A nightcap might make you drowsy, but it probably won't improve your sleep. Alcohol is an anesthetic that depresses your central nervous system, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, a clinical professor at Stanford's sleep center
. As the sedative wears off, you're more likely to wake up in the middle of the night and then sleep fitfully. A small 2011 study found that when participants went to bed drunk (for some that is having the equivalent of three drinks in an hour), they had less REM sleep. They also woke frequently during the night, an effect that was more pronounced in women than in men. Since it takes at least an hour for your body to metabolize a standard drink, Pelayo suggests waiting one hour per drink before heading to bed. "Going to sleep sober is a healthier choice than nodding off with a buzz," Pelayo says. "You might sleep less, but the sleep you get will be far better."
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