Friday, February 18, 2011

Alcohol and Sleep: Women Get the Short End of the (Stir) Stick

Although consuming alcohol is known to deepen your slumber during the early hours of sleep, it can also have a rebound effect that causes disruption of a good night’s rest during later night hours. Until now, the gender impact of this “rebound effect” has scarcely been studied. However, a group of researchers from the University of Michigan recently conducted a study finding that women who drank alcohol got fewer hours of sleep, and woke at more frequent intervals for longer periods of time, than did men who also imbibed a few drinks. The full details of the research can be found online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The analysis involved monitoring the sleep of 93 healthy adults in their twenties, including 59 women and 34 men, after their consumption of either alcohol to the point of intoxication, or a non-alcoholic beverage prior to going to bed. There were 29 participants among the group that had a family history of alcoholism. Drinks were served to the participants between the hours of 8:30 and 10:00 p.m. Following this, their sleep was monitored between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

Lead author J. Todd Arnedt, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Michigan, reported that, “Alcohol increased self-reported sleepiness and disrupted sleep quality more in women than men, [and that] morning ratings of sleep quality were worse following alcohol than a placebo.” Arnedt also pointed out that among all the participants who consumed alcohol, no difference in sleep quality was noted between those having a family history of alcoholism and those who did not.

On average, women who drank alcohol got about 20 minutes less sleep than those who did not, which is the equivalent of about 4 percent of a total sleep time of eight hours. Arnedt explained that the gender differences could be related to differences in alcohol metabolism, as a more rapid decline is seen in BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) among women following alcohol consumption than is observed among men who drink alcohol. He then added, “It is important to note that the peak BrACs were equivalent between men and women in our study so the findings are not due to higher BrACs among the female subjects. We also do not believe that the differences were due to differences in alcohol experience because the prior alcohol use was also equivalent between the men and women.”

The latest study results serve as confirmation of previous study findings that a high dose of alcohol leads to a deeper sleep early in the night, followed by disruptions in sleep later on. Arnedt acknowledge that the findings about gender differences “may have implications for future studies examining the relationship between sleep quality and risk for the development of alcohol use disorders, as well as studies evaluating how sleep quality relates to relapse among recovering alcoholic individuals.”

For a better night’s sleep, whether male or female, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help. Consuming alcohol only in moderation, along with getting regular exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet can promote restful sleep, as well as preserve your health.

Source: HealthNews By Drucilla Dyess  

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