-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- You might want to take a
pass on that nightcap, a new study suggests.
Japanese researchers report that alcohol hinders the restorative
functions of sleep.
The findings, from a study of 10 male university students,
appear online and in the November print issue of the journal
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Booze's effect on sleep appears linked to a disruption in
nervous system function.
Normally, as people sleep through the night, "the
parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for 'rest-and-digest'
activities, is dominant over the sympathetic nervous system,
responsible for stimulating activities," Yohei Sagawa, a physician
in the department of neuropsychiatry at the Akita University School
of Medicine, explained in a journal news release. "We wanted to
investigate how alcohol may change this complementary
To do so, Sagawa and his colleagues gave study volunteers
different levels of alcohol -- 0 grams (control group), 0.5 grams
(low dose), and 1.0 grams (high dose) -- before the participants
went to bed on three separate occasions.
Using electrocardiograms, the researchers then focused on the
relationship between the volunteers' heart rate variability and
their sleep. The team found that alcohol increased heart rate and
interfered with the restorative functions of sleep -- and the more
alcohol the participants drank, the greater the effect.
"Although the first half of sleep after alcohol intake looks good on the EEG, the result of the assessment regarding the autonomic nerve system shows that drinking leads to insomnia rather than good sleep," Sagawa said.
The effect on habitual drinkers might be even worse, a study
"The current study evaluates the acute effects after only a single dose of alcohol intake, and subsequently found a negative health consequence," Seiji Nishino, director of the Sleep & Circadian Neurobiology Laboratory at Stanford University School of Medicine in La Jolla, Calif., said in the news release. "Many subjects habitually drink alcohol, and if the reduction of parasympathetic nerve activity during sleep chronically occurred, negative health consequences may be much larger and may induce various diseases."
"It is generally believed that having a nightcap may aid sleep, especially sleep initiation," Nishino added. "This may be true for some people who have small amounts of alcohol intake. However, it should be noted that large amounts of alcohol intake interfere with sleep quality and the restorative role of sleep."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
and sleep disorders.
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