Alcohol is often used by patients as a sleeping aid. Many patients say they have a drink to relax and help them sleep; yet those same patients often complain of sleep problems. Alcohol's effect on sleep has been extensively studied for more than 50 years. Certainly, it can help you get to sleep more quickly, but then its effect wears off and it can disrupt sleep.
They studied nearly 100 healthy adults; two thirds were women and one third were men. Participants were given either a placebo or an alcohol drink. Breath alcohol concentration was measured and those getting alcohol had to drink until intoxicated. They also filled out a questionnaire about sleep, both at bedtime and the following morning. Polysomnography was performed to monitor sleep patterns. The results showed that sleep quality ratings were worse for those drinking alcohol compared with those getting sham alcohol. There was also a sex difference. Women who had taken alcohol slept worse than the men who imbibed. The female drinkers had fewer hours of sleep and it was more disrupted. They woke more often and for longer periods. Researchers say the reasons could be explained by sex differences in alcohol metabolism.