Sleep Disorders

16 February 2011

Alcohol disrupts women's sleep more than men's

Alcohol appears to cause more sleep problems in women than in men, research shows. It may deepen sleep during the early part of the night but disrupt sleep later in the night.


Alcohol appears to cause more sleep problems in women than in men, a new study found.

It's long been known that alcohol can deepen sleep during the early part of the night but disrupt sleep later in the night, something called the "rebound effect".

But there's been little research into how alcohol's effects on sleep may differ in women and men.

This study included 59 women and 34 men in their 20s who consumed either alcohol until they were drunk or a non-alcoholic beverage before they went to bed. Researchers then monitored the participants' sleep.

Alcohol and sleep

Women who consumed alcohol had fewer hours of sleep, woke more frequently and for more minutes during the night, and had more disrupted sleep compared to men who drank alcohol.

The study appears online and in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"These (gender) differences may be related to differences in alcohol metabolism since women show a more rapid decline in BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) following alcohol consumption than men," said lead author J. Todd Arnedt, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Michigan.

"It is important to note that the peak BrACs were equivalent between men and women in our study so the findings are not due to higher BrACs among the female subjects. We also do not believe that the differences were due to differences in alcohol experience because the prior alcohol use was also equivalent between the men and women," he added.

Arnedt said these findings about gender differences "may have implications for future studies examining the relationship between sleep quality and risk for the development of alcohol use disorders, as well as studies evaluating how sleep quality relates to relapse among recovering alcoholic individuals."

(Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.)


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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