Daily Archives: 11/02/2014

Drinking, sleep and dreams

I didn’t use to go to sleep after drinking but more often than not passed out cold into a disappointingly pathetic version of restorative sleep.  I would wake feeling like not only had I not slept but that I could sleep another full night again then and there.  It was shockingly poor quality sleep and for a girl, who after years of doing shift work, could sleep standing up in broad daylight this was unhappy making indeed.  Having a drink to help you sleep is the biggest misnomer on the planet!

In those days I didn’t really dream as have nightmares and these were vivid and frightening with periods of sleep paralysis. This is because what I was experiencing was a waking dream condition called the hypnagogic state induced by a night of heavy drinking.  This was a compensatory REM period to replace the normal stages of sleep, including normal REM sleep which dreaming is a by-product of.

The sleep cycle progresses through four stages, starting with stage one or alpha sleep.  If undisturbed sleep then moves through stage two and three to delta or slow-wave sleep at stage four.  Both REM and slow-wave sleep are believed to be necessary for the brain and body to recuperate and function at optimal levels the next day and the average person spends about 25% of the night in this restorative sleep.  Because I was anaethetising myself rather than falling asleep I was missing the normal stages of sleep and hence the not feeling rested.

Nowadays I sleep like a baby and have only just experienced a drinking dream that was close enough to waking as to be remembered.  My dream involved me drinking cider even though I knew that I had stopped and not only did I feel awful in the dream for doing so I awoke with this strange sense of guilt.  The relief of knowing that it was only a dream was huge and it is the first nightmare that I have experienced in almost 5 months.  Funny that as it is almost 5 months since I quit 😉