Does Bourbon Help You Sleep?

Many of us love a nightcap before we go to sleep, especially when life gets stressful. But is this bourbon night cap actually helping our sleep? It might make us feel sleepier, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are getting a better rest. Let’s find out what the sleep experts have to say about the role of bourbon plays when it comes to sleep…

Does Bourbon Help You Sleep?

Studies have found that bourbon does help people to fall asleep faster. However, that doesn’t mean the sleep is more effective. This review of studies found many interesting facts when they looked at the relationship between sleep and alcohol. Here are the core findings:

  1. Drinking alcohol promotes falling asleep faster, even if only one drink is consumed
  2. Alcohol can help the first half of the sleep cycle, but the second half of the cycle can be interrupted
  3. Alcohol always delayed the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase
  4. Higher amounts of alcohol can cause negative consequences to your sleep pattern. The study found that high consumption of alcohol reduces the total amount of REM sleep and can result in more disruptions during in the later sleep cycle.

Brain Scans After Drinking Alcohol

It’s important to look at the science to gain a full understanding of how bourbon impacts sleep.

One of the best pieces of research was conducted by the University of Melbourne. This study involved brain scanning to discover the effect of alcohol while sleeping.

The study revealed that alcohol had a sedative effect on the brain to promote the initial sleeping phase. However, this sedative effect didn’t last long, and the alcohol then caused negative sleep cycle effects.

  • The initial sleep phase included more slow waves when compared to those who didn’t drink alcohol prior to sleeping
  • The brain scans highlighted an increase in alpha wave patterns in the second phase of sleep, which indicates that the brain is not completely at rest, but still awake

To conclude their findings, alcohol appears to help us to get to sleep faster, but the quality of sleep is a lot poorer than those who did not have a drink.

“I Feel Like I Sleep Better”

The research is interesting, as people believe that they had better sleep after drinking alcohol. Here’s the thing – you can feel the sedative effects taking control when you are awake, but you can’t assess the quality of your sleep while you are sleeping. Not all of us have access to a brain scanner!

Frequent disrupted sleep can lead to a number of health issues. If not acted upon, drinkers can experience drops in their general well-being and ability to memorize effectively. You can see an example of this in another study, which reveals drinking with your friends can negatively affect your mental capacity the following morning. It’s worth noting that the less you drink, the less you will suffer the following day and long-term.

One small drink before bed can be enough to make you sleepy, without the negative effects the following day. However, doing this on a regular basis will mean you need to drink more and more as your tolerance to alcohol increases.

How Many People Drink Bourbon Before Bed?

Now for some facts on the number of people that drink alcohol before bed. To be honest, I was surprised at these numbers…

  • This Medical News Today articlefound reported that 20% of Americans always drink alcohol before sleeping. However, they also say that although alcohol can induce seep, alcohol can cause insomnia by interfering with the body’s system for regulating sleep.
  • The UK Sleep Council conducted a survey that found 25% of adults have a drink of alcohol before sleeping.

Bourbon and REM Sleep

So, what are the benefits of REM sleep? Let’s find out the importances of uninterrupted sleep…

  • As ironic as it sounds, the human brain becomes active when it reaches REM sleep. It allows the brain to process daily stressors and memories. As such, failure to reach REM sleep can cause poor memory and motor skills
  • REM sleep serves a restorative function, which means it is crucial to achieve a good mood and energy when you wake up

Will Bourbon Help Insomniacs to Sleep?

So, bourbon may make us more tired and ready to sleep, but is drinking bourbon effective for insomniacs?

This is a difficult decision for insomniacs to make. Although bourbon can prevent insomniacs from lying on their bed for hours, this will only work in the short term. Long term dependence on alcohol can lead to many problems. Consider the following factors:

  • Self-medicating alcohol can lead to long-term dependency, which can result in other heath issues
  • Our tolerance to alcohol changes over time. So while one glass of bourbon is enough right now, you may need three glasses at a later date
  • Too much alcohol may result in a hangover, which will make you feel even worse
  • You can’t drink bourbon alongside sleeping medication
  • Michael J Breuss states that alcohol can take your sleep cycle out of sync


So, that’s what the experts think about the relationship between bourbon and sleep. What about you? How does bourbon affect your sleep?

To conclude, studies have found that bourbon does help people to fall asleep faster. However, that doesn’t mean the sleep is more effective. This review of studies found many interesting facts when we look at the relationship between sleep and alcohol. Drinking bourbon can help as to sleep faster, but it can lead to an interrupted second sleep cycle. Furthermore, high amounts of bourbon can have long-term effects on your sleep pattern and make it harder to enter the REM sleep cycle.