Although most people enjoy beer, it doesn’t have the same effect on everybody. A good beer can cool you down, cheer you up, but also cause fatigue and drowsiness.
If you ever ask yourself – why does beer makes me sleepy, you are not the only one. Many beverages have such an effect on people, and beer is not an exception. So, let’s see what the problem is.
Alcohol Is a Depressant
Alcohol is a chemical substance that belongs to depressants. That means it affects the CNS (central nervous system) and slows it down. Once you drink one or more beverages, alcohol relaxes you and can cause drowsiness and lethargy.
Additionally, alcohol affects GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and Glutamate neurotransmitters, thus changing your feelings, decisions, and mood.
This fact is scientifically proven and widely known so much that a late-night drink even has a phrase name, a nightcap. Many people choose to have a drink before going to bed, thus using an alcoholic beverage as a sleep aid.
That is true for enjoying any alcoholic beverage, even beer. Keep in mind that even beers labeled non-alcoholic contain small amounts of alcohol.
Of course, the subjective experience of beer also depends on your current psychophysical condition. If you are tired, sleepless, or depressed at the time of drinking beer, it will only intensify that experience.
Hops Is a Natural Sedative
The brain’s reaction to alcohol in the body can be the reason why beer makes you sleepy. The strange fact is that many people become drowsy after a few beer sips, although it doesn’t happen after the wine, vodka, or whiskey consummation.
Well, alcohol is not the only culprit for such a condition. What sets beer apart from other categories of alcoholic beverages is that it is rich in hops. Brewers use them to provide beer bitterness and flavor.
Unfortunately, hops flowers are known in folk medicine for centuries, thanks to their natural sedative effect. Moreover, herbalists use them to treat anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness. In the past, hop-filled pillows were a popular folk remedy for sleep improvement.
Besides, modern science has confirmed the sedative value of this plant. In one study, respondents, who were late-night workers, consumed a non-alcoholic beer rich in hops. The result was improved sleep and reduced anxiety in most subjects.
The hops’ effect on sleep can also explain why one type of beer can cause drowsiness more than another. Some brands offer beers with post-fermentation added hops. This method is called dry hopping.
Many breweries use it to improve the beer taste without excessive bitterness, but one of its possible side-effects is a high percentage of ABV (alcohol by volume). In other words, an IPA bottle can make you sleepier than drinking one blond lager.
Dehydration due to Alcohol Intake
One of the many harmful effects of alcohol on your body is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic that reduces the amount of fluid in the body, besides slowing down your CNS.
Dehydration happens because of decreased vasopressin secretion, a hormone responsible for water levels in the body. You probably know that most people go to the bathroom more often when they drink beer.
Still, how many of them drink a glass of water with that beer? Dehydration can have severe health consequences with symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness, and sleepiness.
Before you reach for a cup with coffee or an energy drink, remember that water is the only drink that actually raises the energy level in your body. The fact it makes up the highest percentage of beer doesn’t mean that it will provide sufficient hydration.
On the contrary, the more beer you drink, the less hydrated you will be because of losing fluids by sweating, urinating, and breathing. So, the next time you order a beer in a bar, ask for a glass of water on the side.
BAC and ABV Effect on Sleep
As I already mentioned, any alcoholic beverage, including beer, can make you sleepy. However, the beer effect on your body depends on the BAC (blood alcohol content). This measurement unit depends on several factors, such as physical characteristics, health, and drinks’ ABV (alcohol by volume).
In layman’s terms, a stronger beer will make you sleepy faster and more intensely than the one with a lower alcohol percentage. For example, a light, low-alcoholic beer with 4% ABV won’t make you sleepy like a heavy beer such as a stout or porter with 9% ABV.
Plus, women, elders, and people of lower-body build are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than the average built men.
Beer Intolerance Symptoms
If you felt perfectly well before the beer, but it makes you feel sleepy before you finish the bottle, something is wrong. You can try different beer styles (not the same night) to compare your body reactions to this beverage.
That way, you will know if there is a problem with a beer in general or with a specific product. Pay attention to whether you feel other intolerance symptoms such as skin rash, bloating, fatigue, and breathing problems.
If this is the case, your only option will be to restrain yourself from beer. Luckily, many people with beer intolerance feel repulsion the first time they try it, so giving up is not a big deal for them.
As I mentioned before, there is a chance only dry-hopped beer makes you sleepy, or you are sensitive just to those beers with high ABV value.
Brew has many nutrients and is beneficial to your health in many ways. So, check if you definitely have a problem with only a particular beer type or all of them before switching exclusively to other alcoholic beverages.
Beer Impact on Sleep Quality
Although beer can help you fall asleep faster and easier, sleep quality declines under the alcohol influence. Several things will happen over the night while your body breaks down alcohol. All of them will significantly affect your sleep.
1. Interrupted REM sleep
Ideally, your sleep goes through a 4-phase cycle, including three NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and one REM (rapid eye movement) stage when you dream. In the last phase, the heartbeat and breathing accelerate, while these automatic actions slowdown in the NREM stages.
Once you fall asleep after a few beers, the NREM phases will last longer. In such a case, the body won’t go through the REM cycle part, or it will end quicker. That leads to bad dreams, nightmares, and waking up with a headache, restlessness, and hangover.
2. Disrupted sleep/wake cycle
Your body regulates its circadian rhythm and the daily ratio of waking hours and hours of sleep, with hormones serotonin and melatonin. The first one raises energy levels and mood and regulates sleep order. Melatonin regulates your internal clock and causes drowsiness.
Both hormones reduce secretion when you are intoxicated. An unstable and shortened REM phase of sleep leads to a decrease in their level in the body, so you will wake up several times during the night, and welcome the morning feeling groggy.
3. Frequent urination
Your sleep will be interrupted by frequent visits to the toilet if you overdo it with beer. Ironically, soon after going back to bed, you will wake up again with dry lips and thirsty. Beer stimulates frequent urination while a dehydrated body requires more water. The result is a hard, strenuous night in which you wake up every ten minutes.
In addition to these problems, drinking alcohol can cause blackouts, worsen pre-existing sleep apnea, or lead to insomnia over time. Even a nightcap of one or two beers will permanently disrupt your sleep order if it becomes a daily habit.
Tips for Beer Drinking
Drowsiness can ruin your enjoyment of a good beer. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help you reduce this unpleasant effect:
- Drink in moderation – Experts recommend a maximum intake of one standard beverage a day for women and two for men, with a maximum of three times a week. Exaggeration can have momentary but also long-term consequences.
- Stay hydrated – Make it a habit to drink water between two beers. It will clear your head and boost your energy level.
- Eat well – Alcohol intake on an empty stomach is not recommended. The least you can do is to have some snacks before drinking the beer.
- Stay on the move – Unless you want to go to sleep, it is not a good idea to lie down on the couch with a beer in the evening, whether you are at a party or in your home. Get up, take a few steps, talk to other people. That way, the beer won’t make you sleepy immediately.
- Respect your limits – Beer doesn’t have the same effect on all people. If you know your body and know when it is enough drinking for you, you will avoid drunkenness and morning hangover.
Beer can make you sleepy for various reasons, including the hops it contains and your beer intolerance. It can also decrease the quality of your sleep permanently. It is crucial not to overdrink beer, have enough water, and avoid taking alcohol on an empty stomach.