Lifestyle

Dry January: Can giving up alcohol help you sleep better?


You might need to replace your nightcap with something softer (Getty Images)

It’s officially the time of year when everyone starts reeling off all the reasons you should stop drinking, at least for a bit.

Yup, Dry January is upon us.

Millions of people have been taking part in the challenge, where you don’t drink any alcohol for the whole of January, for the last few years.

As well as a way to save on money and blood pressure, Dry January can have lots of unexpected benefits.

But is better sleep one of them?

How does alcohol affect sleep?

According to sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley, it depends how much you drink.

‘Alcohol is one of the oldest and most widely used sleep aides we’ve ever had,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.

‘A night cap before bed has never done anybody any harm.

‘In fact, alcohol works on the the same receptors that sleeping tablets do, so alcohol does actually help you go to sleep.

‘The problem is, and this is only really relevant if you’re drinking a lot of alcohol before bed, it disturbs your sleep, meaning your sleep quality might be lower than if you were sober.’

This is because alcohol is high in calories, so our bodies need time to burn off the extra energy it gives us.

It also makes you more likely to need to get up to go to the toilet.

So, Stanley says: ‘Abstaining from alcohol just means that you’re going to potentially sleep better and not wake up as frequently.’

Will giving up my night cap make falling to sleep more difficult?

As Stanley explains, actually drinking a small nightcap can make getting to sleep a little easier.

But, giving it up doesn’t mean you’ll struggle too much.

That’s because it’s more about the routine than the drink itself.

‘It’s probably much more to do with relaxation,’ says Stanley.

‘You’ve earned a nightcap and it’s a nice way of winding down; a good signal to your body that it’s time for bed.

He continues: ‘The whole point about going to sleep is that you have to have a quiet mind and relaxed body, so replacing your nightcap with something else you enjoy, like a herbal tea, Horlicks, or something else, will have the same effect.’

So, replacing alcohol with something else is key, but what’s important is you enjoy it.

As Stanley notes, if you don’t enjoy something, you’re not going to feel relaxed, peaceful and ready for bed.

However, the caveat here is that you can’t choose something completely counterproductive, like a fizzy drink full of caffeine, or a coffee, which will definitely make sleeping difficult.

So, in short, giving up alcohol might have some positive impacts on your sleep, especially if you’re prone to binge drinking.

But, a little bit of alcohol isn’t actually too bad, and can even have sleep-inducing properties.

Come back in February and let us know how taking part in Dry January affects your sleep.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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