Alcohol and sleep

Lauren Booker | January 2022 | 8 minutes

We’ve all felt it: alcohol can make you tired. But how does alcohol really affect your sleep, and how will cutting out alcohol for a month make a difference?

Why do I wake up feeling rubbish when I’ve been drinking?

Drinking alcohol can mean you don’t sleep well. But why? More trips to the bathroom are inevitable, as alcohol is a diuretic. Another side-effect you’ll experience is sweating more, which will only add to the dehydration. This is the perfect cocktail to have you waking up feeling sleepy and with a sore head.

Why do I snore when I’ve been drinking?

Your partner complains about your snoring after you’ve had a few? That’s because alcohol is a muscle relaxant. The tissue in your throat and mouth will become more relaxed, and thus are more likely to vibrate with every breath you take.

I got more than eight hours sleep, so why am I still tired?

Drinking alcohol might help you get to sleep, but it doesn’t equal restful sleep. During the night you’ll be spending less time in deep sleep. You can feel the effects of this long after you wake up, regardless of whether you got your eight hours or not.

Will a dry month help me sleep better?

Taking part in Dry January® (or another dry challenge) improves sleep for many taking part, though it might not at first.

You may find that it takes a while to drop off to sleep during the first week. Without the soporific effect of booze to knock us out, we don’t plummet into unconsciousness quite so quickly. It’s tempting to have a drink to get you off to sleep, but then you’d be back to square one.

This is why a number of people will report back as feeling very tired in the first few days of quitting alcohol – your brain has adapted to expect the alcohol before bedtime and relies on it to get you to sleep. Once you’ve cut it out, it will take a few days for your brain to unlearn that habit. But once it does, you’ll be right as rain and sleeping like a log as you’re able to have more deep sleep without alcohol in your bloodstream.

If you’re finding it hard to drop off, make sure you’ve got a good sleep hygiene routine – try to go to bed at the same time each night. Don’t eat just before bedtime and limit screen time, going completely screen-free for the hour or so before bed. Milky drinks, warm baths, soothing music, reading Ulysses – you might need to try a few things before you hit on your best sleep aids.

Some people experience very vivid dreams during Dry January® or other alcohol-free periods. This could be down to increased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM is the stage of sleep during which we dream. When we drink, REM sleep is suppressed, which is why we’re still so tired the next day, even after an eight-hour slumber. A few days off the booze and – hey presto!

If you’re interested in finding out more about the benefits of taking a break from booze, why not check out our book Try Dry®: the Official Guide to a Month Off Booze? It’s full of helpful tips and information about what to expect from a month without alcohol. You can also find some helpful tips on our blog.


People who are clinically alcohol dependent can die if they suddenly, completely stop drinking.

If you experience fits, shaking hands, sweating, seeing things that are not real, depression, anxiety, or difficulty sleeping after a period of drinking and while sobering up, then you may be clinically alcohol dependent and should NOT suddenly, completely stop drinking. But you can still take control of your drinking.

Talk to a GP or your local community alcohol service who will be able to get help for you to reduce your drinking safely.

Find out more here.