Will wine help me sleep better if I drink it before bed?

Feb 24, 2014

Q: What are the effects of wine on sleep? Will wine help me sleep better if I drink it before bed?

A: The idea that a nightcap is the perfect way to ensure falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow is a commonly held belief. Many of us have experienced that warm, drowsy feeling produced by a glass of wine at night.

While there is some truth to this perception, Sanjeev Kothare, MD, an associate professor in the Department of Neurology and the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, cautions against using wine or any other alcohol as a sleep remedy.

"Wine makes you sleepy, so it will reduce time to fall asleep. However, it does not allow one to go into deep sleep and REM sleep,” Kothare says. He adds that the half life of alcohol is about four hours. Once alcohol is out of the bloodstream, REM sleep rebounds and can disrupt restful sleep.

Kothare summarizes the effects of drinking alcohol before bed: "Overall, one does not feel refreshed after consuming alcohol the previous night."

A 2013 study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, supports Kothare's claim that alcohol may help you fall asleep quickly. The study found that various doses of alcohol increased slow-wave sleep during the first part of the night, but that larger doses of pre-bedtime alcohol may, as Kothare says, interfere with deep REM sleep.

Wine should not be used as a sleep aid, but it seems that you may be able to find peaceful slumbers if you drink moderately and watch the clock.

Have a question about wine and healthy living? E-mail us.

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