New research suggests exhausted Brits are struggling to get the sleep they need to function, with as many as 39 percent claiming they never get a decent night’s sleep. The report shows the average Brit gets an average of just six hours a night – that’s two hours less than experts recommend – amounting to a deficit of 730 hours (equivalent of 91 nights or three months’ sleep) a year. Should a person have a boozy evening the night before, the hours of decent sleep drop even more. What is the effect alcohol having on one’s sleep and how can you improve your sleeping habits?
Personal Trainer Jason Briggs from Shoe Hero reveals the reasons why alcohol makes us react the way it does, as well as the science behind those reactions.
Jason said: “The common myth when drinking is that sometimes you do not feel the effects of it until you have consumed multiple drinks, [but] your body’s reaction to it is almost instant.
“Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, with 20 percent through the stomach, and 80 percent through the small intestine.
“It takes your body about an hour to metabolise 10g, or one drink of alcohol, but the effects of the substances kick in after about five to 10 minutes (though it can be later, depending on your size, muscle mass, and how much alcohol you absorb at once).
“At this point, the low doses of alcohol initially act as a euphoriant, due to dopamine and endorphins stimulating the brain and making you feel happy.
“This isn’t permanent, and the more you drink the more the chemicals eventually suppress your brain activity.”
“Once in the bloodstream, the alcohol is distributed throughout the body and brain, irritating and sometimes even damaging cells and membranes.
“Add that to acetaldehyde, a product of alcohol metabolism that is more toxic than alcohol, which is a created in your liver as the alcohol is being broken down, and it’s almost enough to stop you drinking entirely.
“Luckily, your body automatically combats acetaldehyde with another substance called glutathione, so it’s only in your system for a short period of time, though the more you drink, the less effective glutathione is, and without it working its magic you soon get headaches and bouts of vomiting.
“Alcohol, of course, has a negative effect on the brain too as it subdues and blocks chemical signals between brain cells, and because the brain is such a complex system, this in turn affects everything from slowed reflexes, slurred speech and impulsive behaviour.
“Heavy drinking can also result in memory loss, which is not just you struggling to remember what happened, but literally your brain forgetting to record information.”
When asked how drinking affects one’s sleep, Jason said: “Uneven sleep patterns are extremely common when consuming alcohol.
“When you are hungover, you’re going to feel exhausted for a number of reasons, but the main one is simply unsatisfied sleep.
“Alcohol puts you to sleep quickly, something anyone who has woken up at the end of a train line will know, but it also disrupts your ability to recuperate energy from sleep.
“Consuming heavy amounts of alcohol means that when resting, your brain is not fully relaxed, which results in disrupted sleep pattern.
“Though you are probably also getting up to constantly drink water, as a glass of wine causes the body to expel 800ml of water, three times as much liquid gained.
“Because of this your body becomes dehydrated, which results in those infamous hangover headaches.”
Asked if there was anyway a person could combat the lack of decent sleep caused by a boozy night, Jason answered: “Unfortunately, as you have probably already figured out, there is no miracle cure.
“You can reduce the damage by drinking water before you head off for a night’s sleep, as it is best to get a head start on that heavy day of dehydration you are about to have.
“If you can manage it, add salt and sugar to it to replace the sodium and glycogen lost the night before.
“Aspirin, in fact any painkiller that is non-caffeinated (avoid coffee – it will dehydrate you more) has been shown to be quite effective with helping a hangover.
“As for food, anything that can restore potassium in your body, such as powder drinks or kiwis, will help balance out the toxins that have been lost due to the effects of alcohol the night before.”