Crave Nourishment

Alcohol’s Effect on Sleep and Health

Sleep is so much more important than most of us give it credit for. Being well-rested promotes physical and mental energy, attention, and productivity. Sleep supports your memory, immune system, and exercise performance, and can help you manage stress levels and weight. Sleep also helps to lower inflammation and reduce your risk for numerous diseases. In short, getting enough quality sleep every day can help optimize just about everything for your body and mind. Are you doing everything you can to ensure you get high-quality sleep every night? Let’s chat about alcohol’s effect on sleep and how you might be cutting yourself short if you’re ending your day with a nightcap frequently.


Quality sleep is essential for good health and several bodily functions. Sleep gives us a general feeling of well-being overall and that’s likely because it gives your cells time to rest, clear out waste, and repair themselves.

Getting enough quality sleep daily also helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body. We all know how important this is, especially if you’re managing an inflammatory condition like Lipedema. In turn, getting enough sleep helps to lower the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, depression, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure.

Sleep is also essential for stress management and simply feeling our best. We all know what it feels like to be sleep-deprived while trying to work… Not fun, right? All of this considered, there’s no doubt that sleep is important!


In contrast, poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of weight gain, a larger waist circumference, and obesity. This is partly due to sleep’s impact on appetite hormones, leading to increased hunger and cravings, and decreased feelings of satiety.

You probably have noticed that after a night without enough sleep, you find yourself reaching for more snacks, sugary, and salty foods. it’s almost like you can’t control it, right? These are your hunger hormones in action!

Lack of sleep also increases levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Higher cortisol levels are linked to more belly fat and insulin resistance which can make weight management more challenging.


When it comes to sleep goals, the ideal amount of sleep adults need to maximize health benefits is 7-9 hours per night. The reason for this amount is that during sleep, our brains cycle through different stages. These stages include rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM).

High-quality sleep involves 3-5 cycles of REM sleep to non-REM sleep (and back again) every night. This typically looks like 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

Adults who get at least 7 hours of sleep each night have reduced risk for the many chronic conditions listed above. It’s worth mentioning that this amount of sleep will also likely make you feel and perform better on a consistent basis too!


Alcohol often inhibits the body’s ability to have deep, restorative sleep. This is the kind of sleep that is needed to aid in weight loss and to reduce inflammation. This is because drinking before bed can interrupt the circadian rhythm, block REM sleep, and aggravate breathing problems.

Also, as mentioned above, a person who gets poor sleep is more likely to skip the gym or make poor breakfast choices, both of which can negatively impact weight loss. These things combined are a recipe for not meeting your health goals and feeling out of control around food. Does this sound familiar? It can be a vicious cycle once you’re stuck in it!


While a nightcap might make you feel a bit drowsy and have a sedative effect, it will most likely actually cause you to have lower-quality sleep throughout the night.

Alcohol can help you fall asleep, however making you feel sleepy doesn’t mean you’ll get a good night’s sleep. Drinking alcohol often leads to fragmented sleep, where you wake up several times throughout the night.

Has this ever happened to you? You might quickly drift off to sleep, only to wake up within a few hours and lie awake for a long time.

The sleep foundation estimates that more than 2 drinks for men and more than 1 drink for women can disrupt sleep by up to 39%! Check out the full article and infographic here for more details.

Because alcohol suppresses your essential REM sleep and can also lead to more vivid dreams and nightmares, sleepwalking and other disruptive sleep disorders, insomnia, and even breathing problems like sleep apnea. As more alcohol is consumed, sleep quality tends to get worse. 

These sleep disturbances happen because, as your body breaks down and metabolizes the alcohol, it disrupts the natural healthy sleep cycle that helps you have sound and restful sleep. The metabolism of alcohol is what prevents you from waking up feeling refreshed and rested.


So, are you getting enough high-quality sleep? Is alcohol holding you back from restful, restorative sleep? These are important questions to ask if you’re hoping to make the shift toward prioritizing sleep.

This truly comes down to shifting our mindsets and aligning with our values. If you’re struggling with bad habits holding you back, you can make the change – it’s just going to take some mental work!

To do this, I always recommend looking inward and being very honest with yourself. Journal about how much you’re drinking, how much you feel is tied to habit, and how you’d like your consumption to look. Exploring these topics for yourself is the first step in making the mindset shift towards prioritizing your health and wellness with high-quality sleep patterns.


Once you’ve decided that prioritizing sleep is important to you, it’s time to get practical with how you’ll make sure you’re getting enough sleep consistently.

The best way to do this is with a good old-fashioned bedtime routine! Pick a time in the evening when you’ll commit to turning off the devices (phones, T.V., tablets, etc.) and winding down for the night.

Blue light from our electronics tends to disrupt sleeps, so setting a time to power down for the night will help you “shut down” your brain and prepare for restful sleep. Try journaling, reading, or stretching during this time for 10-30 minutes to help prepare for mind and body for bed.

When you first get started with this routine, it might feel difficult to stick to, but give it at least 2 weeks before deicing how you feel. I’m willing to bet that you’ll notice. drastic difference!


If you’re looking for some additional support to help you understand how alcohol is metabolized in the body and set boundaries for your  consumption, I’ve got a FREE guide just for you!

This guide aims to give you some quick facts on alcohol’s impact on sleep and the body to keep top of mind. Use this guide to inspire and motivate you to re-evaluate your own relationship with alcohol and weigh its impact on your health.

You’ll find journal pages, a mocktail guide, and even information on dealcoholized wines to make the transition easier!

Click here to grab the FREE guide and get started today!


  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2020, June 17). Why you should limit alcohol before bed for better sleep. Health Essentials.
  2. Duke Health & Well-being. (2020, August 11). Understanding the connections between sleep and nutrition.
  3. Harvard Health Medical School. (2019, August 9). Alcohol and fatigue. Harvard Health Publishing.
  4. Sleep Foundation. (2023, July 18).  Alcohol and sleep.



Hi, I’m Bonnie! 

I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) specializing in women’s health, lipedema nutrition, and sustainable weight management. I’d love to help you reach your own personal health goals and become the most vibrant version of yourself.

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