This review provides a qualitative assessment of all known scientific studies on the impact of alcohol ingestion on nocturnal sleep in healthy volunteers. At all dosages, alcohol causes a reduction in sleep onset latency, a more consolidated first half sleep and an increase in sleep disruption in the second half of sleep. The effects on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in the first half of sleep appear to be dose related with low and moderate doses showing no clear trend on REM sleep in the first half of the night whereas at high doses, REM sleep reduction in the first part of sleep is significant. Total night REM sleep percentage is decreased in the majority of studies at moderate and high doses with no clear trend apparent at low doses. The onset of the first REM sleep period is significantly delayed at all doses and appears to be the most recognizable effect of alcohol on REM sleep followed by the reduction in total night REM sleep. The majority of studies, across dose, age and gender, confirm an increase in slow wave sleep (SWS) in the first half of the night relative to baseline values. The impact of alcohol on SWS in the first half of night appears to be more robust than the effect on REM sleep and does not appear to be an epiphenomenon REM sleep reduction. Total night SWS is increased at high alcohol doses across gender and age groups.
Copyright © 2013 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.