AlcoholRehabHelp Logo
AlcoholRehabHelp Logo
Alcohol & Health
Helping Alcoholics
Where Does My Call Go?
Updated on September 14, 2023
7 min read

Why Does Drinking Alcohol Make Me Sleepy?

Kelly Brown
Elena Borrelli M.S.PAC
Written by 
7 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
7 Sources Cited

Alcohol consumption makes you sleepy because it’s a central nervous system depressant. While drinking alcohol is common during social gatherings, it’s a sedative that can make people fall asleep faster.

Many people feel drowsy after drinking alcohol because it relaxes them. However, this quickly turns to drowsiness.

Alcohol-induced sleepiness usually only lasts for a few hours. Once the immediate effects wear off, you’ll likely struggle with sleep disturbances in various ways.

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

Consuming alcohol harms the body and the sleep cycle. Despite initial feelings of sleepiness when drinking, alcohol disrupts healthy sleep.

People who drink alcohol to help them sleep faster often wake up after a few hours and experience just a few hours of irregular sleep.

Taking alcohol as a nightcap can lead to the following effects:

Overstimulates GABA Pathways

Alcohol binds to particular Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors associated with relaxation and sleepiness. Drinking doesn’t increase the level of GABA in the body, but it produces a similar effect.

Binging on alcohol can overstimulate GABA pathways, which causes extreme sedation of the central nervous system (CNS).1

Causes Trouble Sleeping

Alcohol negatively affects the sleep cycle. It disrupts normal sleep patterns and can lead to various sleep disorders.

Alcohol initially makes you sleepy and causes sleep disturbances. As its sedative effect wears off, you wake up throughout the night and/or wake up earlier in the morning.

Reduces REM Sleep

Alcohol can affect the REM of sleeping, which stands for rapid eye movement. It is the stage of deep sleep where dreaming occurs.

REM sleep is the most vital phase of sleep for recovery, affecting concentration and memory. When you don’t get enough REM sleep because of sleep disorders or a few drinks of alcohol, it affects your health and how you feel daily.

Disrupts Circadian Rhythm

Circadian rhythm determines multiple processes in your body, like alertness, sleepiness, body temperature, and appetite. When you drink alcohol, your body’s natural circadian rhythm of your sleep can be disrupted.

Due to irregular sleep cycles, your body can develop problems such as insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and other sleep disorders.

Increases Urination

Alcohol has a diuretic effect, which causes you to urinate more often. It can force you to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. More frequent trips to the bathroom require frequent waking, further disrupting sleep.

Increases Vivid Dreams and Other Sleep Disorders

Alcohol increases your risk of vivid dreams and nightmares. It also puts you at a higher risk for sleepwalking, parasomnias, or unusual sleep behavior.


Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

online consultation

Which Types of Alcohol Make You Most Sleepy?

All types of alcohol can make you feel sleepy. However, one study from the British Journal of Medicine found that people tend to feel sleepiest after drinking red wine.2

It’s also important to remember what factors influence the overall effect of alcohol consumption, including sleepiness. For example, drinking on an empty stomach can make you feel alcohol’s sedative effects faster.

Is It Bad if Alcohol Makes You Sleepy?

Occasionally ending the night early with an alcoholic drink won’t ruin your sleep forever. However, it could worsen sleep disorders or ongoing issues with alcohol.

Although some people use a few drinks as a nightcap to help them sleep, alcohol tends to affect sleep quality negatively. You’ll awaken often and feel more tired in the morning than if you’d skipped the nightcap.

Long-term excessive alcohol use increases the risk of various health problems, including high blood pressure, digestive issues, and liver disease.

Alcohol Consumption, Sleep Disorders, and Mental Health

Despite alcohol’s ability to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, drinking can create a negative cycle that worsens mental health and sleep. People who drink a lot have a higher risk of developing or worsening depression and anxiety.3

Health experts recommend that people with existing mood and anxiety disorders should abstain from even moderate drinking. Evidence shows that drinking adversely affects a person’s response to mental health treatment.4

According to medical experts at Johns Hopkins, depression and sleep problems are closely linked. Research shows that people with insomnia could have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression. Among people with depression, 75 percent have trouble falling or staying asleep.5


BetterHelp can Help

They’ll connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Better Help Logo

How Do I Stop Being Sleepy After Drinking Alcohol?

Alcohol’s sedative effects may vary depending on a person’s alcohol tolerance. Different variables like your weight, age, and diet determine this.

You can do several things to reduce your risk of alcohol-induced sleepiness. For example:

  • Avoid binge drinking: Drinking alcohol in moderation is always better whether your concern is sleep or anything else.
  • Stay hydrated: Alternate between consuming alcoholic drinks and water to counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effect.
  • Avoid drinking too close to bedtime: Cutting off alcohol intake a few hours before bed allows its effects to wear off. It also means you’ll need fewer bathroom breaks overnight.
  • Eat before drinking: Eating before drinking increases the rate of alcohol elimination from the bloodstream by 25 to 45 percent. This tapers alcohol absorption so your body can manage more alcohol.

Thinking about Getting Help?

BetterHelp offers affordable mental health care via phone, video, or live-chat.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Better Help Logo

Frequently Asked Questions on Drinking Before Sleeping

Do Heavy Drinkers Sleep More?

No. Even if heavy drinkers initially increase their hours of sleep, they will, over time, experience fewer hours of sleep.4

No matter how many hours of sleep heavy drinkers get, their sleep quality remains poor. They tend to develop sleep apnea and other issues that cause them to awaken many times throughout the night.

What Should I Eat Before Drinking Alcohol?

The best options will be foods that contain protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Health experts at Johns Hopkins University recommend any of the following as good meals before drinking alcohol:6

  • Burgers
  • Salmon with rice pilaf and roasted asparagus
  • Egg and cheese sandwich
  • Tofu bowl with rice and stir-fried vegetables
  • Paneer or chicken tikka
  • Bean burrito with cheese and vegetables

How Do I Increase Alcohol Tolerance?

You might think that increasing your tolerance for alcohol can prevent feeling sleepy when drinking. While you might be able to drink more before feeling the negative effects of alcohol, you’re likely harming your health by doing so.

Instead of trying to increase tolerance, focus on maintaining safe drinking habits. Drinking in moderation has a less detrimental effect on sleep quality and quantity. It also triggers fewer other negative side effects.

How Do You Sleep Better After Drinking?

The two most important things you can do to feel more awake after drinking too much are hydrating and getting enough sleep.

Do what you can to improve the quality of your sleep. Even if alcohol interferes with a good night’s sleep, you can do other things to improve your sleep quality.

For example:

  • Avoid looking at computer, phone, and TV screens before bed
  • Don’t sleep before bedtime – naps within the day interfere with nighttime sleep quality, so avoid napping even if daytime drinking makes you feel drowsy.
  • Wake up at the same time you would any other day, even if you stayed up later than usual after drinking
  • Consider a natural sleep or relaxation aid, such as melatonin, valerian root, or magnesium
  • Create the ideal sleep environment by making your bedroom as cool and dark as possible
  • When you wake up, drink at least 8 oz. of water


Alcohol’s sedative properties cause feelings of sleepiness, but drinking can negatively impact sleep cycles and your overall health. Using alcohol as a nightcap can make you fall asleep faster but also put you at risk of worsening mental health conditions and sleep issues.

If you choose to drink, it’s best to do so responsibly. Limiting yourself to no more than a few drinks reduces your risk of getting a poor night’s sleep.

Avoid binge drinking and keep your sleep quality in mind whenever you drink. Seek medical advice if you have concerns about your sleep patterns or overall health concerning your alcohol consumption.

Updated on September 14, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Davies, M. “The Role of GABAA Receptors in Mediating the Effects of Alcohol in the Central Nervous System.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 2003.

  2. Ashton et al. “Do Emotions Related to Alcohol Consumption Differ by Alcohol Type? An International Cross-Sectional Survey of Emotions Associated with Alcohol Consumption and Influence on Drink Choice in Different Settings.” BMJ Open, 2017.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.”, 2021.

  4. Castaneda et al. “A Review of the Effects of Moderate Alcohol Intake on the Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders.” The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1996.

  5. Depression and Sleep: Understanding the Connection.” John Hopkins Medicine, 2019.

  6. Hindle, N., and Orazio, E. “Food and Alcohol: What You Need to Know.”, 2022.

  7. Hendler et al. “Stimulant and Sedative Effects of Alcohol.” Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 2013.

AlcoholRehabHelp Logo
All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
© 2024 by Treatment Pathway LLC. All rights reserved.
Back to top icon
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram