Alcohol & Sleep
In Episode 18 of Breaking the Bottle Legacy with Molly Watts, the host delves into the crucial relationship between alcohol and sleep, featuring an enlightening conversation with renowned sleep specialist Dr. James Moss. Molly emphasizes her mission to help listeners foster a peaceful connection with alcohol, addressing the past, present, and future aspects of this relationship. Dr. Moss, a highly respected researcher and professor, discusses the profound impact of alcohol on sleep patterns, dispelling the misconception that alcohol aids sleep. He highlights the disruptions in sleep cycles caused by alcohol consumption, particularly the suppression of REM sleep during the initial cycles. The episode provides valuable insights into the negative effects of sleep deprivation, including increased risk of various health issues such as diabetes, anxiety, depression, and lowered immunity. Dr. Moss shares essential tips for improving sleep quality, advocating for consistent sleep schedules, relaxation techniques, and strategic napping. Molly reinforces the importance of prioritizing sleep, encouraging listeners to implement the knowledge gained from the episode into their lives, emphasizing that quality sleep is a fundamental element for enhancing overall well-being and fostering positive habits.
You’re listening to break in the bottle legacy with Molly watts, Episode 18. Hi, I’m Molly, after a lifetime living under the influence of family alcohol abuse, spending more than 30 years worrying about alcohol and my own drinking, believing I had an unbreakable daily drinking habit, I changed my relationship with alcohol forever. If you want to change your drinking habits than breaking the bottle legacy is for you. My goal is to help you create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, past, present, and future. Each week all focus on real science and using your own brain to change your relationship with alcohol. Nothing has gone wrong, you’re not broken, you’re not sick. It’s not your genes. And creating peace is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Hello, and welcome or welcome back to breaking the bottle legacy with me your host Molly Watts coming to you from a fairly decent Oregon right now, it’s been off and on this week, but mostly on and as we head into the deeper months of spring and summer, I don’t know you guys are gonna get tired of hearing it because I’m just going to talk about how beautiful Oregon is in the summer. And if you haven’t made a trip out to the Pacific Northwest with the travel restrictions starting to lift, I highly encourage it. This week on the podcast, I actually in full transparency will say that I recorded this interview quite a while ago. And I struggled with whether or not to publish it because there’s a little bit of background noise in the back. And we couldn’t clean it up. And so I held it for a while. But I’ve really listened to it. And honestly the information in it is so good and so important. And I really wanted to be able to share it with you. So I’m going to talk first a little bit about why it’s so important. And then I will we’ll jump right into that that interview. The interview itself is with Dr. James moss. And Dr. Moss is a sleep doctor. He is also the CEO of sleep for success. He has been a professor at the Weill Cornell Medical College for years and years and has taught more than 65,000 students a world record actually, while he was on the faculty for Cornell, and he is a leading researcher and somebody that has really been studying sleep medicine for Well, gosh, since the 1960s. He’s also the person who coined the term power nap. And he’s been on some pretty big stages in including the Oprah show and Good Morning America and lots of different spots. So I really was so appreciative of Dr. Moss and his time, and our conversation about alcohol and sleep is important. Not only just because of the combination, like I said for for how alcohol impacts your sleep, because sleep deprivation is a problem for so many people. So I think anybody could listen to this episode and get a lot out of it because he gives tips that don’t have anything to do with alcohol. And then also we talk about alcohol and sleep. Before we get into that conversation, I want to just give you some of the medical terminology and medical happenings what happens when you drink alcohol and then try to sleep. The relationship between alcohol and sleep has been studied since the 1930s. Yet many aspects of this relationship are still unknown. Research has shown sleepers who drink large amounts of alcohol before going to bed are often prone to delayed sleep onset, meaning they need more time to fall asleep, which is probably contrary to what many of you think as liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol during their night and the blood alcohol level decreases, these individuals are more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreases in sleep quality. To understand how alcohol impacts sleep, it’s important to discuss different stages of the human sleep cycle. A normal sleep cycle consists of four different stages, three non rapid eye movement stages and one rapid eye movements stage. So basically, these four stages repeat in a cyclical fashion throughout the night. And each cycle should last roughly 90 to 120 minutes, which Dr. Moss will talk about in that conversation. And it results in a basically four to five cycles for every night for every eight hours of sleep. And for the first one or two cycles. Non REM slow wave sleep is dominant, whereas REM Sleep typically lasts no longer than 10 minutes. For later cycles, these rules will flip and REM will become more dominant, sometimes lasting 40 minutes or longer without interruption. And non REM sleep will essentially cease during these cycles. Drinking alcohol before bed can add to the suppression of REM sleep during the first two cycles. Since alcohol is a sedative, sleep onset is often shorter for drinkers. Right, so you fall asleep quicker, and some fall into deep sleep rather quickly. as the night progresses, this can create an imbalance between slow wave sleep and REM sleep, resulting in less of the latter and more of the former. This decreases overall sleep quality, which can result in shorter sleep duration and more sleep disruptions. So that’s just like the basic bottom line fact of what alcohol does to you and why it is actually not true that drinking alcohol helps you sleep better, which is what a lot of people think. So that is one of the reasons that I really wanted to talk to a sleep specialist, and was just so appreciative of my conversation with Dr. Moss. Without further ado, I would like to introduce Dr. James moss, and our conversation on alcohol and sleep. Hello, Dr. Moss, thank you so much for joining me on breaking the bottle legacy. I really appreciate you taking the time. And I appreciate you also saying to call you, Jim. So thank you so much for being here. Okay, it’s my pleasure. Awesome. Well, I talked a little bit in the introduction about all of your, your expertise on sleep and why you know, the amount of study and research and students that you’ve taught in terms of sleep science and psychology. But let me ask you first, as we head into this really important conversation about sleep deprivation, how much since you started first studying sleep science, which was a while ago now, right? You started studying it really kind of we’re a pioneer in this in this field? How much has sleep deprivation changed? Or how much more prevalent has it become since you started researching this back in the 1960s? That’s a great question. We used to sleep 10 hours a night. Wow. Tonight that went to eight, then went to seven. And now about 30% of the adult population is getting six or less are teenagers, I finally, finally called them walking zombies need nine and a quarter sleep hours of sleep at night to be fully alert all day long. And they average 6.10 The majority the vast majority of our high school and college kids are really very seriously sleep deprived. And it has deleterious consequences, which we are about to talk about. Yeah, that will affect them, not only in school and athletics and socially, but it will affect their health, their cognition, their longevity of for the rest of their life. Yeah, yeah, that’s, I think that obviously we all probably know and understand and it’s kind of an accepted idea these days that screen time has really impacted our our sleep, and it is definitely impacting our teenagers and our youth sleep as well. Back in the 60s, we just didn’t have the amount of screens that we do these days. And I know that that is certainly something that is causative, I’m sure for sleep deprivation, when it’s considered the amount of time a teen spends either on the internet, on the phone, watching TV playing video games, that amounts to close to nine hours a day. Right? More studying with half their brain. But they’re tuned into emails and a lot of distractions. Yeah, yeah. Well, that like I said, I think that everybody kind of accepts and understands that that’s definitely one area that we can you know that that has to be addressed when we’re talking about improving our sleep health. What I definitely wanted to talk with you about today was the how alcohol impacts sleep. Because I think that there’s a lot of misconception. People believe that drinking alcohol actually helps them sleep better. And that’s just not The truth isn’t, no, not at all alcohol might induce sleep. But it certainly disrupts sleep. When you drink late in the evening, it’s going to affect you about 90 minutes after sleep onset. During your first REM rapid eye movement period, the period in which a lot of dreaming takes place. That period is going to be destroyed and fragmented. So your sleep is actually going to be worse as a result of drinking alcohol rather than, than better. Within three hours of bedtime, no alcohol, no caffeine after two in the afternoon after two in the afternoon, inhibits REM sleep as those any smoking. Wow. Any tobacco chewing tobacco, you see major league baseball players spitting tobacco all over the dugout. And they don’t realize it’s gonna affect their sleep at night. Right? Well as can produce mouth cancer. Oh, yeah, thankfully, I’m gonna say that I don’t have any tobacco issues over here. But chocolate now we’re getting into some territory, that’s going to be a problem potentially for for me. After two o’clock in the afternoon, that’s, yeah, that’s a little frightening. Right. And most people aren’t aware of that. The problem is Molly that we don’t value asleep. In our society. We’re unaware the deleterious consequences, which I want to talk about in a minute. We don’t know. The strategies for getting betters like we don’t know there’s an art to that, and we’ll talk about that. We suffer many of us from sleep disorders like sleep apnea, we get too much exposure to Blue daylight spectrum light late at night, because of the lamps in our bedroom, halogen lamps. And the exposure to TV, or any computer monitor or iPad that’s going to produce a lot of blue daylight spectrum light. It’s like staring at the sun and inhibits the flow of melatonin, and delays sleep onset by as much as an hour. If you’re reading in bed at night studying or reading for pleasure and you’ve got the wrong lamp, you don’t have a warm spectrum lamp as opposed to a daylight spectrum lamp that is going to inhibit that flow of melatonin. And you’re not going to be able to go to sleep as quickly or as deeply. There’s also the belief in our society that we can accomplish more if we sleep less. Why sleep? I might miss a party. She didn’t miss any parties. And she died at 27. Yeah, right. So she got her wish she got she died because problem. Yeah, go ahead. I understand. Students tell me all the time on gotta be examiner class tomorrow, I’m going to pull an all nighter. Good luck. You’re going to come into the classroom, your brain is going to be half asleep and your performance is going to be way way down. And as a culture, we just don’t value sleep. That’s a big mistake. And yeah, I do. I would say that’s a big mistake. But what are the consequences of us not getting enough sleep? Drowsiness during the daytime unexpected sleep seizures you can be with your eyes wide open one minute, God forbid you’re driving a car and five seconds later, you can be totally asleep and off the road and hopefully not into another car into a telephone pole. There’s a significant increase in heart disease and heart attacks and strokes when you don’t get enough sleep. Type Two Diabetes onset when you don’t get enough sleep, irritability, anxiety, depression, weight gain, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and most importantly, a lowered immunity and especially now with CO virus. We’re not getting enough sleep we’re much more likely to get the virus right. We lose our sense of humor. We lose our socialization skills, we lose our motor skills or athleticism suffers. And as far as our cognitive performance, we have a reduced ability to process material to concentrate, to remember to communicate to multitask, our creativity drops our creative problem solving or critical problem solving rocks, we make stupid decisions skills, financially, socially behind the wheel of a car, in some reduced health and performance, and how well you sleep is the best predictor of how long you’re gonna live. People who don’t sleep much, are much more likely to die earlier than those who get adequate rest. That is a long list, Dr. Moss of things that can go awry and are really the the negative side effects of not getting enough sleep. So that is a that is a just a really overwhelming I mean, really, this is everything. Yeah, exactly. Like you said, this is critical. And I very much understand I aligned with this so deeply, because I recently just took a 30 day break from alcohol altogether. I don’t I’ve been reducing my alcohol intake a lot over the last two years. And so I haven’t been drinking a, you know, a moderate amount by previous to this. But in this last 30 days over dry weary, I was completely alcohol free. And I know my Fitbit probably doesn’t track everything correctly with my sleep. But I did get my highest sleep score ever, during that 30 day period where I was completely alcohol free. And I have to believe that, you know, that was because at least partially because of taking that negative factor out of my healthy sleep equation. Right? No, no doubt about it. A lot of people don’t realize that they’re sleep deprived, they think how they feel is normal. And then they go on vacation, or on the weekends and they sleep extra. And suddenly they they feel better. But we become habituated to these low levels of, of sleep to low levels of alertness, and we think that’s normal. So I’d like with our listening audience to have a little quiz right now. That’d be great. And that will help you determine whether you are sleep deprived and need help and need to change or not. You can go to a sleep lab and for I have an all night Supercard it will cost you about $1,500 which will give you a pretty good idea. But we have a quick and much less expensive way. Just answer the following five questions and be honest with yourself. Question number one. Does a warm room a boring meeting? A heavy meal or a low dose of alcohol? make you drowsy? Yes or no? Question number two, do you fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed. People say I’m a great sleeper the minute my head hits the pillow. I’m out the minute I’m in a situation like on an airplane before the plane even takes off. I’m out. I can sleep anytime, anywhere. If that is you, you are pathologically sleep deprived because well rested sleeper takes 15 to 20 minutes to go to sleep. Okay. Number three, do you need an alarm clock to wake up? You should never need an alarm clock to wake up because we’re saying to you is, look, I don’t care what your body needs, what your body wants, you’ve got to go to work. And you should wake up naturally and well rested. Question number four, do you hit the snooze bar repeatedly? Well, yeah, every 15 minutes for an hour and again, another hours worth asleep? No, you get about 18 minutes of fragmented sleep. So you should never have to use this newspaper. And lastly, do you sleep extra hours on the weekends? answer yes to any two or more of those questions. And consider yourself ecologically sleep deprived. And you better do something about it. Wow. Oh, I cannot wait to I’m going to link all of that in our show notes folks. So you will be able to access that sleep deprivation quiz. I really appreciate you sharing that with us. I can already tell you that. Sadly, I think I already have to, even with regardless of my alcohol intake So, you know, what do you do? What we have to do is, number one, determine your sleep requirement. How many hours do you need to be fully energetic? Why do we can learn all day long. And for most people, you’re going to have to add at least one more hour from what you’re doing right now. Okay, way to do that is for a week, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual. And if you’re not fully alert all day long the next day, the next week, add another 15 minutes. So as I say, most people are going to have to add about an hour till they get adequate sleep. And what you have to do is figure out what time you have to get up in the morning, count back, seven, seven and a half, eight hours, and that’s the time you should be going to bed. And it’ll make a heck of a difference. People that do that, say, I never knew what it was like to be awake before. Just astonished. Number two is as important as getting enough sleep. And there are individual differences of both of your parents were short sleepers and fully alert all day long, you might be one of the lucky two or 3% of the population that can do well, on less than six and a half hours. Oh, wow. Only two to three results. Oh, most people should get between most adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep. Women tend to have more sleep issues and tend to need a little bit more sleep than men. It’s not because they’re lazy. It’s a biological. I think it might be hormonal. And often it’s it’s hormonal. But as important as meeting your sleep requirement every night is to maintain a regular sleep wake schedule, to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, Monday through Monday, including the weekends. We don’t have two circadian rhythms, one for the work week, or the school week and one for the weekends, we’ve got to be constant. So when we get into bed, the body knows then it’s time to shut down. And if we keep having a yo yo sleep wake schedule, and going to bed later on the weekends, we put ourselves into eastbound jetlag without leaving home every Monday morning, because the body doesn’t know when to shut down. We’re playing yo yo with their circadian rhythms. So that’s important. It’s also important to get one long block of continuous sleep, it’s normal to wake up several times during the night most people don’t realize that. But if you’re up more than 20 minutes, you’re going to be up an entire what we call REM cycle 90 minutes before you’re able to get back to go to sleep again. Okay, so let me I want to make sure I hit that. So if you are if you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s normal. If you stay up for longer than 20 minutes, you’re basically going to take yourself out of that full 90 minute cycle. Right, you’re gonna have to complete the 90 minute cycle. Gotcha. Gotcha. And there, there are some, some things you could do to help you out if you wake up in the middle of the night. I mean, if you just have to go to the bathroom and you keep the lights low, and get back into bed, most likely, that’s not going to affect you the next day. But if you go into bright light, if you get distracted, the television is on or what have you. That’s going to keep you up. But there are some over the counter very safe remedies. There’s a little tube that you can get called sleep doctor PM. In the middle of the night you do wake up, you spray a little seven pushes have a spray bottle under your tongue and it will put you right back to sleep without a late return to morning. It’s very good. It comes in two formulas one you take before you go to sleep to relax you and add some melatonin and valerian root in all natural substances. And by a more relaxed sleep is sleep onset is easier. It’s more amenable Sure. But whether or not you’ve taken that 30 minutes before you go to bed. If you do wake up in the middle of the night, you can take this reduced strength formula that also comes in these tubes and As I say, do little seven spritzes under your tongue, and that’ll put you right back to sleep. Awesome, I’m gonna link those in my show notes as well. So you would definitely not recommend correct getting having a nightcap, getting that, no nightcaps try to avoid prescription sleeping pills because especially with alcohol, they can kill you. But alone, they’re often subject to subjecting you to some side effects that can be very, very unhealthy. So what we want to do is develop good sleep hygiene, which I’ll talk about in just a minute, get your bedroom environment, so it’s a great place to go to sleep. And naturally, let your let your body and brain do the work that it has, has to do. Being asleep at night, the brain repairs itself, it’s it’s just not turning off the motor. In fact, the sleeping brain is more active at night than there’s ever is during the day, getting rid of toxics that are in your brain that shouldn’t be there helping you make new connections of ideas, things that you’ve learned during the day, your brain solidifies a physical record a memory trace of those things. So that you can have that information to work with to perform well in school with athletically, etc. It’s critical that we do what we do get sleep because the brain needs to go through this wash cycle and, and solidification of memory traces every single night. Right? And if we pull it all nighter, we just found out recently at the University of Pennsylvania that you actually kill neurons. Wow students who say I’m going to pull an all nighter, they’re going to wake up dumber. Not a good solution at all. If you make up for lost sleep, you go brand new killing brain cells. Well, that is very that is a downer. Yeah, definitely not something that we want to be happening at all a very great message for our young younger listeners as well. So talk to me about sleep hygiene. What does that okay, well, not only knowing your own sleep need and getting it every night and doing other regulars sleep wake cycle, your bedroom has to be quiet. It has to be dark. It has to be cooled between 65 and 67 degrees. It’s got to be relaxing. That means within an hour bedtime, no TV, no iPad, no video games. And if you have a clock with an LED dial, throw a towel over. Because that even with your eyes closed, those a digital light that usually blue light can get through your eyelids and disturb your sleep. Most people don’t realize that. So just cover your clock or turn around so it doesn’t interfere. As I mentioned before, no caffeine after two in the afternoon, no alcohol within three hours of bedtime. Make sure you get exercised during the day but not heavy exercise too close to bedtime. Keep mentally fit. If you’re no longer in school or maybe a senior citizen do crossword puzzles, do games and things like that because that’s going to help you sleep of about 50 years ago I coined the term power nap. Yeah, I remember I read that I was gonna ask you about that. So you coined the term Is it is it and it’s so is it good for us. A power nap is good for you not only to help restore missing sleep, but also it’s good cognitively for, for learning and problem solving. Even a short nap will help you in terms of cognitive performance. During during the day the brain is working while you’re resting now part of that by defined is not long with longer than 20 or 30 minutes. If it’s longer than that you’re going to go into what we call delta a very deep sleep and you’ll be groggy when you wake up for about an hour, two hours. Gonna take a power nap. Usually in the midday dip of alertness, which is a natural thing. It’s not caused by a heavy lunch or low dose of alcohol. or a boring meeting or boring teacher. It’s caused by the drowsiness It’s already in your brain. But it’s just triggered by, by these events of, of kind of boredom and alcohol and heavy meal will, will trigger trigger that. If you are not sleep deprived, and you have a heavy meal, it’ll make you restless maybe, but it’s not going to make you sleepy. Okay, so it’s what what’s already in your body that that counts. But take a 20 to 30 minute nap, or a 90 minute nap never 6060 gonna put you up in the middle of deep sleep and, and be disruptive when when you awaken a hot bath or hot shower. But better a hot bath or jacuzzi, within an hour bedtime will help you relax and raise your body temperature. So when you get into your cool sheets, your body temperature will drop, putting you to sleep quicker and deeper. If you have some anxiety from stress, which is the main cause of insomnia, what you should do is a little meditation during the day, some relaxation exercises at night, some breathing exercises, where you for four seconds, inhale as much air as you can then hold your breath for seven seconds. And then for eight seconds, slowly release that. And if you do this 10 or 15 times you’re gonna fall asleep. It’s a way of putting your body at ease. Another way is progressive relaxation. By clenching up your toes as you’re lying in bed. And then letting go of that, that energy as you relax your muscles. And then you tighten the muscles in your thighs and your calves and you work right up through through your forehead, tensing and then relaxing. And that is going to bring on sleep onset quicker. If you’ve got a partner that you can convince to give you a massage, massage or a foot massage, that’s an ideal way to fall asleep. As is good sex if you’re worried and stressed about your performance. That is not a way to bedroom should be only for sex and sleep not for studying or watching TV or any do that outside the bedroom. So you’re conditioning yourself to sleep as being the synonymous as being in the bedroom. Those are all wonderful tips. I love that. And the and you heard it here. First, folks, the bedroom is only for sex and sleep. So just know. You said something about stress and anxiety being a high cause for insomnia. Right? Yeah. And I wanted to just to tie that in a little bit. Because I don’t know if you’re familiar with the science of alcohol in terms of its rebound effect. But one of the things that I’ve studied in and learned about drinking alcohol because a lot of people drink alcohol as a response to stress and anxiety. But the way that a the the chemical works in the brain as a sedative has a rebound effect later during that withdrawal when it’s leaving the brain to actually spike anxiety after the fact. So it’s so your your notes on in your tips on relieving anxiety and relieving stress through meditative breathing or through tensing and relaxing your body, you know, are great for people that are listening just because alcohol is not going to get rid of it, folks. But listen to Dr. Moss and those breathing techniques and the tense and relaxing your body. Those things will actually help to actually help you get rid of stress and anxiety and help you sleep better. That’s right. And that alcohol which is going to inhibit REM sleep, which you need every 90 minutes and the first time you enter REM sleep 90 minutes after sleep onset, you’ll be in REM sleep for nine minutes and then every 90 minutes thereafter, the REM period gets twice as long as the previous one. So if you’re getting eight hours asleep About two hours are going to be REM sleep, which is critical for, for memory for problem solving for mood for all sorts of things. And if you inhibit REM sleep through alcohol, the body is going to try to make up for that REM sleep. And you’re going to have some terrific nightmares as a result. Of Wow, that’s not that wouldn’t be very pleasant either. Let’s becomes very difficult because the more you inhibit REM sleep, the more the body wants REM sleep. And when you keep blocking it and blocking it, it’s going to create these night nightmares. And just, it’s just, yeah, it’s kind of an endless, it’s kind of an endless cycle. They have these negative impacts these negative consequences of not sleeping they and then that increases, just like you said, negative moods and negative ability to concentrate process, etc. And what did they do? They self medicate with alcohol trying to put themselves to sleep and it just, you know, the cycle just keeps perpetuating. Right? So if you stop the alcohol, or you stop taking Ambien, right, at first, you’re gonna have some rough nights, and you’re gonna say, Oh, my God, I need that alcohol or I need the sleeping pills. So I won’t have these horrific dreams but but they do pass as you build up your REM sleep. Well, Dr. Moss, I appreciate you taking the time to to be on the podcast with me this has been just just nugget after nugget after nugget of great information. And again, we’ll link all of the tips, all of the websites, the products you mentioned, your website is well your your name, and then your company, sleep for success. I know you have some wonderful products, you have wonderful books, to also help people gain better sleep habits. So I’m going to link all of that in my shownotes. And I just appreciate you taking the time so much what a wonderful wealth of experience and such great information to share with people. I know that that everybody that’s listening is going to be very appreciative because getting sleep is critically important to your health folks, it is critically important to not only your physical health, your mental health, your overall social health, it’s it’s and your longevity. So listen up, take note and don’t drink alcohol to try to help you get better because it’s not going to write Absolutely it’s going to change your your life to get better sleep, your athleticism, people who think they’re their average athletes suddenly get sleep and become become stars. All right, see you, sir. Hazing. So if you’re a golfer and you’re frustrated, the best thing you can do is get more asleep. And if you want a scarlet college scholarship, athletic scholarship, you want better grades in school and the best thing you can do is get more sleep because your grades will go up and your athleticism will go up. That’s awesome. That’s fantastic. So no matter who’s listening, you know the bottom line is, sleep is a critical element to improving your life and your habits overall. So I hope that this podcast has brought you some great information. And again, I’ll link everything in my show notes. Dr. Moss, I appreciate you taking the time. My pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for listening to breaking the bottle legacy. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Take something that you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible. You have the power to change your relationship with alcohol.