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Even Light Drinking Disrupts Sleep

Researchers find that drinking even modest amounts means you sleep less and wake up earlier on average.

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Alcohol is no sleeping pill. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

06/12/12

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Drinking in moderation disrupts your sleep, new research suggests. While many regularly use alcohol as a sleep aid, the new study—published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism—finds that college students who drink low amounts of alcohol report getting less sleep than on nights when they stay completely sober. Researchers used wristband devices to measure how long 46 volunteers slept each night; they then compared those numbers to the amount of booze that was consumed. Participants were divided into two groups: “low dose,” who drank moderately, and “high dose,” who drank more than the average amount. The “low dose” group got 47 minutes less sleep on drinking nights than sober nights, and woke up earlier. And, the “high dose” group got about 22 minutes less sleep on nights when they drank—researchers believe this disparity was possibly due to chance. “The findings add weight to the evidence that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid,” says lead author Pierce Geoghegan, of Trinity College, Dublin. Drinking alcohol is known to disrupt sleep during the second half of the night due to the "metabolic rebound" effect, which means that alcohol may help you fall asleep, but as the alcohol leaves your system you'll become more alert and at higher risk of waking up. 

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