The Holidays are notorious for being the least-healthy time of year. We eat a ton of crap food, stay up late by design, and drink, and drink, and drink. Gym attendance swells after every New Year – we all know that our excesses lead to increased body fat and decreased hotness. But were you aware that they also screw up your sleep cycle, and consequently, your whole life?
Excessive drinking takes a serious toll on your circadian rhythms, which affect every other aspect of your health. A healthy sleep cycle equals about five REM cycles over the course of a night. You need about that many in order to not feel like a zombie the net day. Alcohol messes with your REM cycle, when we dream.
Interrupted REM results in drowsiness, impaired ability to concentrate and general crappiness. All sleep is not created equal. So if you’re drinking to excess on a regular basis, your poor sleep hygiene can snowball into a major blockage to you feeling okay.
Alcohol makes your REM cycle more shallow. REM is very easy to wake up from, unlike the interstitial phases, which are deeper and more impenetrable for external sensory cues. That means after drinking, you’re more prone to being woken up at the drop of a dime. And once you’re up, it can be hard to fall back asleep.
When you sleep after drinking, you also pee way too much. That’s because alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increased urinary frequency.
If you’re going to binge drink this Holiday season (you are, we all are), there are a few interventions you can take to reduce the harm to your sleep. If you can remember to do so, make sure your windows are blacked out so that the morning sun doesn’t wake you up. Also try wearing ear plugs – remember you’re going to be hair-trigger ready to be woken up by sounds.
If you forgot to drink water while you were drinking alcohol, might want to play catch-up at home. If you chug water right before bed, you’re going to be on your feet on the way to the bathroom in no time. So give yourself some runway to process the water before sleeping. If you don’t, peeing a lot is still better than being hung over, so just be sure to get the water.
You can also sleep in a cold room, which can make you sleep more deeply. The best advice, though, is just don’t drink too much.