Drinking alcohol should be avoided by habitual snorers and people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as much as possible. The health risks are always higher when alcohol gets in the picture regardless if it is about sleeping and snoring or something else.
How does alcohol really affect snoring? What happens when you drink alcohol then sleep? These seven myths about alcohol, sleeping, and snoring will give you a clearer explanation:
Myth #1: Drinking alcohol is a good way to get a good night’s sleep.
Fact: This is true if your definition of a “good night sleep” is “falling asleep fast.” Alcohol does allow one to fade away into unconsciousness faster simply because he is already partially unconscious from the time the effects of alcohol kick in. This usually happens 20 minutes after intoxication.
However, according to sleep experts, a good night’s sleep actually pertains to the quality of sleep for the whole duration. How long do you sleep? How relaxed are you after waking up (not while sleeping)? Is your sleep continuous from the time you become unconscious to the time you wake up? Most importantly, is your breathing normal and stable?
Do not be fooled of the seemingly good effects of alcohol in your sleep. The National Sleep Foundation revealed that most people who drink at night snore even if they normally don’t. Furthermore, 25% of them become susceptible to developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). At least 10% of the people at risk will really develop OSA in their lifetime.
Myth #2: Getting drunk effectively induces deep sleep.
Fact: It does, but not the type of sleep that you should want to experience.
There are two kinds of sleep: REM sleep (rapid eye movement) and NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement). REM sleep is deeper even if more brain activities take place.
Under REM, the eyes move rapidly and the brain processes information nearly like it does when awake. However, voluntary muscle movements significantly drop while metabolism and cell renewal are regulated more efficiently.
Under NREM, minimal eye movement and brain activity take place. Pulse rate, blood pressure, and temperature also stabilize. This is where the problem comes in.
People who have alcohol in their bloodstream when they sleep experience NREM sleep. This is shallow sleeping as the brain does not fully undergo unconscious programming. A drunken person becomes more resistant to external stimuli, but because his cells and tissues do not regenerate as efficient as they should when the brain works better, he is likely to wake up feeling exhausted and unsatisfied.
People who habitually snore usually do not get enough quality sleep because of the resistance in their airway down to their lungs. Those with OSA wake up more tired because of the decreased oxygen in their bloodstream and brain. What more for people who already habitually snore but still drink before going to sleep? You can expect worse side effects.
Myth #3: Sleeping after drinking alcohol and sleeping sober offer the same quality of sleep.
Fact: You will probably be surprised, but sleeping after drinking alcohol actually offers better muscle relaxation than sleeping sober. That is exactly the problem. It offers so much relaxation that even the muscles in your throat folds faster. This results to the pharynx collapsing in your airway. This is when snoring happens.
When the airway is blocked, breathing becomes more difficult and the oxygen in the bloodstream and brain becomes thinner. The heart also has to pump a little harder. This kind of added stress can lead to heart problems in the long run.
You have to keep in mind though that the muscle relaxation you experience when sleeping does not automatically translate to the same relaxation you feel after waking up.
Myth #4: Using alcohol as a regular sleep inducer is absolutely safe when consumed in moderation.
Fact: A person who drinks any amount of alcohol is already four times more susceptible to snoring than when he is sober. Moreover, a person who drinks any amount of alcohol is likely to snore the same way a habitual snorer does. The amount of alcohol you consume has nothing to do with the severity of snoring because the liver can only filter alcohol in the bloodstream 12 to 14 hours after drinking.
Experts suggest that you eat biscuit first if you really have to drink alcohol in moderation, such as when attending a party or obliging to a toast with your colleagues you cannot say no to. Biscuit can absorb a significant amount of alcohol in your stomach, preventing it from reaching your bloodstream and activating the side effects, including snoring.
Myth #5: Alcohol has nothing to do with sleepwalking.
Fact: Alcohol makes a person more prone to sleepwalking, and experts have already confirmed that. The real question is if sleepwalking is connected to snoring. They are.
The exact connection is still unclear. However, some clinical observations have associated the two with one another because people who sleepwalk are more prone to snoring when they are tired or sick.
Myth #6: Individuals who normally do not snore are safe and do not have to worry about snoring even when they drink alcohol before going to bed.
Fact: The word “safe” in this context is not exactly what you can consider safe in its truest sense. Individuals who do not normally snore are less prone to the risks of snoring when they drink. There is still a risk, nonetheless.
Myth #7: Hard drinks have more pronounced effects on a person’s sleep cycle than drinks with lower alcohol level.
Fact: That is the most logical way to think about it, but studies show otherwise. A small amount and a large amount of alcohol in the bloodstream are both alcohol in the bloodstream. Their difference in relation to sleep and snoring is not significant enough to matter. Beer, martini, red wine, vodka, and champagne are all the same as far as sleeping and snoring are concerned.
Everyone possesses natural inspiratory resistance or the resistance of sucking air into the lungs. It gets higher when a person falls asleep and becomes four times higher when he drinks before falling asleep. However, for habitual snorer who drinks, inspiratory resistance becomes eight times higher. That means breathing is eight times more difficult. There is no doubt that alcohol really does affect your snoring in ways that you might not realize.