Can I drink a glass of wine (or beer) before my sleep study?

Does a glass of wine (or beer) before bed help you sleep better at night?

Just because a drink before bed can make it easier for you to fall asleep doesn’t mean that it actually helps you sleep well.

Drinking alcohol can reduce the effectiveness and alter the results of your sleep study.

Have you ever noticed someone who snores worse after a couple of drinks before bed? Why does this happen?

Alcohol disrupts REM sleep

After about the first hour and a half of sleep your body falls into a REM cycle, but alcohol can actually reduce the effectiveness of that sleep stage or even skip the first cycle. This is when you dream and it’s considered the most restorative sleep state. Typically there are six to seven cycles of REM sleep which is combined with deep sleep cycles.

Alcohol consumption leads to missing several REM cycles, which leaves your mind sleep-deprived. The REM cycle restores your brain while deep sleep restores your body. Since alcohol can put you directly into a deep sleep, it gives off the sensation of having had a restful sleep, but you can wake up mentally exhausted. This is why staying asleep for more than a few hours after drinking can be difficult. This can have a cumulative effect to the extent of having the same issues even after abstaining from alcohol.

Alcohol makes sleep apnea worse

Alcohol use exacerbates sleep apnea risk because it inhibits your body’s ability to breathe while sleeping.

Alcohol not only relaxes you after a long week at the office, but it also relaxes the muscles in your throat making it more likely for the upper airway to collapse, causing snoring or obstructive sleep apnea (here’s another blog post about the difference between snoring and sleep apnea: Snoring vs. Sleep Apnea: Which is it?). 

Most doctors will agree that one to two drinks will only cause a minimal effect (depending on other health factors, including your BMI), but any more than that can adversely affect your much-needed rest. If you have been relying on alcohol to try to sleep better, there could be an underlying condition that you may not even be aware of that is preventing you from a restful sleep. If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep or wake up in the morning after a long period of sleep and still feel tired, you may have a sleep disorder. Take the sleepiness quiz to assess your level of sleepiness and talk to your doctor about your symptoms. 

We don’t recommend drinking before your sleep study

Alcohol impacts sleep; therefore, it may alter your results. For example, some people only have sleep apnea in REM sleep, so if alcohol were to cause you to miss REM sleep during your sleep study, you may have a false negative result.

If you have mild sleep apnea, it may appear worse.

If you’re coming to the sleep center for a titration study, you may be titrated at a different pressure than is required for a normal night of sleeping.

Request a sleep study
Sources: 

http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/16/5/909.short 
http://www.amjmed.com/article/0002-9343%2881%2990124-8/abstract?cc=y= 

Other posts you may find interesting:

Photo credit: Edan Cohen edancohen.co.uk 

Topics: Sleep Disorders, Sleep Apnea, Sleep Studies

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