Sleeping is one of the most natural things we do, but sleep can be difficult or troublesome for some people. Due to various sleep disorders, health complications, or just the stress of daily life, some people need a little extra help falling asleep each night. While exercise, healthy diet, and no nighttime screen time are usually recommended by doctors, many people turn to substances like alcohol or other substances to help them drift off each night. It may seem like a drink or two might make you drowsy and therefore sleep better, but new research says that even just a little alcohol can have significant effects on sleep quality. Is nothing healthy anymore?

The study has been published in the journal JMIR Mental Health. Researchers asked 4,098 adults between 18 and 65 years old to wear heart rate sensors for at least two nights of sleep: one while sober and one after consuming alcohol. The data showed that alcohol use of any kind – even just a few drinks – can lower sleep quality by 39.2% on average.

One of the study’s authors, Tero Myllymäki from Tampere University of Technology in Finland, says that this study should come as a warning to younger people who might think a few drinks here and there pose no threat to their sleep health:

When you’re physically active, or younger, it’s easy, natural even, to feel like you’re invincible. However, the evidence shows that despite being young and active you’re still susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol on recovery when you are asleep. While we may not always be able to add hours to our sleep time, with insight into how our behaviors influence the restorative quality of our sleep we can learn to sleep more efficiently.

Thinking about throwing back a few before bed? You might want to rethink it. Even just one night of poor sleep can significantly increase one’s risk of developing many health disorders. Save those beers for breakfast.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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