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The Impact of Alcohol on Your Sleep Health

Did you stay up too late watching television again? Drink one too many alcoholic drinks during a night out with friends?  While these events might seem harmless, they can become an issue if they start to happen daily or regularly. Alcohol use not only comes with its own health risks, but also negatively affects your sleep quality and the amount you sleep. Excessive drinking and sleeplessness can also have long-term effects on your personal relationships, job performance, and physical and mental health. By addressing these behavioral health concerns, you can start to live a healthier life.

Health Consequences of Alcohol Misuse

Young adults in the military are more likely to engage in heavy drinking [PDF 119KB] than their civilian counterparts. This can negatively impact mission readiness and your health. Whether it’s an occasional night out or regular happy hours, remember there are health consequences. Below are some of the short-term and long-term health risks of misusing alcohol.

In the short-term, excessive alcohol use or binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on one occasion) can lead to:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Accidents and injuries
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Violence

In the long-term, excessive alcohol use can lead to:

  • Alcohol dependence
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Liver disease

Alcohol’s Impact on Sleep

One area of your health that’s frequently impacted by excessive drinking is your sleep. Although you might find you fall asleep faster after a few drinks, drinking alcohol before bed actually makes you more likely to wake up (re-bound) and sleep less soundly.

When you go to sleep after drinking, you might find that you wake up more often in the middle of the night or feel groggy in the morning. That’s because alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythm and reduces REM sleep. Both contribute to a restorative sleep, which helps you wake up feeling ready for the day. Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, so it can increase trips to the bathroom throughout the night. When you lose sleep from drinking alcohol, it comes with its own short-term and long-term health risks.

In the short-term, insufficient sleep can impact your:

    • Memory and concentration
    • Stress response
    • Situational and battlefield awareness
    • Nutrition
    • Physical health
    • Relationships

In the long-term, chronic sleep loss has been linked to an increased risk of:

    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • High blood pressure
    • Weight gain and obesity

If you can, start with lifestyle changes to help ease some of the negative side effects of these symptoms. Practicing healthy sleep habits or cutting down on the number of alcoholic drinks are good first steps. However, if you are struggling to correct these habits, you still may need formal treatment. Reach out to a health care professional for support and guidance on treatment options.

Seeking Care Early

If your alcohol or sleep troubles persist, reach out for care. Treatment is available and effective. A health care professional can work with you to create a treatment plan. The plan will help address your symptoms and any underlying psychological health concerns. Seeking care early can help ease some of the problems associated with long-term suffering.

Reaching out for help can keep you mission ready. Call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can speak 24/7 with a trained health resource consultant for help accessing care.

Additional Resources

Sources

Chapman DP, Liu Y, McKnight-Eily LR, et al. Daily Insufficient Sleep and Active Duty Status. Mil Med. 2015;180(1):68–76. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=25562860

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, March 18). Sleep and Mental Health.

National Alliance on Mental Health. (n.d.). Sleep Disorders.

Schumm, Jeremiah A. & Kathleen M. Chard. Alcohol and Stress in the Military [PDF 119KB]. Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 34(4), 401-407.

Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). How Alcohol Affects the Quality–And Quantity–Of Sleep.

Troxel, W. M., Shih, R. A., Pedersen, E. R., Greyer, L., Fisher, M. P., Griffin, B. A., … Steinberg, P. S. (2015). Promoting Sleep in the Military: Promoting Healthy Sleep Among U.S. Servicemembers RAND Health Quarterly, 5(2):19.