Alcohol serves as a sedative, which leads people to use it as an improvised sleeping aid when they struggle to doze off. However, it also relaxes your jaw and throat muscles, which can cause your tongue to fall into your throat and directly lead to intense, and loud snoring.
Alcohol is deeply ingrained into modern culture. It sees frequent use in scenarios where the person wants to loosen up and relieve all the stress and anxiety they suffer as a consequence of their working life and other pressures they have to deal with. They come home after a hard day’s work, and all they want to do is enjoy their free time to the fullest. This stress also has a nasty habit of ruining your ability to get healthy sleep, and as a result, alcohol is one of the most common improvised sleeping aids around the world.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy or reliable one. Despite its popularity, alcohol is one of the worst things you could consume before bed, as it negatively affects almost everything about sleep. In this article, we will be focusing on snoring, as snoring can also negatively impact the sleep schedule of people in your home, and because it’s connected to one of the most common sleep disorders in the world. Together we will examine everything you need to know about alcohol’s connection to snoring, in the hopes that the knowledge will help some of you correct some lifestyle mistakes or help loved ones do the same. Let’s get into it.
Those who drink before bed typically do it for one main reason (outside of late-night socializing): reduced sleep onset latency. Being able to fall asleep faster is a very tempting prospect, especially for people who are potentially dealing with a sleep disorder that drastically increases their sleep onset latency. And in the first week or so, it may seem oddly effective. Even after two or three drinks, you might wake up feeling rested and energized, but that positive feeling won’t last much longer. As time goes on, you’re going to have to imbibe more and more alcohol to get the same initial benefits, and as it develops into an addiction, the adverse effects become much more pronounced.
To look at alcohol’s effect on sleep, you must understand the circadian rhythm we all live by. This rhythm exists thanks to a figurative “master clock” in our brain stem, that uses photoreceptors to detect natural sunlight in our surroundings. That way, it can tell the time of day, and instruct the rest of our body to function a certain way. It governs when melatonin (the hormone of sleep) is produced, when we feel hungry, how energized we are, etc. However, it’s not difficult to disrupt this rhythm (typically through bad lifestyle habits such as overexposure to blue light or an unhealthy diet), and doing so can cause serious health problems for you in the future, especially if alcohol is responsible. Here’s a brief list of problems that can arise from drinking too much before bedtime:
Snoring isn’t an uncommon part of sleep for most adults, but it can create and point towards some nasty problems. It occurs when your breathing muscles relax to the point of vibrating while you breathe, which creates that hoarse, unpleasant sound. For couples, snoring can be a huge concern as the person snoring can keep their partner awake for potentially hours, and throw off their sleep schedule completely, which can create tension between the two people. Men are more prone to snoring, as are heavier individuals.
Snoring tends to increase in frequency and intensity as the person grows older, as aging naturally relaxes the breathing muscles. Your tongue falls back, and the walls of your throat vibrate as you inhale (and exhale, but to a lesser extent). Snoring can often be traced back to abnormalities in the structure of the nose and throat. These include enlarged tonsils or adenoids, deviated nasal septum or polyps. Additionally, problems like respiratory infection or allergies can heavily contribute to snoring, and you have to deal with the underlying causes to control your noise levels at night.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Snoring is linked to a variety of problematic situations and conditions that can seriously hamper your daily productivity and energy levels. If the throat closes entirely, the person goes through what is known as a mild episode of apnea. It can cause them to require medical attention in bad cases, but it doesn’t stop there. Snoring can be a big indicating factor of sleep apnea, a much more serious condition that ultimately has no cure. Those affected typically receive long-term therapy in the form of positive air pressure (PAP) treatment, which involves a hefty investment in home treatment equipment.
Usually, snoring is noticed by people in the snorer’s vicinity. However, there are ways you can deduce that you might be a noisy sleeper, and we have provided a useful list of symptoms to consult. It goes as follows:
Snoring is typically dealt with through a combination of lifestyle changes and direct intervention, depending on the intensity and the patient’s medical history. If deemed absolutely necessary, surgical interventions will take place, although this is typically not warranted. Should the patient be diagnosed with sleep apnea, PAP machines will be used to provide adequate treatment, even at home.
When it comes to lifestyle changes, the main thing to note is that snoring is more common while sleeping on one’s back. Sleep position training is often recommended to help transition the patient into a side sleeping routine. Make sure to have a thorough, detailed conversation with your doctor about the pros and cons of every treatment option available to you, especially if you’re running on a very tight budget.
With all the prerequisite information taken care of, we can dive into the meat of the topic. Alcohol serves as a sedative, which leads people to use it as an improvised sleeping aid when they struggle to doze off. However, it also relaxes your jaw and throat muscles considerably, which can cause your tongue to fall into your throat and directly lead to intense, loud snoring. If your partner or a family member don’t wake you up, chances are that your brain will.
You see, alcohol abuse before bed can create episodes of apnea, even if you don’t otherwise have the associated sleep disorder. When this happens, your breathing stops for a moment, and your brain responds to this crisis by startling you out of sleep, usually with a loud gasp. Waking up this way even once can result in fragmented sleep, an unpleasant scenario that leaves you without much-needed time in REM sleep. Since REM sleep is where your cognitive abilities are sharpened, alcohol can cause you to feel very disoriented and unfocused the following day, simply by waking you up once or twice through snoring.
Alcohol also has a nasty habit of dehydrating you (and your mouth). When the tissues in your mouth and throat are dry, the vibrations rattle far louder than usual. This makes it far more likely that you (or someone in your vicinity) will wake up in the middle of the night. If you share your bed, that could result in at least a few angry glares and complaints.
An article about snoring wouldn’t be complete without a section listing solutions and tips for those of you that have to deal with snoring regularly. From an annoyance to a serious medical concern, snoring affects enough people (even if indirectly) that we feel it’s necessary to spread awareness about notable ways you can deal with this situation. Here’s a brief list to help you cope: