittent fasting (e.g. research by Dr Jason Fung)?

    Comment by Dr Inette Taylor — December 26, 2017 @ 10:13 AM

  2. What are your sources of “recent findings” and “studies” that were mentioned a the basis of this article?

    Comment by Gideon Logan — January 5, 2018 @ 6:04 AM

  3. Those of us who teach, treat, and guide people to better health are indebted to Dr. Amen et al. If it is possible could these health posts be linked to the current research that is alluded to in them? Dr. Amen has challenged us to look “under the hood” when evaluating, rather than taking the patient’s words at face value. Having the linked research would be looking deeper to validate the claims noted in these posts. Thanks for inspiring us to “under the hood.”

    Comment by Dr. Adam Howorko — January 5, 2018 @ 10:34 AM

  4. Very good article and I see the comments from those wanting he research. Personally I have had this experience and those have talked to all say they wake up in the middle of the night . That is enough research for me.

    I have learned the importance of REM sleep. That is when our brain and organs regenerate. I have also learned an increasing number of people rarely if ever go into REM sleep. In the business I represent we are taught this in conjunction with learning how to use the patented sleep cycle.

    I had no idea that those with chronic disease have difficulty getting better because medication can prevent the person from going into REM sleep. I know several experts that work with people with chronic disease that help them with this.

    Comment by Steve Pohlit — July 13, 2018 @ 9:33 AM

  5. What recommendations for Paranoia?
    What programs do you suggest?

    Thank You.

    Comment by Michael King — February 22, 2019 @ 5:31 AM

  6. What about medical mj in relation to this?

    Comment by fran sullivan-fahs — February 23, 2019 @ 7:50 AM

  7. I think the rebound effect has to do with blood sugar. Size does not always indicate smarts. Birds have very small brains but
    are very smart… it is a sort of human myth…sure we are the smartest…just look around at what we do?

    Comment by Jannick Pitot — February 23, 2019 @ 9:01 AM

  8. Excellent Article!

    Comment by Doug Morris — October 14, 2023 @ 1:53 PM

  9. thank you for sharing this very important information!

    Comment by Doug Morris — October 14, 2023 @ 2:04 PM

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