Healthy Living: Alcohol disrupting sleep

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It is no secret that we are dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever and one way people are coping with those unsettling emotions is by drinking alcohol.

Dr. Jim Polo is the Behavioral Health Medical Director with Regence BlueShield and he says people are drinking more frequently and more heavily, "Alcohol consumption in the United States has increased by 15% this year over last."

Dr. Polo says one reason is that alcohol is really easy to get and it is affordable.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not costing you. Many people are paying the price of sleep disruption, "A recent study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine showed that 68% of American adults had disrupted sleep due to alcohol use."

So how does alcohol wreak havoc on our sleep? Dr. Polo says drinking reduces our natural melatonin production, "Melatonin is what helps us fall asleep and keeps our circadian rhythm, our sleep-wake cycle, regular."

Alcohol can also increase the relaxation of the muscles of the head, neck and throat which can make it harder to breathe, especially for people dealing with sleep apnea.

Dr. Polo says waking up is also an issue, "If you’re drinking alcohol into the evening, you’re more likely to need to use the bathroom, so waking up in the middle of the night can also become a problem."

We all know if we have had a poor night’s sleep as the following day can be brutal. We are tired, irritable and can have trouble concentrating.

So what can we do to help get a quality night’s sleep?

Dr. Polo says, "I would recommend that everybody drink responsibly and in moderation."

Here are some other things he ays we can focus on; Avoid that nightcap, don’t drink for 3 to 4 hours before going to bed. This will help the alcohol get out of your system. Next, Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. The recommendation is to drink 2 glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. Also, Avoid the bubbly! Champagnes and sparkling wines tend to create gas and bloating which can make it uncomfortable for sleep. Finally, If you’re drinking, make sure you have a light snack. Food helps delay the absorption of alcohol and keep your blood alcohol content a little bit lower.

And finally, Dr. Polo says reach out if you need to, "If you or a loved one is worried about your drinking, don’t hesitate to get help."

Dr. Polo says, if nothing else, call your doctor, explain the problem and ask for advice on what to do.

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