If you’re used to having a “nightcap” to get you to fall asleep faster, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. While you might fall asleep more quickly in the first place after drinking, alcohol can sabotage your ability to sleep well for a variety of reasons. Not only does alcohol inhibit your ability to get deep, restorative REM sleep, it also can exacerbate problems with snoring.
Alcohol and Snoring
Alcohol has a sedative effect, which is the very reason that many people use it to fall asleep. The problem with this is that it has a tendency to relax all of the muscles in the body. This excess relaxation often affects the throat and mouth muscles, causing them to become loose and flabby. These loose muscles can then collapse, blocking the breathing passages which causes vibration and results in snoring.
One other way that alcohol can contribute to snoring is the impact that it can have on a person’s weight. Alcohol is filled with empty calories that can eventually result in packing on extra weight. A glass of red wine has approximately 120 calories and a beer has about 200 calories—all empty calories that your body will likely pack on as extra pounds.
Putting on extra body mass, particularly when it settles in the neck and throat area, can inhibit air flow through the breathing passages during sleep. As the air flow is inhibited, sleep breathing becomes ragged and turbulent, resulting in snoring. It has been shown that many people snore less when they lose just a few pounds, and cutting out the empty calories found in alcohol may be an easy way to accomplish that.
Alcohol, Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Not only does alcohol make your sleep breathing loud and obnoxious, it can also be a dangerous contributor to a serious condition: Obstructive Sleep Apnea. People who do not normally have Obstructive Sleep Apnea may be affected by this sleep breathing condition when they drink alcohol.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition in which the breathing passages are blocked during sleep so that the body actually stops breathing for periods of time throughout the night. Ultimately, the brain starts the body awake to allow it to start breathing again, resulting in interruptive sleep.
Not only does this result in fatigue and other problems during the day, these repeated times of ceased breathing starve the brain of much needed oxygen and can result in significant health problems. Some signs of sleep apnea include loud snoring, observed interrupted breathing, snorting sounds, gasping, morning headaches, or restless body movements during sleep.
A person who drinks alcohol at night on a regular basis may have a higher risk of developing snoring problems related to sleep apnea. When this happens, serious secondary health conditions can develop such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, increased risk of accidents (work related or vehicular), headaches, depression, stroke, and even early death.
Top 5 Alcoholic Drinks that Cause Snoring
Here are some drinks that are extremely high in alcohol content, which means that they are much more likely to cause you to snore. Avoid these five alcoholic drinks that cause snoring:
- Everclear. Seriously, anyone who is drinking Everclear on a regular basis may have bigger problems than just snoring. This drink is 95% grain alcohol and will probably cause you to pass out and may set your mouth on fire.
- Whiskey. Although some whiskey options contain around 40-50% alcohol, certain brands may contain up to 90% alcohol. This high alcohol content is certain to make your muscles relax and cause snoring. But worse might be the headache and hangover the next morning.
- Vodka. Most typical vodka has somewhere around 40% alcohol content and can be up to 85% or more for specialty vodkas.
- Rum. While most drinks made with rum contain about 40% alcohol, certain drinks can get up to 84% in a specialty version.
- Gin. If you’re thinking that a Gin and Tonic is a good way to wind down in the evening, you may want to think about its snoring effects. Although it has the least alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of these hard liquors, it still comes in at around 37%. Some specialty versions of gin run at around 60% alcohol.
Smart Advice for Alcohol and Snoring
If you’re going to have a drink and only one, and you want it to cause the least amount of snoring possible, then choose a beverage with a low alcohol content, such as a light beer, mixed drink that include vermouth or sherry, wine coolers, or a light wine such as Moscato or Riesling. Of course, if you have more than one (or several) glasses of a low-alcohol drink, then you’re not doing yourself any favors on the snoring front.
Remember, as a rule of thumb, a 12 ounce beer contains the equivalent amount of alcohol to a 5 ounce glass of wine. And both of these would be about the same as a shot glass of hard liquor.
Truthfully, it’s better to avoid alcohol altogether if you are having troubles with snoring as it is likely to cause you to snore or make it worse than if you didn’t drink at all. If you find that you need an alcoholic beverage in order to be able to fall asleep at night, it may be that you are having some troubles with insomnia (or possibly alcohol addiction) and should talk to your doctor about these underlying problems associated with these conditions.
Alcohol and snoring are two items that often go together. Limiting your alcohol intake, losing a few pounds, quitting smoking, and sleeping on your side are all options for reducing snoring in a natural manner. If you have problems with snoring, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce it, or whether you need a sleep study to determine if you have a more severe problem such as sleep apnea. In the meantime, reducing your alcohol can help reduce your snoring as well as increasing the quality of your sleep—and therefore the quality of your entire life!