Alcohol- fuelled sleep lesssatisfyingBy Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News onlineA tipple before bedtime may get you off to sleep faster but itcan disrupt your nights slumber, say researchers who havereviewed the evidence.The London Sleep Centre team says studies show alcohol upsets our normal sleep cycles.While it cuts the time it takes to first nod off and sends us into a deep sleep, it also robs us of one of our mostsatisfying types of sleep, where dreams occur.Used too often, it can cause insomnia.Many advocate a nightcap - nursing homes and hospital wards have even been known to serve alcohol - but DrIrshaad Ebrahim and his team advise against it.Fragmented sleepDr Ebrahim, medical director at the London Sleep Centre and co-author of the latest review, published in thejournal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, said: "We should be very cautious about drinking on aregular basis.Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted”"One or two glasses might be nice in the short term, but if you continue to use a tipple before bedtime it cancause significant problems."If you do have a drink, its best to leave an hour and a half to two hours before going to bed so the alcohol isalready wearing off."He said people could become dependent on alcohol for sleep.And it could make sleep less restful and turn people into snorers."With increasing doses, alcohol suppresses our breathing. It can turn non-snorers into snorers and snorers intopeople with sleep apnoea - where the breathings interrupted." From the hundred or more studies that Dr Ebrahims team looked at, they analysed 20 in detail and found alcohol appeared to change sleep in three ways. Firstly, it accelerates sleep onset, meaning we drop off faster. Non-snorers may become snorers
Next, it sends us into a very deep sleep.These two changes - which are identical to those seen in people who take antidepressant medication - may beappealing and may explain why some people with insomnia use alcohol.But the third change - fragmented sleep patterns the second half of the night - is less pleasant.Alcohol reduces how much time we spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - the stage of sleep wheredreams generally occur.As a consequence, the sleep may feel less restful, said Dr Ebrahim.Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, said: "Alcohol on the whole is not useful for improvinga whole nights sleep. Sleep may be deeper to start with, but then becomes disrupted. Additionally, that deepersleep will probably promote snoring and poorer breathing. So, one shouldnt expect better sleep with alcohol."The Sleep Council said: "Dont over-indulge. Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just beforebedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns."Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night. Plus you may wakedehydrated and needing the loo."