The Link Between Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

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  • Experts often suggest that people with sleep apnea avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Alcohol also increases breathing-related sleep events such as snoring and oxygen desaturation, especially in those with pre-existing problems.
  • The circadian clock may modulate sleep-wake cycle with the help of melatonin.
  • When it comes to insomnia and alcohol withdrawal, sleep disorder can be a huge danger for two reasons.

You may experience your most severe sleep disturbances in the first week, but most people find that it eases up with time. Everyone reacts differently to alcohol, though, so you may want to cut yourself off sooner. Research shows alcohol consumption can affect sleep even if you stop drinking six hours before bed. For casual drinkers, there are several steps you can take to stop alcohol from disrupting your sleep.

Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Animal (typically rodent) models of acute or chronic alcohol administration on
sleep have provided valuable insights into the neurochemical effects of alcohol on brain
structures and systems that play a role in sleep regulation, however, many questions remain
unanswered. At this time when poly-substance dependence is
common, it also is becoming increasingly relevant to investigate the interactive effects of
substances of abuse on sleep behavior and regulation. Effects of an acute pre-bedtime dose of alcohol on sleep have been extensively
studied although methodology has varied greatly between studies in terms of dose and timing
of alcohol administration, age and gender of subjects, and sample size. In the second half of the
night, sleep is disrupted, with increased wakefulness and/or stage 1 sleep. It is estimated that
alcohol is used by more than one in ten individuals as a hypnotic agent to self-medicate
sleep problems (Arnedt, 2007).

Firstly, watch out for the poor sleep hygiene habits that may come with drinking — like late-night meals or bright light exposure. You might also smoke cigarettes or cannabis when drinking, which can also contribute to sleep problems. You might also want to cut down on the number of nights you drink to give your body more chances of getting a good night of alcohol-free sleep.

0 Possible neurochemical mechanisms of the acute and chronic alcohol effects on sleep

The authors suggest that insomnia symptoms may be a target for addressing problem drinking. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia, but prior studies show mixed results on whether treating insomnia is effective in reducing problem drinking. It may help to ask a bed partner or roommate about snoring and other sleep-related breathing problems, since people with sleep apnea are not always aware of these issues. Drinking alcohol close to bedtime increases the likelihood that a person will snore.

If you have concerns about your sleep or alcohol use, talk to your health care provider – they can help evaluate your routines and sleep to note if adjustments should be made. Dr. Seema Khosla is the medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep and a medical advisor for MedBridge Healthcare. She is also a fellow of the College of Chest Physicians, as well as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

How Does Alcohol Affect Central Sleep Apnea?

It also considers ways to manage insomnia and prevent sleep disruption and answers some frequently asked questions. This means people with insomnia have an increased risk of alcohol and substance use disorders. During apnea-related breathing episodes – which can occur throughout the night – the sleeper may make choking noises. Some studies suggest that alcohol contributes to sleep apnea because it causes the throat muscles to relax, which in turn creates more resistance during breathing. This can exacerbate OSA symptoms and lead to disruptive breathing episodes, as well as heavier snoring.

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