The best recipe for a good night’s sleep? A delicious meal (say, this cacio e pepe pasta) served alongside a glass of pinot or two. You know, nothing crazy, but just enough booze to make us feel pleasantly drowsy. And we’re not the only ones. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 20 percent of Americans use alcohol to help them fall asleep. But is our nighttime vino habit helping or hurting our sleep?
So, here’s the thing—while alcohol might make it easier to fall asleep, it can actually mess with your sleep cycle, thereby decreasing the quality of your snooze. Here’s how: Alcohol reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is the stage of sleep where you dream and it’s thought to be the most restorative phase. Mess with this part of the cycle, and you’ll likely feel groggy and unfocused the next day.
Another way too much booze messes with your shut-eye? It could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night—either due to those extra bathroom trips or by affecting chemicals in your body. Per the Sleep Foundation, “after drinking, production of adenosine (a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain) is increased, allowing for a fast onset of sleep. But it subsides as quickly as it came, making you more likely to wake up before you’re truly rested.”
It’s not all bad news, though. One or two drinks appears to have minimal effects on sleep, according to research (especially if it’s with dinner, which gives your body enough time to metabolize it well before you turn in for the night). Just don’t polish the entire bottle off by yourself, OK?