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The Matt Walker Podcast
#09: Sleep & Alcohol - Part 2
#09: Sleep & Alcohol - Part 2

#09: Sleep & Alcohol - Part 2

The Matt Walker PodcastGo to Podcast Page

Matthew Walker
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Nov 22, 2021
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Episode Transcript
Hi there, it's Matt here and welcome back to this two-part series on sleep and alcohol. Now, in our last episode, we learned about the three different ways in which alcohol can harm your sleep. And the
first of those is unrest or itive sedation rather than naturalistic sleep. The second is sleep fragmentation. And the third is the suppression or the empowerment.
Point of REM sleep in this episode. We'll come to speak about how and why alcohol disrupts your sleep in these particular ways. Let's come back to the aspect of sleep fragmentation. One of the problematic issues, and the underlying causes of this sleep fragmentation, is that with alcohol. In your system, it will activate and stimulate what we call the fight or flight branch of your nervous system. The
Term for which is your sympathetic nervous system. I've always wondered about this by there. It is very poorly named your sympathetic nervous system is anything but sympathetic, it's very agitating and very activating now. Normally we have to shut down the fight-or-flight branch of the sympathetic nervous system in order to fall asleep naturally and then stay asleep soundly across the night. So in other words,
we have to shift away from that fight or flight branch of the nervous system as we're getting ready for bed. And as were falling asleep and move over into the more passive. The more quiet hasn't or what we call the parasympathetic nervous system yet. Alcohol will force you back over into the fight-or-flight state of the nervous system. And this is one of the reasons why your sleep becomes so much more fragile and so much more likely to be littered.
With these fragmented Awakenings throughout the night. The second underlying cause of that sleep fragmentation is that alcohol will also trigger the release of a number of stress-related chemicals within the brain and the body including one specific hormone called cortisol. And normally cortisol has to go down as we're falling asleep and it hits its lowest point. Throughout the middle of the night. Yet alcohol can Spike those levels of
Saul activating the nervous system and the brain and therefore making it more likely that we wake
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Next, let's address the issue of REM sleep
suppression caused by alcohol. And in truth. It's actually not the alcohol itself. Technically. It's the metabolic byproducts of alcohol as your liver and your kidneys are metabolizing. The alcohol particularly chemicals such as the aldehydes and it's those metabolic byproducts of alcohol that will disrupt and specifically imper the generation of
Rapid eye movement, sleep of that dream sleep. And without that dream sleep. We know that we can suffer impairments in our cognitive brain function as well as our emotional stability. And we can also experience a heightened amount of negative moods including things such as anxiety. Not to mention the fact that it's during REM sleep. When we hit our peak in the release of certain hormones, including things such as testosterone and testosterone by
The way is not only important for males. It's also critical for females as well and will actually speak about the role of sleep and testosterone in both men and women when we have a separate series on sleep and sex, but coming back to this episode on sleep and alcohol. I know this is not the most encouraging news and I wish I could tell you otherwise regarding the relationship between alcohol and sleep. But if I did that,
Would be untruthful to the scientific evidence, and describing these types of relationships between things such as alcohol, and sleep, and caffeine and sleep. It usually makes me desperately unpopular. I'm a
particularly unlikable person to begin with. But trust me when you start busting out this
information people just lose interest in you as a human being desperately quickly. But again, this is not about me.
This is about you and the pain.
Cast Focus, Matthew stopped airing out your own insecurities.
So, these are the ways in which alcohol will hurt your sleep and as a consequence will impact your health, but taking a step back here. I want to be so very careful, life is to be lived to a certain degree and I don't want to seem puritanical here as will mention with sleep and caffeine. I am not here to tell anyone how to live
The life that is not my job. I am simply a scientist and all I want to do is provide you with the evidence regarding the interaction, regarding the relationship between alcohol and sleep, so that you can then make an informed Choice as to how best you want to structure your sleep schedule and still find an enjoyable life balance. I should
also note by the way,
regarding the timing of alcohol and that metabolic.
Like excretion of the alcohol from the system. If I were to offer a politically incorrect set of advice, it would be to go to the pub in the morning. And that way the alcohol is washed out of your system by the evening, and so no
harm, no foul, but I would never offer that on a public broadcast. Anyway, enough of that. I will simply wish you a
good night from me. Thank you so much for tuning in and listening to these episodes. Thank you again.
N for the sponsors
of this show, and I will see you next time with the next series. Take care and goodbye for now.