Binge drinking has become an epidemic in America: one in six adults in the country admit to binge drinking eight or more drinks at least four times every month. Most of these binge drinkers fall in the age range of 18-34. What effect does all that alcohol consumption have on these young adults? It turns out it could be creating an entire generation of insomniacs. And that lack of sleep could be seriously damaging both mentally and physically.
Understanding The Sleep Pattern
Sleep is not one monolithic state with an unvarying pattern: it progresses through several patterns throughout the night. There are two basic states to the cycle: slow wave sleep or SWS and rapid eye movement or REM. Most people have heard of REM, as it is the state under which we dream.
However, over 75 percent of all sleep is in the SWS state. SWS is when our body goes through the physical maintenance procedures associated with rest, such as repairing injuries and supporting the health of cells. After about 90 minutes of SWS sleep, our body shifts to REM sleep for five to 30 minutes. REM repairs mental damage, calms our mind, consolidates memories, decreases anxiety, and rebuilds brain cells.
Alcohol, even in amounts much smaller than that consumed during a binge, seems to disrupt both SWS and REM states.
The Effect Of Alcohol On Your Sleep Pattern
Many people enjoy a drink or two a few hours before bed as they believe it helps them fall asleep. This “night cap” may contribute to a relaxed state of mind and increased drowsiness just prior to bed, but even one drink has been shown to actually decrease your restfulness at night.
A study by the Edinburgh Sleep Center found that small amounts of alcohol would decrease the amount of time a person spent in the REM stage. Time spent in SWS also decreased, which can cause people to wake up earlier than necessary feeling physically and mentally exhausted. Even worse, nightcaps have been shown to actually aggravate the symptoms of sleep apnea and sleepwalking, two conditions that are often self-medicated with a few drinks.
Binge Drinking Increases Those Risks
Extending the occasional nightcap to binge drinking produces a severe increase in the likelihood of developing insomnia symptoms. A study performed at the Bloomberg School of Public Health tested people who suffered from insomnia and found that 26.2 percent of them binged two or fewer times a week, while 3.1 percent binged more than twice a week.
In fact, the study states that binge drinkers are 84 percent more likely to suffer from frequent bouts of insomnia. And not getting enough sleep at night leads to sleep deprivation, a problem that can develop into sleep deficiency.
Sleep deficiency is a severe and sustained state of sleep deprivation that throws your body completely out of balance. People who suffer from sleep deficiency often experience dangerous physical problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- Severe depression
The Connection Between Sleep Deficiency And Decreased Cognitive Performance
Sleep deficiency doesn’t just cause physical problems: it can extend to decreased cognitive skills. A sleep deprivation study published in the medical journal Sleep categorically showed that sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of poor grades among college students.
The doctors performing the study found that binge drinking and sleep deficiency are often intricately linked: binge drinkers often stay up late partying. That lack of sleep can cause them to do poorly in school, which can can lead to increased levels of stress and, cyclically, even more more nights of self-medicating with binge drinking.
All that alcohol consumption inevitably increases the chance of developing a physical dependency. As a result, people long past college age often end up remaining binge drinkers who rarely sleep and whom have problems that are both physical and cognitive.
Help From AlcoholTreatment.net
Having a sleeping issue can be a catalyst for abuse of alcohol and can even lead to addiction. Contact us immediately at AlcoholTreatment.net if you or someone you know is a binge drinker or is suffering from alcohol-related sleep problems. We can help in offering services and support to those who need help. Facilities offering life skills lessons on how to get back to a healthy routine are just a call or click away. Contact us today and get your life back.