Does a Nightcap Help Me Sleep?

Far and wide people enjoy a drink or two before bed and hope for a good night’s rest. There seems to be a myth that drinking a few glasses of a favorite alcoholic beverage before bed will help you sleep better at night. Is there any truth to this old adage?

The Answer? Probably not. The fact of the matter seems to be that a few glasses of alcohol before bed actually decreases the amount and quality of sleep a person gets at night! Even more worrisome is that alcohol has an effect on breathing, and if you suffer from a sleep disordered condition like sleep apnea, this impact on your breathing is riskier than you may have considered.

Alcohol and R.E.M. Sleep

One of the ways alcohol use tricks you into thinking your sleep has improved rather than worsened is that after a few cocktails you fall into a deepsleep right away. The problem with this is that Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, occurs during the lighter stages of sleep. REM is important for learning, concentrating, and most forms of problem solving. A night or two of missed REM sleep and you won’t be able to think straight!

Alcohol also impacts the way in which our lungs function. The harshness of the chemical compound which makes up alcohol easily moves from the bloodstream into the lungs, which is why breathalyzers work so well to detect inebriation. This harshness, or volatility, creates inflammation and can cause more dramatic breathing problems in those with asthma or COPD.

Sleep Apnea and Alcohol Use: Too Risky?

ObstructiveSleep Apnea results from the intermittent obstruction of your airway during breathing. It can be caused by excess weight around the neck area, restrictive sleeping positions, chronic nasal or sinus issues and many other factors. On top of these, many of those suffering from sleep apnea have developed the condition because of alcohol use resulting in long-term inflammation.

When a person with sleep apnea uses alcohol, they’re taking a risk in two ways. First, alcohol impairs their already broken and diminished sleep. Pair this with the inability to attain R.E.M. during sleep and they’ll wake each morning feeling less able to concentrate and more exhausted than ever. And yet, there are greater, more immediate risks to sleep apnea sufferers who consume alcohol than the basic issue of sleep disturbance.

Alcohol use relaxes the muscles around your throat and also decreases your drive to breathe. If you suffer from sleep apnea, a relaxed throat can increasethe likelihood of throat collapse, potentiating, or promoting, airway obstruction. For these reasons, we here at suggest that person’s with sleep apnea avoid drinking alcoholic beverages for fourhours before they try to fall asleep, or else risk worsening symptoms or even death.

Avoid Alcohol and Start CPAP Therapy

Not only do we wish to promote your sleep health by discouraging evening alcohol use, we suggest that you begin treating your sleep apnea as soon as possible following your diagnosis. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure therapy is the gold standard in the treatment of today’s sleep apnea sufferers. At, you’ll find inexpensive and quality CPAP masks, tubing and hoses, along with CPAP machines to get your sleep back on track.

Healthy sleep is the cornerstone to living a flourishing life. Don’t delay taking whatever steps are necessary, such as avoiding alcohol or visiting your doctor, to promote robust sleep.