Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use

Alcohol Res Health. 2001;25(2):101-9.


The study of alcohol's effects on sleep dates back to the late 1930s. Since then, an extensive literature has described alcohol's effects on the sleep of healthy, nonalcoholic people. For example, studies found that in nonalcoholics who occasionally use alcohol, both high and low doses of alcohol initially improve sleep, although high alcohol doses can result in sleep disturbances during the second half of the nocturnal sleep period. Furthermore, people can rapidly develop tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol. Researchers have investigated the interactive effects of alcohol with other determinants of daytime sleepiness. Such studies indicate that alcohol interacts with sleep deprivation and sleep restriction to exacerbate daytime sleepiness and alcohol-induced performance impairments. Alcohol's effects on other physiological functions during sleep have yet to be documented thoroughly and unequivocally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Melatonin / blood
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology


  • Ethanol
  • Prolactin
  • Melatonin