Can't Sleep After Drinking Alcohol? Here Are Common Reasons

  • Alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy and at ease, but it has little to no restorative effects on sleep.
  • As the sedative effects wear off, alcohol can disturb your sleep, making it more difficult to stay asleep all night.
  • Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of any existing sleep disorders making it difficult to get a restful night's sleep.

cant sleep after drinking

Our overall health depends on getting a good night's sleep, but it can occasionally be difficult to achieve, especially after a night of drinking. You're not alone if you've ever had trouble falling asleep after a few drinks; you might find yourself tossing and turning. There are many reasons why alcohol can disrupt our sleep, and its effects on sleep have been well-documented. Alcohol can have a significant impact on the quality and quantity of our sleep, from altering our sleep cycles to raising the risk of snoring and sleep apnea. In this article, we'll look at some of the typical causes of difficulty falling asleep after drinking alcohol and offer advice on how to improve your sleep hygiene to get a good night's sleep. Therefore, read on to learn the reasons why you can't fall asleep after drinking alcohol if you've ever wondered why.

How alcohol affects sleep

Alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy and at ease, but it has little to no restorative effects on sleep. Alcohol affects sleep primarily by interfering with our sleep cycles. Typically, a cycle that repeats throughout the night is how we move through various stages of sleep. Alcohol, however, can break up this cycle, causing us to spend more time in lighter, less restful sleep and less time in the critical stages of sleep.

1. Disrupted sleep patterns

Alcohol consumption has an impact on how much adenosine, a neurotransmitter that aids in sleep, is produced. As adenosine accumulates in our brains throughout the day, it eventually causes us to feel tired. Alcohol, on the other hand, interferes with adenosine, making us feel sleepy at first but preventing us from staying in deep sleep all night.

Alcohol can also make it more likely for people to snore and have sleep apnea, both of which can disturb our sleep cycles. When the muscles in our airway relax too much, it snores, which results in noise and vibrations. Alcohol further relaxes these muscles, increasing snoring frequency and volume. On the other hand, sleep apnea is a condition marked by pauses in breathing while you are asleep. By relaxing the muscles in the throat, alcohol can worsen sleep apnea by increasing the likelihood that the airway will become blocked.

2. Alcohol's impact on REM sleep

A critical phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is connected to dreaming and memory encoding. Alcohol, on the other hand, can have a significant impact on REM sleep, shortening the duration of this crucial stage. Any disruption to REM sleep can be harmful to our overall health because it is crucial for cognitive and emotional regulation.

Alcohol suppresses REM sleep in the first half of the night, according to studies, which causes a REM rebound effect in the second. This indicates that after the initial effects fade, our bodies attempt to make up for the lost REM sleep by lengthening the time spent in this stage. Because of this, we might have intense, vivid dreams and wake up feeling more exhausted than usual.

3. Alcohol's impact on deep sleep

The phase of sleep during which our bodies heal and regenerate is known as deep sleep, also referred to as slow-wave sleep. It is crucial for physical recovery and waking up feeling rested. Alcohol, unfortunately, can significantly interfere with deep sleep, impairing recovery and making you feel groggy when you wake up.

Alcohol shortens the duration of deep sleep and can prevent sleep cycles from progressing normally. This implies that even if you are able to sleep soundly after drinking, the quality of your sleep may be affected. If you don't get enough deep sleep, you might feel drained, cranky, and less focused when you wake up.

The rebound effect: why you can't sleep after drinking

The rebound effect is one of the potential causes of difficulty falling asleep after consuming alcohol. As previously mentioned, alcohol initially makes you feel sleepy and can speed up the process of falling asleep. But as the sedative effects wear off, it can actually disturb your sleep, making it more difficult to stay asleep all night.

Because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes more urine to be produced, which can cause dehydration. As a result, you might wake up more often during the night because you might need to use the restroom. Alcohol can also alter your blood sugar levels, which can make you feel hungry or uncomfortable and make it harder to fall asleep.

Furthermore, alcohol can result in withdrawal-like symptoms that keep you from falling asleep as it is metabolized by your body. Sweating, restlessness, and an elevated heart rate are some of these symptoms. As a result, you might discover that you wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time going back to sleep.

Dehydration and sleep disturbances

Dehydration is a typical side effect of alcohol use and can significantly interfere with your sleep. When you drink alcohol, your body produces more urine and loses more fluids as a result. Dehydration may result from this, which may cause dry mouth, thirst, and general discomfort.

Dehydration can cause you to wake up at odd hours of the night to drink water or use the restroom, which can interfere with your sleep. It can also cause symptoms like headaches and cramps, which can make it more difficult to find a comfortable position and further disrupt your sleep.

It's critical to stay hydrated throughout the day, especially if you intend to consume alcohol later in the day, to minimize the effects of dehydration on your ability to sleep. Before, during, and after consuming alcohol, be sure to drink plenty of water to help counteract its dehydrating effects.

Alcohol's impact on sleep disorders

Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of any existing sleep disorders and make it even more difficult to get a restful night's sleep. Alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on a variety of conditions, including restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and insomnia.

A sleep disorder called insomnia is characterized by trouble falling or staying asleep. While drinking alcohol may make you feel sleepy at first, it can disturb your sleep later in the night, causing erratic and unrefreshing sleep patterns. If you already experience insomnia, drinking alcohol can exacerbate your symptoms and make it even more difficult to get a good night's sleep.

When you have sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you're asleep. Alcohol can loosen the muscles in your throat, raising the possibility of an obstruction and increasing the frequency of breathing interruptions. Alcohol should be avoided or consumed in moderation if you have sleep apnea to reduce its negative effects on your breathing and sleep quality.

RLS is a condition that causes uncontrollable urges to move the legs and is frequently accompanied by unpleasant feelings. Alcohol can worsen RLS symptoms and make it more difficult to unwind and go to sleep. It's best to avoid alcohol altogether if you have RLS or consume it in moderation to lessen its impact on your sleep.

How to Sleep Better After Drinking Alcohol

There are additional actions you can take to improve your sleep after consuming alcohol in addition to the above mentioned strategies. You can increase your chances of sleeping well at night by practicing healthy habits and improving your sleep hygiene.

1. Stay Hydrated

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes more urine to be produced and may cause dehydration. Your sleep quality can be negatively impacted by dehydration, which can cause fatigue and restlessness. Make sure to stay hydrated all day long, but especially before bed, to combat this.

If you frequently wake up during the night dehydrated, keep a glass of water by your bed and sip from it. You can reduce the disruptive effects of alcohol on your sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed by staying properly hydrated.

2. Exercise Regularly

It has been demonstrated that regular exercise lengthens and improves the quality of sleep. Moderate-intensity exercise can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and encourage better sleep. Examples of this type of exercise include brisk walking, swimming, or cycling.

It's crucial to keep in mind though that exercising too soon before bed can have stimulating effects and make it hard to fall asleep. To give your body time to relax and get ready for sleep, try to finish your workout at least a few hours before bed.

3. Practice Stress Management Techniques

Stress and anxiety, especially after drinking alcohol, can have a big impact on how well you sleep. Include stress management techniques in your daily routine to lessen their effects. This can involve relaxing pursuits like yoga, mindfulness meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies.

You can lessen the possibility of alcohol-related sleep disturbances and enhance your overall sleep quality by learning effective stress management techniques.

4. Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine

Both nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can make it difficult for you to fall and stay asleep. Avoiding caffeine and nicotine in the hours before bedtime will help you sleep better after consuming alcohol.

Limit your intake of caffeine in the evening and be aware of hidden sources, such as some medications or chocolate. You can improve your chances of getting a good night's rest by limiting your exposure to stimulants.

5. Seek Professional Help if Needed

It may be helpful to seek professional assistance if you routinely experience sleep disturbances after consuming alcohol. Any underlying sleep disorders or conditions that might be aggravating your sleep problems can be addressed by a sleep specialist or healthcare provider, who can also evaluate your situation, offer tailored recommendations, and assess your situation.

Don't be afraid to ask for help if your sleep issues continue or significantly affect how you function every day. You can create a specialized plan to maximize your sleep and enhance your general wellbeing with the right direction.


1. Does Beer Make You Sleepy?

Beer can make you feel sleepy and drowsy at first, but alcohol's effects on sleep are far from positive. While it might make you fall asleep more quickly, it also prevents the stages of sleep from progressing naturally, which can result in interrupted and low-quality sleep.

2. Why Does Alcohol Keep Me Awake All Night?

Alcohol can make it difficult for you to fall asleep by altering your sleep cycle, decreasing REM sleep, and preventing deep sleep. Additionally, as alcohol is metabolized in the body, it acts as a stimulant, causing you to wake up more frequently during the night and make it challenging to go back to sleep.

3. Why Does Alcohol Make You Tired?

Alcohol has sedative effects that can make you feel sleepy and fatigued at first. However, the sedative effects of alcohol wear off as it is metabolized in your body, causing irregular sleep patterns and poor sleep quality. The next day, you might feel worn out and exhausted as a result of this.

Conclusion: Finding a healthy balance

Even though it's obvious that alcohol can interfere with sleep, it's crucial to find a healthy balance that works for you. If you decide to drink, do so in moderation and pay attention to the amount and time you consume alcohol. Set up a routine that encourages restful sleep and prioritize good sleep hygiene. You can get a good night's sleep and still indulge in the occasional drink by being aware of the typical causes of alcohol's ability to disrupt sleep and taking steps to lessen its effects. Keep in mind that sleep is essential to our general health and wellbeing, so it is worthwhile to take the necessary precautions to safeguard and maximize it.


  1. Brower, K. J. (2001). Alcohol’s Effects on Sleep in Alcoholics. Alcohol Research & Health, 25(2), 110–125. ‌
  2. Colrain, I. M., Nicholas, C. L., & Baker, F. C. (2014). Alcohol and the sleeping brain. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 125, 415–431. ‌


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