While there’s not question that a connection exists between what you eat and drink and how well you sleep, researchers looked specifically at the effects of coffee, alcohol, and nicotine on a good night’s rest. And, well, let’s put it this way: happy hour just got a lot shorter.
The results of a recent study—conducted at Florida Atlantic University, involving 785 people who kept sleep diaries for a total of 5,164 days—found that consuming alcohol within four hours of going to sleep actually affected participants worse than drinking coffee before bedtime. The major caveat here is that people metabolize caffeine at different rates, so for some people, drinking a post-dinner espresso or coffee could lead to tossing and turning. But despite this, even when researchers accounted for factors including age, gender, weight, mental health, and schedules, alcohol was still the major sleep disruptor.
This may come as a surprise to anyone who has ever imbibed and gotten a little drowsy. But according to sleep experts, the problem isn’t falling asleep; it’s that alcohol disrupts REM sleep, so chances are, you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night (likely feeling around on the nightstand for a glass of water).
Of course sleep experts also understand that the majority of people aren’t going to shift the hours of their alcoholic consumption from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you’re drinking alcohol four hours before bedtime, limit it to one drink, which shouldn’t be disruptive. Sure, sometimes you’re probably going to have more than one and it may less with your sleep a bit. As long as it’s not an all-the-time habit, your body will bounce back.