How does alcohol affect your sleep?

Like a few beers or a couple of glasses of wine on an evening? While they might help you feel relaxed, they won't help your body recover from the day, says James Witts. Here he explains how alcohol affects your sleep and recovery from training

Alcohol affects your sleep quality in a number of ways

Alcohol affects your sleep quality, quantity and ability to recover in a number of ways says James Witts.  For while alcohol might (temporarily) ease emotions, it’s harming your sleep and adaptation to training.


The greatest recovery tool you have is sleep. Sadly, alcohol impacts the REM part of the sleep cycle. This is the mentally restorative part and is why studies have shown athlete decision-making drops after three days of poor sleep. Another hit comes from human growth hormone (HGH) – or lack of. Muscle development relies on HGH secretion; in fact 95% of it’s produced during slow-wave sleep. Again, alcohol inhibits this process.

Then, of course, you have the well-known fact that alcohol’s a diuretic, meaning your kidney produces more urine. This provides a double-whammy of badness for the triathlete as not only does training dehydrated result in lower power output, a higher heart rate and a threat to your immune system, it also means a night-time visit to the loo.

And while there are 7cals per gramme of alcohol, none of it can be converted to glycogen so it’s no use to exercise at all. Right, where’s the Kaliber…? 


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