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Study: Alcohol disrupts women's sleep

February 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Some women don't think twice about having a glass of wine around bedtime. In fact, they may think it helps them get to sleep. But new research says alcohol may actually be disruptive especially for women.

A new University of Michigan report finds women who drank to intoxication had sleep disturbances, woke up more frequently during the night and lost about 20 minutes of sleep.

Twenty minutes of lost sleep may not seem like a big deal but a recent British study found that a woman's body actually needs 20 more minutes per night of sleep than a man's. And if you don't get a lot of sleep to begin with, 20 minutes can make a big difference.

"They may think that they have slept all night but their sleep quality is very, very poor," said Dr. David Thompson, director of the Sleep Disorder Center at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

He says people who drink alcohol often think they're sleeping soundly but in reality they don't reach deep sleep. The reason is when alcohol dissipates in the blood it sends a wakeup response to your brain which results in a light, easy-to-disrupt sleep.

"Our brain is now alert and has difficulty then with reinstitution of sleep," said Thompson.

Why does alcohol affect women's sleep more than men? Thompson thinks it has to do with hormones.

So what should women do to get a better night's rest? Thompson says don't drink any more than an ounce of alcohol before sleeping. And don't drink it right before you sleep.

"If there is a substantial length of time between that one or two ounces and bedtime, there's probably not going to be a major impact on your sleep," said Thompson.

If you still think alcohol makes you sleep better, think about how you feel the day after a night of drinking. Thompson says that groggy feeling probably has more to do with disrupted sleep than alcohol.

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