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Alcohol Is Worse for Your Sleep Than Coffee, Here's What You Should Know

If you’ve ever drunk too much coffee or had it too late in the day, you’ll know exactly how annoying it is when it’s time for bed and you’re left tossing and turning for what feels like hours. SleepEducation notes that caffeine can delay your body clock and blocks the adenosine receptor, keeping you from feeling sleepy. And although coffee (or more specifically caffeine) can disrupt sleep, for most people, it does not significantly change their sleep patterns, but what does, is alcohol!

According to a recent study conducted by the Florida Atlantic University and published in the journal Sleep, alcohol and nicotine have a negative effect on sleep (much more so than coffee). The study looked at 785 African-American participants over a combined 5,164 days, and according to Healthline, these participants did not think they had sleeping problems.

The study noted that drinking alcohol within four hours of going to bed affected the participants more than coffee did before bedtime, Well & Good reports. The research also considered that there are a number of variables (including age, weight, and schedules) that can affect the rates at which individuals metabolize caffeine, when accounting for these factors, it was still found that alcohol was “the major sleep disruptor.” Now, those of us who have had one glass of wine too many will probably argue that they had no issue falling asleep, but the study is not focusing on how quickly people were able to sleep, but the quality of their REM sleep, which alcohol disrupts.

“African Americans have been underrepresented in studies examining the associations of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine use on sleep,” Christine E. Spadola, Ph.D., lead author of the study told Healthline. “This is especially significant because African Americans are more likely to experience short sleep duration and fragmented sleep compared to non-Hispanic whites as well as more deleterious health consequences associated with inadequate sleep than other racial or ethnic groups.”

The study’s authors want medical professionals to recommend that those who have sleep difficulties be advised to limit their use of nicotine or alcohol at least four hours before bed. And for good reason, as Rose MacDowell, chief research officer at Sleepopolis, told Healthline, "heavy use of alcohol can permanently damage the genes involved in healthy sleep and wake cycles.”

[Image via Shutterstock]

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