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Alcohol Before Bed Doesn’t Help You Sleep, New Study Says

Posted by Scott Harrah
December 18, 2014

The proverbial “nightcap” (alcohol before bedtime) does not help your sleep, a new study says.

The UMHS Endeavour looks at the results of a new study by the University of Missouri and why a glass of wine or a cocktail before bed might not be a good option for the general public and students at American and Caribbean medical schools.

Why Booze Before Bed is Useless

One might think a cocktail, beer or wine before bed helps us sleep, but doing so can lead to problems, the study said, noting that one in five Americans uses alcohol when they can’t sleep.

Researchers said alcohol “hampers the brains system for regulating a person’s need for sleep.” The results were published in the journal Alcohol and explained in a recent press release

"The prevailing thought was that alcohol promotes sleep by changing a person's circadian rhythm -- the body's built-in 24-hour clock," study lead author Mahesh Thakkar, an associate professor and director of research in the neurology department at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said in the release. "However, we discovered that alcohol actually promotes sleep by affecting a person's sleep homeostasis -- the brain's built-in mechanism that regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness," Thakkar said.

The study says alcohol has a negative effect on “sleep homestasis,” leading to poor sleep. Study co-author Dr. Pradeep Sahota, chair of the neurology department at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said, "Based on our results, it's clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished. Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go to the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

Dr. Thakkar said people with sleep problems should speak to a doctor about what could be causing insomnia. A doctor can then discuss individual treatment options.

(Top photo) Photo: Steve Buissine/Pixabay

About UMHS:

Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.


Posted by Scott Harrah

Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City,

Topics: Medicine and Health

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