Drinking alcohol before going to bed could be reinforcing a cycle of bad sleeping patterns.
Though alcohol initially acts as a sedative, a study of college-age students found that drinking before falling asleep also increases alpha wave activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is thought to be a sign of disturbed sleep.
The brain waves of students – men and women between ages 18 to 21 who were not binge drinkers – were measured during sleep both after drinking and while sober. Alcohol was found to bring on brain wave patterns similar to chronic pain sufferers, whose quality of sleep is known to be affected by their condition.
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Study co-author Christian L. Nicholas of the University of Melbourne summed up the findings: "The take-home message here is that alcohol is not actually a particularly good sleep aid, even though it may seem like it helps you get to sleep quicker. In fact, the quality of the sleep you get is significantly altered and disrupted."