Ask the online dietitian: Does wine before bed help me sleep?

Wine is a sedative, not a sleep aid. Enjoying a glass of wine right before bed might be a nightly habit, but for sleep, it’s counter-productive.

Over 70% of American adults report insufficient sleep. This is especially true during the pandemic. If you find yourself struggling with falling asleep, frequent night waking or waking early in the morning, it’s time to evaluate when you are enjoying alcohol.

I’m not here to take away your wine. If you are having issues with sleep, I want you to be more strategic with when you are consuming wine. Here’s why.

Wine and Sleep

All types of alcohol, including wine, have a sedative effect on the body. This means that alcohol will help us to relax and feel sleepy, but it negatively impacts sleep quality.

Alcohol and Melatonin

Drinking alcohol at night suppresses the production of melatonin. You might know that melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Melatonin makes you feel sleepy, enabling you to fall asleep.

Alcohol and Sleep Quality

Alcohol disrupts the sleep-wake cycle in several ways. It suppresses REM sleep. As the body metabolizes alcohol, the aldehydes that are produced as a byproduct block the brain’s ability generate REM sleep (Walker Why We Sleep).

Wine, and other types of alcohol, fragment sleep. Consuming alcohol results in frequent night awakenings, though many times these wakings are imperceptible to you. You might feel the effects of night wakings the following morning, when you feel sluggish.

When sleep is interrupted frequently throughout the night, it is not restorative because it is not continuous. The tired feeling we get the following morning after alcohol may not be from the alcohol alone, but from fragmented sleep that is not restorative.

Planning Alcohol

So, if wine before bed is out, when can I drink wine? Plan your glass of wine at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Most people metabolize alcohol at a rate of 20mg/dL, which roughly translates to 3 hours to metabolize a large glass of wine.

If you are one of my clients, or have been following along, you will have heard me say to close your eating window 3 hours before sleep. Not only is this best for digestion, it is also intentional to metabolize any alcohol before sleep.

Can you move your late night glass of wine to dinnertime? You could also find a caffeine-free herbal tea to enjoy as you relax.

Looking for more ways to optimize your sleep? Check out these 4 ways to get better sleep tonight.

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Hi, I'm Shannan.

I help adults make confident choices for a lifetime of good health.


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