Alcohol and Sleep May Not Be a Healthy Mix

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Americans seem to be having trouble sleeping. A third of the U.S. population suffers from either acute short-term insomnia or chronic insomnia, which lasts for more than four weeks and affects 10 percent of adults.

Many people use alcohol as an aid to help them get to sleep, but William Wohlgemuth, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor at Duke University Medical Center, says this can be a mistake.

"Alcohol can potentially be detrimental to sleep," says Wohlgemuth. "When the alcohol is metabolized in the body, you have to go to the bathroom more, which can wake you up. Also, sleep becomes a little bit lighter after consuming alcohol. So if you have a drink to help you go to sleep at nighttime, it may help you go to sleep, but it's going to mess up your sleep later in the night."

Wohlgemuth warns against consuming alcohol too close to bedtime, probably within a couple of hours before retiring.

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"One drink two hours before would probably be out of your system before you went to bed," he says, "but two shots of Scotch 30 minutes before you went to bed as a nightcap to help you go off to sleep would be too much and can interfere with the sleep process.

"Recent research shows that alcohol can be beneficial to many people's health, and there can certainly be benefits from wine and other types of alcohol that are consumed early in the evening," Wohlgemuth adds. "We're not saying that you shouldn't drink alcohol at all if you're having sleep trouble, but as you get closer to bedtime, it's usually not a good idea to use it to help you get to sleep."

More information on steps to improve sleep can be obtained from the National Sleep Foundation, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/

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DukeMed News

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