Though there are several reports that associate alcohol abuse with sleep disturbances, particularly in men, there are very few studies on alcohol and its effect on sleep in women.
According to a recent research, a moderate amount of alcohol, consumed before going to bed, can affect the quality of sleep in young women.
"We found that a moderate dose of alcohol consumed by a young woman an hour before bed is associated with increased sleep intensity in the first couple hours of the sleep episode," says author Mary A. Carskadon, PhD, with the Bradley Hospital Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory and Brown Medical School.
This phenomenon was observed in well-slept women using an alcohol dose of 0.49 g/kg, equivalent to two to three standard drinks (in the form of vodka tonics), in the hour before bedtime, or 0.5 g/% below the legal limit for driving while drunk in many states. EurekAlert revealed this at a press release.
This study involved the analysis of the sleep habits of young women (between ages 22 to 25) who drank alcohol before bed, over the course of three nights. The women's sleep and sleep electroencephalograms (EEGs), a graphic record of the electrical activity of the brain - a technique that can analyze the "microarchitecture" of sleep, were examined by the researchers.
This study was published in the June 2006 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Only some but significant differences were observed by the researchers between sleep and sleep EEG with alcohol versus placebo. When alcohol was consumed, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep reduced, while stage 4 sleep (the deep sleep early in the night) was slightly increased.
Researchers found few, but noteworthy differences between sleep and sleep EEG with alcohol versus placebo. When alcohol had been consumed, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep decreased, while stage 4sleep (the deep sleep early in the night) was slightly increased. Spectral analysis of the EEG revealed signs of increased sleep intensity during non-REM (NREM) sleep after alcohol compared with placebo.
"Whether this sleep pattern is beneficial or harmful is unknown at this point. Although it may signal an initial consolidation of sleep, it might also be associated with difficulty waking in the event of an emergent problem, such as a fire or medical emergency," says author Eliza Van Reen, a psychology graduate student at Brown University.
The authors conclude by saying that more work has to be done to examine other alcohol doses, sex differences and susceptibility that may occur in a positive family history of alcoholism.