Remember that morning last week when you woke up exhausted even though you had a full night’s sleep? Why was that? Think about it — you probably know the answer.
That’s right. Those drinks you had the night before. They helped you fall asleep. You nodded off at your usual hour. But when you woke up it felt almost as though you hadn’t really slept at all.
It’s not a coincidence. The alcohol in your system affected your sleep quality.
In this article you’ll learn what drinking alcohol to fall asleep does to your brain and body. And we’ll tell you some healthier alternative ways of getting to sleep at night without alcohol.
Step 1: Identify the problem
Wine with dinner? A Beer while watching the match? A nightcap before bed? Ok, so you’ve realised the sleep-inducing effects of alcohol. The chances are you’ve also realised the morning after effects too.
Have you reached the stage where you can’t fall asleep without alcohol? Read on to discover the science behind this and for some proven solutions to change this habit.
Why can’t you fall asleep without alcohol?
If you can’t fall asleep without alcohol you may have developed two separate but linked conditions: a drink dependency and insomnia (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep).
But what’s the link between alcohol and sleeping?
Why alcohol makes you sleepy.
Alcohol slows down your brain functions. It’s part of what makes you feel giddy, happy, and less alert, when you drink. It can also make you feel drowsy.
The sedative effects of alcohol impact the functioning of neurotransmitters and other chemicals in your brain.
Chemicals such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and adenosine. This stops your brain from feeling stimulated and instead relaxes you. These chemical changes make you feel sleepy and nod off.
How alcohol affects your sleep
The problem with drinking alcohol before sleeping is that it negatively impacts your sleep quality. Alcohol interrupts your natural sleep cycle, reducing the restorative benefits you get from deep sleep. You wake up more often in the night, you rarely reach deep sleep, and you don’t sleep for as long as you should.
Alcohol suppresses important stages of sleep. For example, every night when you enter REM sleep (rapid eye movement) your brain stores the memories acquired during your day. After drinking alcohol you spend less time in REM, which explains why you sometimes can’t remember what you did the night before.
Alcohol is a diuretic. It makes you want to go to the toilet more often. It also makes you sweat. This makes you dehydrated and can lead to poor sleep, tossing and turning, and restlessness.
The science behind why some people have insomnia and other people sleep well is complicated.
Insomnia is defined as regular trouble falling asleep and/or waking up throughout the night. It is sometimes caused by disruption to your body clock, or circadian rhythm. Alcohol affects your circadian rhythm making it more likely to worsen your insomnia, rather than improving your sleep.
Step 2: Recognise the dangers
It’s always important to self-analyse and honestly assess your behaviours. When it comes to alcohol and sleeping, it shouldn’t be difficult to recognise if the two things have become inextricably linked.
How do I know if my drinking is a problem?
Are you finding it impossible to resist the urge to pour a drink as bedtime approaches? Are you so worried about a sleepless night that drinking before bed has become a nightly habit?
These are signs that your sleep and alcohol issues have become a problem. And here are some of the reasons why you should try to tackle it:
Why you should find an alternative solution
While alcohol might feel like an easy answer to your sleep problems, over time you’ll become dependent on it. You’ll also increase your tolerance, meaning you need to drink more to have the same effect. This can lead to alcohol addiction.
Studies show that people who drink alcohol regularly are more likely to develop long-term insomnia. And the side effects like irritability and tiredness the next day can impact your life and those around you.
Doctors advise that 14 units of alcohol is the maximum you should drink per week. Regularly exceeding this can lead to poor health and risk of serious illness.
Fourteen units is equivalent to around six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine. If you are drinking to fall asleep most nights, then you could quite easily surpass the maximum amount in a week.
The risks from long-term drinking include:
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
- Cancer (mouth, throat and breast)
- Brain damage
- Mental health problems
Alcohol can cause sleep apnoea or make it worse if you already have it. Sleep apnoea is a condition that affects your breathing while you sleep. It narrows your airways causing you to wake hundreds of times per night in severe cases.
In the short term, sleep apnoea sufferers feel unrested in the morning. In the long term, it can lead to the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Step 3: Phase out alcohol
Now that you have realised you have an issue with drinking to fall asleep, and you understand why it’s a problem, it’s time to start taking action to stop the habit. Here are ways to phase out alcohol.
Should I go ‘cold turkey’ or not?
‘Cold turkey’ refers to when people give up an addiction like alcohol in one go without a controlled withdrawal process. In some instances this can work — you go through the tough period then it’s done with. In other people it’s more effective to wean yourself off gradually. We suggest a gradual approach.
Reducing your intake
First you’re going to need to reduce the amount you drink. The aim here is that you will end up having several alcohol-free days per week. Beyond that you may want to try a whole ‘dry month’. But start by giving yourself manageable goals.
Start with simple reductions. If you normally have two glasses of wine with your evening meal, cut back to one. If you drink a large glass, substitute it with a small glass. If you drink strong alcohol like spirits, switch to weaker options like beer. Also, remove the temptation to drink by keeping less alcohol at home.
Don’t drink close to bedtime
Next, you need to begin to break the link between alcohol and sleeping. The best way to do this is to leave longer and longer amounts of time between having a drink and bedtime. Start by not drinking after your evening meal. That should be around 4–6 hours. If you can’t manage that then gradually build to it.
Eventually the goal is that you’ll be able to get a full 8 hours of quality sleep even on days where you’ve had no alcohol at all.
Substitutes for alcohol
Non-alcoholic drinks can play an important role in cutting back. Alcohol drinking is habitual. As well as drinking to fall asleep, you may also have routines or rituals like drinking when you watch sport or a movie.
Instead of immediately breaking the drink habit, try alcohol-free alternatives. They taste the same, and the hops in alcohol-free beer can make you naturally sleepy without the side effects of alcohol ruining your sleep quality.
Using substitutes might also alleviate the anxiety you might have around quitting alcohol before bed.
Try alternative sleep aids
When you are sober, you might feel like nothing will get you into a sleepy state. That’s untrue. There are various natural sleep aids you can use, which even include alternative beverages:
Try these tips before bedtime to help you fall asleep
- Have a cup of hot milk or cocoa
- Drink chamomile tea
- Do a calming yoga routine
- Meditate for 30 minutes
- Do deep-breathing exercises
- Soak in a hot bath
- Light a candle or incense stick
- Take natural sleeping tablets such as antihistamines
- Exercise and be physically active during the day
Step 4: Change your sleep habits
A great way to move away from needing alcohol to sleep is adjusting your sleep routine. This is sometimes called your sleep hygiene.
Humans are creatures of habit
Most of us keep repeating the habits we feel familiar with — even when they are bad habits. It can take effort to change things up. Try these simple steps to change your sleeping habits:
Find a consistent sleep routine
While it might be boring going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, after a while it has a great effect. You need 7–9 hours sleep per night, so bear that in mind when deciding on your bedtime and alarm clock.
By doing this, your internal body clock (circadian rhythm) falls into a familiar 24-hour cycle. The hormones you produce automatically tell your brain and body when they need sleep. And you’ll find that you can fall asleep more naturally, because you’ve developed a healthy, biological sleeping pattern.
Is your bedroom perfect for sleeping?
Most people need quiet, cool, dark sleeping environments to fall asleep and stay asleep. Block out light with blackout curtains and eye masks. Modify the temperature with blankets or ventilating the room. Use ear plugs to block out sound and remove any devices that might make noise or light up the room.
A comfortable mattress is also essential to good sleep, as well as pillows and duvets. Get comfy!
No stimulation before bed
It’s hard to put down the phone and turn off the TV before bedtime. But doing so a couple of hours before bed can really help you sleep. The light in phones stimulates the brain. Instead, turn on a soft bedside lamp and read a book until tiredness washes over you.
For more tips on dealing with insomnia-related issues read our blog [LINK].
Step 5: Maintain everything you’ve learned
It may sound basic, but often the simplest things have the best results. Now that you know what the issues are, and the ways you can solve them, keep at it! Don’t just change a habit for a week and give up. Sometimes new habits take a while to stick.
Motivate yourself to stick to the healthier alternative routines and solutions. If you live with other people, ask them to remind you or prompt you, when they notice you breaking your positive new habits. If you live alone, write down reminders to yourself, even keep a journal to keep track of your progress.
A great tool to stay motivated is hypnosis. Whether with an expert hypnotherapist or using a self-hypnosis app, the heightened suggestibility of your mind under hypnosis leaves you with positive and lasting behavioural and lifestyle changes. Including giving you the ability to fall asleep without alcohol.
Below is a brief explainer on how hypnosis can help you sleep without alcohol.
BONUS step: Use hypnosis as a shortcut.
Many people have found hypnosis is the solution to falling asleep without alcohol. Many have also used it for alcohol withdrawal and quitting addiction to alcohol.
Hypnosis takes your mind to a peaceful, deeply relaxed place. It then suggests positive, influential messages that have lasting results on your everyday behaviour.
Self-hypnosis apps are also a great tool
Self-hypnosis works just as effectively as in-person hypnosis, but gives you more flexibility and freedom. In the Subconsciously app you’ll find programmes on controlling your alcohol usage and stopping drinking altogether. You’ll also find many other programmes to deal with other issues.
How can hypnosis stop you from using alcohol to fall asleep?
When you undergo hypnosis, or self-hypnosis, your mind falls into a deeply suggestible state. The suggestions you hear while in this deeply relaxed state help reset your mind. Hypnosis speaks to the conscious ‘thinking’ part of your brain, which in turn speaks with your subconscious mind.
Through the power of engaging the subconscious mind, hypnosis breaks or reduces your drinking habit. That urge to pour a drink as night-time approaches? It fades away, along with the anxieties and feeling of dependency. Replaced instead by positive thoughts, tranquility and peace of mind.
Hypnosis for sleep?
Hypnosis itself is not sleep, but it is a deeply relaxing therapeutic procedure. You may feel lulled to the edge of sleep, you might even fall asleep during a session! Don’t worry, that’s fine – particularly if your aim is to overcome insomnia! But more than a sleeping aid, hypnosis builds your sleep confidence.
Through hypnosis you will stop worrying about your insomnia. Your brain will flush away any tensions or worries. You’ll be able to reprogramme yourself back to a time or place where sleep was never an issue. The phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ will become apt for you.
Subconsciously, the hypnosis app in your pocket
The Subconsciously app is self-hypnosis. Think of it as a portable hypnotherapy session. Instead of going to see a hypnotherapist and sitting in a comfortable chair, you can do it in the tranquility of your own home. Or in any place you feel comfortable and can have uninterrupted time to yourself.
Whatever anxieties,demands or pressures are making you think you need alcohol to fall asleep – Subconsciously takes you away from it all. Put it on at bedtime and you’ll become immersed in soporific indulgence. Try programmes during the daytime and you’ll feel like a new person.
All of the reasons and triggers for bad sleep and alcohol that we’ve explained in this blog can be remediated using self-hypnosis with Subconsciously. Try it for free, and begin a new healing chapter of your life.