Alcohol Causes Women to Lose More Sleep than Men

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Many people use alcohol to help put them to sleep, but they shouldn't -- research shows the sleep is fitful. Now new research shows it is worse for women than men.

Researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor gave 93 men and women Wild Turkey bourbon or Absolut vodka mixed with caffeine-free Coke until their blood-alcohol level reached .1. They were also called back on another night, getting non-alcoholic drinks (no one was fooled). Then they put them to bed in a sleep lab.

According to the lab readings, the men slept just as soundly after drinking alcohol as they did when they were sober. The women, by contrast, slept 20 fewer minutes woke up in the middle of the night more often and for longer periods when they had alcohol in their system.

Most participants felt less rested following the night of drinking, however. "Both sexes thought that sleep quality was worse after alcohol," said lead author J. Todd Arnedt.

This is the first study to show that the same level of intoxication affects women's sleep more than men's. Although the researchers aren't sure why, it could be because women's bodies clear alcohol from the bloodstream more quickly.

"Most of the early literature focused on men," said Arnedt. "But we predicted that sleep would be worse in women because women metabolize alcohol quite differently."

Sleep disruption has been linked to alcoholism and to relapse among those who are trying to overcome their addiction. Further research should try to clarify how alcohol-related sleep problems may contribute to problem drinking.

"Some women who experience disrupted sleep from alcohol may be less likely to use alcohol in larger quantities, others may be more likely," Arnedt said. "Determining the role of sleep in who does and does not go on to develop problem drinking, for example, is a question of considerable scientific interest."

The study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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