Sleep following alcohol intoxication in healthy, young adults: effects of sex and family history of alcoholism

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2011 May;35(5):870-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01417.x. Epub 2011 Feb 15.


Background: This study evaluated sex and family history of alcoholism as moderators of subjective ratings of sleepiness/sleep quality and polysomnography (PSG) following alcohol intoxication in healthy, young adults.

Methods: Ninety-three healthy adults [mean age 24.4 ± 2.7 years, 59 women, 29 subjects with a positive family history of alcoholism (FH+)] were recruited. After screening PSG, participants consumed alcohol (sex/weight adjusted dosing) to intoxication [peak breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) of 0.11 ± 0.01 g% for men and women] or matching placebo between 20:30 and 22:00 hours. Sleep was monitored using PSG between 23:00 and 07:00 hours. Participants completed the Stanford Sleepiness Scale and Karolinska Sleepiness Scale at bedtime and on awakening and a validated post-sleep questionnaire.

Results: Following alcohol, total sleep time, sleep efficiency, nighttime awakenings, and wake after sleep onset were more disrupted in women than men, with no differences by family history status. Alcohol reduced sleep onset latency, sleep efficiency, and rapid eye movement sleep while increasing wakefulness and slow wave sleep across the entire night compared with placebo. Alcohol also generally increased sleep consolidation in the first half of the night, but decreased it during the second half. Sleepiness ratings were higher following alcohol, particularly in women at bedtime. Morning sleep quality ratings were lower following alcohol than placebo.

Conclusions: Alcohol intoxication increases subjective sleepiness and disrupts sleep objectively more in healthy women than in men, with no differences evident by family history of alcoholism status. Evaluating moderators of alcohol effects on sleep may provide insight into the role of sleep in problem drinking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Alcoholic Beverages* / adverse effects
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / complications
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / genetics*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Young Adult