You may not notice yourself snoring, but your partner probably does. If your partner points out that you have a problem with snoring after drinking alcohol, it’s not a coincidence. Alcohol is linked to snoring, even in people who never snore for any other reasons. If you drink regularly before bed, this is an issue you should be aware of. You don’t want your sleep quality to suffer, and you don’t want your partner to be kept awake all night with the sound of your snores.
How Alcohol Causes Snoring
Alcohol is a muscle relaxant, so it can affect the muscles in your neck, jaw, and mouth. While it’s good to relax while sleeping to a certain extent, if the muscles around your throat relax too much, you may have difficulty breathing.
Your throat may lose muscle tone and collapse in on itself, or your tongue may fall over your airway. Then, as you inhale, the air rushes past these tissues, which makes them vibrate loudly. This is what creates the snoring sound.
Alcohol and snoring are also both linked to your inspiratory resistance, which is the amount of resistance your muscles have to work against to get you to breathe. Everyone’s inspiratory resistance increases while they sleep. The greater your resistance, the higher your chances are of snoring. If you’re a regular snorer, your inspiratory resistance is about four times greater.
Alcohol increases this resistance, too. Even just one or two drinks can double your inspiratory resistance, which is especially risky for people who are already prone to snoring. Your airways will be more constricted, so the air will have to flow faster to supply enough oxygen to your body. When the air moves faster, it will make the tissues in your throat vibrate.
Should You Be Worried?
Almost everyone snores occasionally, and most people drink once in a while. If you only snore occasionally, you probably have nothing to worry about. You may feel more tired than usual in the morning, and your partner may complain about the snoring. It’s not a serious issue, though.
On the other hand, if you snore regularly and drink most nights, it could be taking a toll on your health. The alcohol might be making you snore, or it might be making your snoring problem worse. Snoring and alcohol can both affect the quality of your sleep, so you may feel excessively tired, irritable, or foggy most of the time. In this case, drinking before you go to bed is a habit that you should try to break.
Facts About Snoring and Alcohol Consumption
Snoring and alcohol have a close but complicated relationship.
Why You Get Hangovers
Most hangover symptoms are caused by dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it flushes out the fluids in your body. When you’re dehydrated, your body can’t get rid of the metabolites that are left after it processes the alcohol. This leads to nausea, dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
Alcohol also irritates the stomach lining and affects the muscles in the esophagus, which can cause acid reflux. It can lower your blood sugar, too, which will make you feel weak, dizzy, and fatigued.
Poor sleep, especially if you snore, can make a hangover much worse. After a few drinks, you may want to stay up late and keep having a good time. However, if you have to get up early the next morning, the lack of sleep will have a big effect on how you feel. The quality of your sleep matters as well. Even if you get eight hours of sleep, you won’t feel good in the morning if you toss and turn all night.
Does Alcohol Affect Your Sleep Quality?
It may seem like having a drink or two before bed helps you sleep better, but it actually has a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Alcohol disturbs your sleep cycle and prevents you from getting enough deep sleep. After drinking, you’ll spend more time in the NREM, or non-rapid eye movement, stage of the sleep cycle. This takes away from the time you’d normally spend in the REM stage, which is where you get deeper and more restful sleep.
After drinking, your brain fires alpha waves and delta waves at the same time. Delta waves help clear out unimportant memories and replenish your neurons, which lets your brain rest and restore itself. Alpha waves usually only occur while you’re awake. When both of these waves occur at the same time, it shows that your sleep is disrupted.
Alcohol and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night. It’s caused by airway obstruction, so most people with sleep apnea also have a snoring problem. When you snore, the tissues in your mouth and throat partially block your airway. When you have sleep apnea, the tissues cover up your throat entirely and prevent you from breathing. Then, your brain forces you to wake up to breathe. This process can happen dozens or even hundreds of times every night, so sleep apnea can have a terrible effect on your sleep quality.
Alcohol can cause sleep apnea or can worsen an already-existing case of the sleep disorder. This occurs for the same reason that alcohol causes snoring. It makes the muscles in the throat relax, which increases the chances of the tissues collapsing and blocking the airway.
Alcohol also lengthens the period of time that you stop breathing. After a night of drinking, it may take several seconds longer for you to wake up after your breathing stops. Every second that you’re not breathing has an effect on your oxygen levels and your overall health. You may wake up feeling more weak, drowsy, or irritable than usual because you’ve gotten even less oxygen into your body overnight.
How to Minimize Snoring After Drinking Alcohol
If your snoring gets worse after drinking alcohol, the best way to fix the problem is to avoid drinking before bed. It can be hard to break the habit of having a nightcap, but it will help you sleep better, which will make you feel better in the morning.
If you do want to drink at night, here are a few tricks you can try to minimize your snoring:
Tyrosine is a chemical compound found in some types of red wine. Many people are allergic to this substance but don’t realize it.
If you notice that your snoring issues are worse after drinking red wine than after drinking other types of alcohol, you may have a tyrosine allergy. The allergy is usually mild, but it can cause inflammation or irritation, which can worsen your snoring.
Food and Water
Eating a meal before drinking is a great way to slow down your body’s absorption of the alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach can make the effects of alcohol much worse, and it can cause a severe hangover. To prevent alcohol from affecting you too much and making you snore, wait to drink until after you’ve eaten dinner. Eating a small snack while you’re drinking can help, too.
However, you shouldn’t eat right before you go to bed. The digestion process can cause your throat muscles to relax, so late-night eating can have a similar effect on your snoring as alcohol. You may experience acid reflux or indigestion when trying to sleep right after eating a large meal as well.
Drinking water is another good way to minimize the effects of alcohol on your body. It won’t necessarily make your body absorb the alcohol more slowly, but it will keep you hydrated and energized. Try to drink a glass of water between every alcoholic drink. This will make you more mindful of your alcohol consumption and will force you to slow down your drinking.
Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your back increases your risk of snoring regardless of how much alcohol you’ve had. When you sleep on your back, gravity pulls on the tissues in your throat and can make them collapse. Instead, you should try sleeping on your side.
This is a habit that can take a while to develop if you’re used to sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your side is good for your back and neck, so you should try it out even on nights that you don’t drink. To stop yourself from rolling onto your back while you sleep, you can place a body pillow behind you.
You could also try the tennis ball method, which involves sewing a tennis ball into the back of your pajama shirt. Whenever you roll onto your back, the tennis ball will feel so uncomfortable that you’ll have to roll back onto your side.
For a quick fix after a night of drinking, you can use a snoring mouthpiece. These devices positions your mouth, tongue, and jaw in a way that keeps the airway open, so you can breathe normally throughout the night. One popular option is a mandibular advancement device, or MAD, which pulls your lower jaw forward to create more space in the airway. Another effective mouthpiece is a tongue stabilizing device, or TSD, which holds your tongue forward and prevents it from collapsing over your throat.
Many people have been very successful with snoring mouthpieces. They’re easy to use, and you can bring them with you when you travel. Keep in mind, though, that they’re a short-term solution. They only work for as long as you use them, so lifestyle changes are generally better. However, if you’ve already consumed alcohol and know that you’ll have a snoring problem, mouthpieces are a good way to sleep better and prevent waking your partner up with your snores.
Snoring after drinking alcohol is common but it can have serious consequences if it happens to you regularly. It could even develop into sleep apnea, which can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and a number of other health conditions. Snoring once in a while is normal, but regular snorers should always look for ways to minimize the problem.