Why Sober Sleep is Better Sleep
People often think that having a few glasses of wine or a shot of liquor at night will help them fall asleep fast and sleep peacefully through the night. But the truth is that, even if you manage to nod off into dreamland, the chances of getting a good night’s sleep are slim.
In reality, alcohol and quality sleep just don’t mix. And the more alcohol you drink, the worse you sleep, which means you can look forward to brain fog and feeling lethargic the following day.
Why Does Alcohol Not Make You Sleep Better?
According to data, alcohol disrupts the normal phases of deep and light sleep that we all go through each night.1 These phases are known collectively as your sleep architecture.
When alcohol is added to your bedtime routine, it interrupts – or “fragments” – those healthy patterns, meaning you’re likely to wake up several times during the night instead of smoothly transitioning from stage to stage. Over time, this sleep disruption can create health problems.
Here’s how a night of alcohol-induced sleep unfolds:1
During the first half of the night, when the alcohol levels are still high in your bloodstream, you’ll likely sleep deeply and without dreaming. That’s because alcohol acts on gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect. Alcohol also suppresses rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, which is when most dreaming occurs.
During the second half of the night, when your alcohol levels have dropped, your brain kicks into overdrive. You start tossing and turning because your body is experiencing rebound arousal. You’re also more prone to waking up multiple times and having vivid or stressful dreams.
Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it increases your urine output. And that means, you guessed it, you’re more likely to wake up needing to go to the bathroom.
You’re also more likely to snore when you drink before bed. Alcohol relaxes the muscles of your upper airways, causing normal breathing to be disrupted. This is especially dangerous if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which is a condition that makes people wake up several times during the night due to a momentary airway collapse that prevents breathing.
So What Happens to Your Sleep When You Stop Drinking?
Quality sleep is crucial after you quit drinking. That’s because amazing things happen during your sleep time. Sleep allows your body to take a break by lowering your blood pressure, relaxing your muscles, and releasing hormones that decrease inflammation in your body. These are restorative benefits that your body can’t afford to miss out on!
Sleep disturbances are some of the most common and persistent problems people experience after they quit drinking. Sometimes alcohol use is responsible for masking pre-existing and undiagnosed sleep issues. Other times, quitting alcohol leaves your brain and body scrambling to readjust to functioning normally, ultimately disrupting your ability to get quality sleep.
According to data from the Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 72% of those with an alcohol use disorder suffer from sleeping problems.2 And these problems can last for months or even years after getting sober.
Effects of Sleep Loss In Sobriety
Sleep problems are among the most common issues people face in early sobriety, and they’re usually some of the last issues to show improvement.2 Unfortunately, sobriety and abstinence from alcohol become a lot harder to manage if you aren’t able to get enough quality sleep.
Difficulty sleeping, especially when you feel like you can’t sleep sober, may increase your risk of picking up alcohol again. In fact, insomnia during sobriety can lead to a lot of negative side effects. Here’s a few of them:2
- Mood swings
- Unprovoked irritability
- High risk of depression
- Unable to get comfortable in sobriety
Sleep issues experienced after quitting alcohol tend to include insomnia, disrupted sleep patterns, sleep apnea, and other types of sleep-disordered breathing (snoring, for example).
When you quit drinking alcohol, it tends to take you longer to fall asleep, you have issues sleeping through the night without waking up, and you rarely wake up feeling like your sleep was restorative.
Alcohol withdrawal causes a serious reduction in deep sleep and abnormal REM sleep. (REM sleep is characterized by increased brain activity, relaxation of the body, rapid eye movements, and increased dreaming.)
Insomnia is a common problem after quitting drinking. This condition makes you experience difficulty falling and staying asleep, and that can lead to daytime sleepiness, an inability to concentrate, and many other negative issues.
People in recovery are often more likely to have problems with sleep onset than with sleep maintenance, which is why some might conclude that they can’t sleep sober.
Insomnia can linger long after you stop drinking, but it’s important to remember that many people already had insomnia before drinking alcohol became a problem.
Alcohol and obstructive sleep apnea are directly related. In fact, data shows that drinking can increase your risk of sleep apnea by up to 25%.3
Sleep apnea is a condition that does a number on your airway while you’re sleeping. It relaxes and essentially closes your airway while you’re asleep, forcing you to wake up over and over throughout the night in order to breathe.
Do You Sleep Better When Sober?
We’ve already talked about the impact that quitting alcohol can have on your sleep health. But do those sleep disturbances ever go away? Or are you doomed to a life of restless sleep?
David Hodgins, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary, told ScienceDaily, “Sleep has a reputation among the recovering community of being one of the last things that fall back into place for an individual. It’s also recognized as a potential precipitant of relapse.”4
Here’s the good news: things do get better! And Brody Hay is a great example to illustrate those eventual sleep improvements. Hay, a 28 year old man from Louisiana, stopped drinking five months ago. A few weeks into his sobriety, he felt like his sleep had significantly improved, but he wanted to put that theory to the test.5
Hay decided to track his sleep architecture data using a sleep app. He shared those sleep metrics – from before and after getting sober – with Newsweek. Here’s what he had to say about his sleep quality since quitting alcohol:5
“Since cutting alcohol, I feel as if I’ve stepped into an entirely new life as a new man. My mental clarity is sharper than ever; it’s almost as if I’ve emerged from this perpetual mental fog. My energy levels and motivation have been through the roof compared to the levels I had when drinking.”
How to Sober Up
Like it or not, there comes a time when you have to acknowledge the party’s coming to an end. You’ve had a ton of fun, but now it’s time to shift your focus away from partying and toward the task at hand: sobering up..
How to Sober Up From Alcohol Fast
Whether you couldn’t turn down those last few tequila shots or it just felt wrong to leave the club before finishing that final bottle of wine, you are feeling the alcohol. You take one more sip of beer, pull out your phone and Google “how to sober up from alcohol fast.”
A massive number of results are now staring back at you from the screen of your phone., but you don’t have time to read through all this stuff.! You need to sober up immediately!
No need to waste precious time doing online research; we’ve got you covered.
How Long Does It Take to Sober Up?
The truth is there’s no miracle cure or secret recipe to reverse the effects of all the alcohol you drank. All the tricks and old wives tales you learned in college were designed to make you appear sober, but they didn’t do a thing to bring down your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). And when it comes to sobering up, your BAC number is what matters.
So, is it possible to sober up in a matter of minutes? Can you sober up enough to avoid puking? Can you safely drive home after you’ve been drinking? Are there any shortcuts to lowering that all-important BAC number?
Let’s take a deep dive and find out.
Fact-Check: 6 Ways to Get Sober Fast
If you consume alcohol, your body feels its effects and you run the risk of a hangover the next day. There’s nothing you can do to kick your liver into overdrive or make it process alcohol at a faster rate.
If you evaluate all the sober shortcuts floating around online and passed down through word-of-mouth, you’ll notice the shortcuts tend to focus on making you more alert. But they don’t do anything to make you less intoxicated. Alertness and intoxication levels are two totally different ball games.
Let’s look at the following six sober shortcut examples.
#1 Drink Water
Drinking a lot of water in between shots of liquor, cold beers, or glasses of wine does help your body metabolize alcohol, but it doesn’t dilute the alcohol in your bloodstream. And as we already discussed, it’s that BAC number that determines your level of intoxication. So even if you drink an 8oz glass of water between every shot of whisky, your BAC will be the same. What drinking extra water will do, however, is ensure you stay hydrated, and that’s the best way to avoid a hangover.
#2 Eat Food to Absorb the Alcohol
During a night of drinking, it doesn’t matter if you sit down to a feast or snack on the bowls of stale popcorn that have been sitting on the bar at your local watering hole for the past three months. Eating food after drinking doesn’t help to sober you up and it won’t help to lower your BAC. It’s definitely worth mentioning, however, that eating a meal before you start drinking might help to slow down your body’s absorption of alcohol.
#3 Jump in a Cold Shower
While a cold shower – or just splashing your face with cold water – is an easy way to wake yourself up or get a quick burst of energy, it won’t do a thing to help reverse the effects of alcohol.
#4 Drink a Lot of Coffee
You obviously know that alcohol is a depressant, and that means it can make you drowsy. Coffee, on the other hand, is packed with caffeine, which is a stimulant that gives you energy.
People often think that combining the two will somehow negate the effects of alcohol in your system. The truth is that coffee doesn’t do a thing to make your body metabolize alcohol faster than usual. In fact, when your body encounters both alcohol and caffeine, it puts dangerous stress on your heart.
#5 Work Up a Sweat
This tip might conjure up memories of Richard Simmons’ selling his “Sweatin to the Oldies” VHS tapes, but there’s no need to break a sweat when drinking alcohol. That’s because alcohol is in your bloodstream; it’s not excreted in your sweat.
#6 Just Puke Already
Speaking of excreting things from your body, you’ve likely heard that making yourself throw up can be an effective way to sober up instantly. But wait…before you go sticking your finger down your throat, you need to know that throwing up won’t lower your BAC at all. Again, the alcohol is in your bloodstream, not your stomach.
How Long Does It Take to Sober Up from Alcohol?
It typically takes 1-2 hours for your body to metabolize one serving of alcohol. The more you drink, the longer it takes your body to metabolize the alcohol.
Here are the standard drink sizes:
- 1.5 ounces of spirits (one shot)
- 5 ounces of wine (one glass)
- 12 ounces of beer (standard can or bottle)
When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and makes its way to your liver for processing. If you drink alcohol faster than your liver can metabolize it (more than one serving per hour), your BAC goes up and your cognitive functions go downhill.
You’ll find examples of alcohol’s effects according to BAC levels in the table below.
|The average individual appears normal
|Subtle Effects Police Officers Can Detect With Tests
Talking Louder Than Usual
More Outgoing in Public
|Reduced sensitivity to pain
Lack of All Inhibitions
Depth Perception is Off
Peripheral vision is Blurry
Possibility of Nausea and Vomiting
Reaction Time Decreases
Generalized Lack of Motor Control
Temporary Erectile Dysfunction
Emotional Mood Swings
Anger or Sadness
Possibility of Stupor
|Severe Motor Impairment
Loss of Consciousness
|Sedentary in a Stupor
Central Nervous System Depression
Loss of Understanding
Blacking In and Out
Slight possibility of death
|Loss of Bladder function
Erratic Breathing Patterns
Irregular Heart rate
|Severe Central Nervous System Depression
Possible Risk of Death
Heart Rate Slows
Positional Alcohol Nystagmus
Call for Emergency Help
|High possibility of death
|Dial 911 Immediately
How To Sober Up Before Bed
You already know there’s no instant fix that will help you sober up before bed, but there are some things you can do to help your body sober up while you sleep. Be sure to get enough rest so your body has a chance to process and rid itself of the alcohol.
Here’s what you can do to reduce the chances of a bad hangover when you wake up. Before bed, you should:
- Drink a big glass of water. Dehydration really is the biggest culprit behind hangover headaches and fatigue.
- If you’ve already thrown up or think you might throw up during the night, get your hands on some electrolyte drinks (Gatorade, Pedialyte, etc.) They’ll keep you hydrated.
- Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory for preemptive headache relief. Be sure to take the recommended dosage and eat a little something when you take the medication.
- If you have to wake up early the next day, be sure to set an alarm or two.
- Keep a bucket or trash can next to your bed in case you get sick.
How to Sober Up the Morning After
Hangovers tend to go away within 24 hours, but in order to make yourself feel better, try the following tips to help you sober up the morning after:
- Drink glasses of water to rehydrate your body
- Place an ice pack or cold cloth on your head to help soothe a headache
- Keep your blinds closed or wear sunglasses if you’re struggling with increased light sensitivity
- Be sure to eat breakfast. You’ll want to include healthy fats and proteins since they play major roles in balancing your blood sugar.
- Just say “no” to the hair of the dog. Consuming more alcohol will not make you feel better, but it will start the hangover process all over again.
Is There a Way to Sober Up Fast to Drive?
In short, there is no safe driving if you get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. The only thing that can ensure a safe driving experience is time – your body needs time to process and rid itself of the alcohol in your bloodstream.
Still impaired by all the alcohol you drank? Pick up your phone and call an Uber, a Lyft, or a sober friend to pick you up when you’re ready to leave. It’s never a good idea to put yourself at risk for being pulled over for a DUI, or worse, causing a drunk driving accident and risking the lives of everyone on the road.