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Alcohol consumption and quality of sleep.

Friday, April 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I’ve been getting up very early lately–generally between 4:00 and 4:30 AM–but a couple of times this week I’ve found myself standing in front of the coffee pot as early as 3:30 in the morning. Given my current trajectory, I expect that by mid-summer I’ll be up and at ’em shortly before midnight. 😉

I’m not going to bed any earlier than usual, either. I’m almost always in bed somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30 PM, and fast asleep by ten. Up until early this year I would wake up at six in the morning almost without fail, which gave me a solid eight hours of sleep (in theory, more on that below). These days, though, I’m only getting about 6 hours of sleep–sometimes a little less than that.

I always thought that eight hours of sleep was optimal, at least for for me (this obviously varies greatly from one person to the next). The interesting thing here is that despite spending a couple less hours visiting Sleepytown each night, I still feel well-rested and my athletic performance has not suffered in the least.

I think the quality of my sleep is what’s responsible for this interesting phenomenon. Ever since my cut started I’ve been sleeping very deeply, and when I wake up to use the bathroom I fall back asleep almost instantly. In the past getting back to sleep was often difficult for me: I’d climb back in bed, and my cluttered mind would spring into action. For some reason the shadows of even the smallest problems loom large while adrift in that strange twilight world…

I’ve been thinking about why I seem to require less sleep now, and I there’s no question in my mind that the primary reason is directly tied to alcohol.

Prior to this year’s cut, I’d allowed my consumption of alcohol to creep up. In fact, leading into my cut I had been consuming alcohol on a nearly daily basis. I wasn’t getting wasted or anything like that, but daily drinking of any amount is an extremely unhealthy habit, and a slippery slope.

Drinkers, does this sound familiar? You go to bed after a night of alcohol consumption and have absolutely no trouble falling asleep; later that night, however, you wake up and either can’t fall back asleep, or you spend the rest of the night frustrated as you drift in and out of a fragmented slumber. That’s caused by the alcohol (click to enlarge):

Alcohol's effect on sleep patterns

Alcohol’s effect on sleep patterns


So When I started my 2014 cut I eliminated alcohol completely, and I did not consume any alcohol for the entire duration of my cut. I noticed the difference in the quality of my sleep immediately (among other benefits).

My cut ended about a month ago, and since then I’ve only consumed alcohol once per week (at most). The amount of alcohol I’m consuming is moderate: I will enjoy 2 or 3 beers or a couple glasses of red wine with my weekly splurge meal. That’s it. Even with that small amount of alcohol use, I definitely notice the difference in the quality of sleep on that particular night.

If you’re a drinker and experiencing any sort of sleep-related problems, try ditching the alcohol. I think you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll sleep and, consequently, how much better you’ll feel all day long.

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “Alcohol consumption and quality of sleep.”
  1. I wish it were that simple for me. I don’t consume any alcohol at all (not even one single beer a week). Unfortunately my sleep has been highly erratic. Just like with the alcohol consumption, I fall asleep very quickly. However, I started waking up at 4-5am and feeling wide awake. Unfortunately that lasts only until it’s time to go to work, and then I feel pretty exhausted. Any ideas what might be causing that? Sounds like you’ve done extensive sleep research. 🙂

    I suspect it could be related to late workouts (I go to group fitness classes at night that end around 9pm) and caffeine consumption (I drink several diet cokes with caffeine when I get home). I don’t keep me from falling asleep and sleeping well throughout the first half of the night though.

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