We have been conditioned by the beautiful people of TV and film to associate a few drinks on the couch in the evening as the ultimate way to wind down and prepare for bed.
But what exactly is the truth?
Does a lovely glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, or three, before hitting the hay increase or decrease the odds of getting a good night’s rest?
Well, to find out the answer read on below where we dig a little deeper into the connection between alcohol and sleep.
Is it time to put a cap on the good ol’ nightcap?
Getting to sleep versus staying asleep
Alcohol is a well-known sedative and muscle relaxant.
That’s why we like it so much, it takes the edge off, both mentally and physically. Anyone who does enjoy a drink or two in the evening will certainly know that it definitely does make you feel a little drowsy.
Surely this is a good thing then if you’re looking to get some sleep? Well, yes and no.
Alcohol can definitely help an individual fall asleep. If getting to sleep is problem you suffer from then maybe it could help but there are far more healthy ways to go about fixing this problem. Such as turning off your screens in the evening and avoiding caffeine throughout the day.
The real problem with drinking alcohol in the evening comes not with nodding off but much later in the night.
Numerous studies appear to suggest that the link between alcohol and deep sleep is not a rosy one (or should that be Rosé?). Deep sleep, being the ‘slow-wave’ rest that comes in the early hours of the morning, the truly restorative stuff that helps us wake up feeling replenished.
Dietitian Christine Gerbstadt, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, explains:
“Alcohol does disrupt the sleep cycle. It delays the onset of and shortens REM sleep, which is the restful sleep you need every night.”
She goes on to explain that while both red and white contain melatonin, the hormone that controls our circadian rhythms, the positive effect of this is outweighed by the negative impact alcohol has on REM sleep.
What’s more if you have a pre-existing sleep condition such as sleep apnea, alcohol can in fact make sleep more dangerous. Not sure if you have sleep apnea, check out this quick guide to find out.
So far, not great news for fans of a nightcap. But don’t despair wine fans, carry on reading the news gets a little bit better below.
Men vs Women
Ok, the news gets a little worse first but then better. I promise. Keep reading!
The impact alcohol has on our sleep differs depending on your sex. Sorry ladies but it’s been discovered that women who head to bed a little bit tipsy tend to have a much worse sleep than men who hit the sack with the same blood alcohol content.
Dr. Arnedt, from the University of Michigan who led a team conducting research on the impact of alcohol and sleep, explains that even before the study was conducted his researchers “predicted that sleep would be worse in women because women metabolize alcohol quite differently.”
But what about just one glass?
Above we have focussed on the impact of alcohol on sleep in general, but the question posed at the top was quite specific, “does a glass of wine before bed help you sleep better?”
Meaning just one glass.
For those who can limit their consumption to just a solitary glass the news is far more positive.
Well, at least it is according to one study conducted by a university in Israel. Over a two year period researchers at Ben Gurion University followed 224 participants divided into groups. Some were asked to drink one 5 ounce glass of wine before bed, others told to drink the same quantity of water. The findings were quite surprising.
Firstly the researchers reported that a glass of wine each night seems to play a role in helping prevent both type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I’ll drink to that!
Secondly, the same study found that those who drank red or white wine enjoyed an overall better quality of sleep that participants that opted for water. Salut!
The study even attempted to answer one very important question – which is healthier for you red or white?
Drumroll please….they concluded that only the subjects who opted for red wine reported significant improvements to blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and excess body fat around the waist. Here’s to a good glass of Cabernet Sauvignon then!
So to sum up, TV didn’t have it all wrong. A nightcap before bed can indeed be a sensible decision but only if you stick to one glass and only if that glass contains red wine.
Need help on choosing that perfect red for your nightly glass?
This Guest Post was written by Sarah Cummings of The Sleep Advisor, exclusively for Social Vignerons.