Have you ever noticed that when you drink alcohol, you tend to snore more?
Admittedly, you may not have been the one to notice. It was probably your sleep partner elbowing you in annoyance that alerted you to the issue.
Alcohol may make you drowsy, but it’s no friend to your sleep. It worsens snoring and interferes with your breathing during sleep. What explains this apparent contradiction, and why does alcohol affect your snoring?
Why and how alcohol affects your snoring
Alcohol is a depressant. Its sedative qualities are what make you feel drowsy. Because alcohol makes people feel drowsy, many assume it helps them sleep deeply, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Alcohol relaxes many things, from your mind to your muscles – including the ones related to your breathing. If you go to bed after drinking alcohol, that depressant, sedative effect relaxes your jaw and throat muscles. As a result, these muscles collapse onto your airway, restricting airflow and causing snoring.
This blockage of the airways can even cause mild sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder where the individual stops breathing during sleep. Within a few seconds, the brain responds and starts the breathing mechanism again, often accompanied by a loud gasp or snoring sound. However, episodes of sleep apnea caused by drinking are distinct from the disorder.
Alcohol also dehydrates you. This dryness can dry out your mouth and throat muscles. The resulting dryness makes snoring sound louder than before, as air rattles against dryer membranes in your throat.
How to avoid alcohol-related snoring
The best way to avoid snoring due to alcohol consumption is to avoid alcohol in the first place. Avoiding alcohol will not only reduce your snoring, but it will also improve your sleep.
After passing through your digestive system, alcohol enters your bloodstream on its way to your brain. From there, it wreaks havoc on your sleep patterns. After a night of drinking, people spend more time in less restorative NREM light sleep, and less time in REM, the stage of sleep critical to cognitive performance. They’ll often wake up earlier than intended, too, before they’ve fully rested.
Combine these effects with the interruptions to your sleep from snoring, and it’s understandable why you wake up feeling fatigued after a night of drinking.
If you want to keep drinking, you’ll have to live with some snoring. However, you can reduce your risk of snoring by trying the following tips:
- Drink earlier in the day instead of as a nightcap. Have your last drink at least 3 hours before bed.
- Pair your alcohol consumption with a meal. Food makes it easier for your body to absorb the alcohol.
- Limit the overall amount of alcohol you are drinking. Two glasses per day is the recommended maximum for men, while one glass is the recommendation for women.
- Drink alcoholic beverages that have lower alcohol content, such as a wine instead of hard liquor.
- Sleep on your side. This position naturally opens the airways more than sleeping on the back.
- Use an anti-snoring mouthpiece. These help minimize snoring by keeping your jaw forward or your tongue out of the way.
How to relax for bed instead of drinking alcohol
If you use alcohol to relax you for sleep, beware: this is a common way many people fall into alcoholism.
Instead of drinking alcohol at night, try one of the following sleep-friendly relaxation methods to help you fall asleep faster:
- Take a warm bath before bed
- Read a boring book
- Try aromatherapy, meditation or visualization
- Perform deep breathing exercises
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation techniques