Let me guess – you know that alcohol can make you feel drowsy, so why should you avoid it? Well, alcohol doesn’t help you sleep as much as you think it does – it actually interferes with it. Drinking alcohol in the evening will make you need to go to the toilet during the night, so you’ll wake up more often and won’t be able to enjoy the undisrupted sleep that your needs after a long day. This easily affects your sleep pattern, which makes it harder for you to get the right amount of sleep. Alcohol also decreases your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep,1 so you’re not falling into the most important sleep phase. Plus, drinking alcohol regularly can lead to insomnia, which makes sleeping well even more challenging. As well as this, heavy drinking can also worsen severity of breathing problems during your sleep, leading to snoring and sleep apnoea.2
You can find out more about insomnia here, or check out our article on snoring and sleep apnoea here. Also, you can read more about alcohol’s effect on your sleep in our article, ‘Alcoholism and Sleep’.
The first cup of coffee in the morning helps to raise your alertness and will get you ready for the day ahead. However, drinking coffee during the day – especially in the evening – can harm the quality of your sleep by delaying your body clock. One study found that drinking caffeine six hours before bedtime reduced the total sleep time by one hour.3 As caffeine will keep you alert, you won’t feel tired enough to sleep when you need to. This, and the reduced sleep time, can lead to sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue, which will only make you want to drink more coffee. Therefore, it’s a good idea to limit your caffeine intake to the mornings and early afternoons.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t have an energy drink before going to bed. Energy drinks have extremely high levels of caffeine in them – even two to three times more caffeine than coffee or fizzy drinks!4 Because of this, these drinks will keep you awake when you should be sleeping, reducing the total time that you’re asleep and harming the quality of your sleep.
Fizzy drinks are bursting with caffeine and loads of sugar. The caffeine in them will keep you alert when you want to go to sleep, making you restless. Plus, the sugar levels may affect your ability to stay asleep. When there’s an excess of glucose in your blood, your body draws water from your tissues. This can make you feel dehydrated, prompting you to get up during the night for glasses of water. Also, you’re more likely to get up to go to the bathroom as your kidneys try to get rid of extra sugar by urinating. These constant interruptions to your sleep will interfere with the quality of your sleep.5
Surprisingly, you should avoid drinking water before your bedtime. In healthy young adults, your urine output is lower at night than during the day. This helps to keep you from waking up to go to the bathroom during the night. If you drink too much water in the evening, this balance could be disrupted so you’ll wake up and need to use the bathroom during the night.6 This will damage the quality of your sleep, and could keep you from getting the deep, restorative sleep that you need. Drink plenty of water during the day to avoid dehydration but drink less water in the evening to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Are There Drinks That Help You Sleep?
Fortunately, there’s a variety of sleep-inducing drinks that can help you to catch those all-important snoozes. Some drinks that can help you to improve your sleep naturally are:
- Cherry juice
- Chamomile tea
- Valerian tea
- Peppermint tea
- Warm milk
- Almond milk7
Not only do drinks affect our sleep, but food, too. Have a look at our article, ‘Eat Well to Sleep Well‘, to find out how what you eat affects how you sleep.