Sleep deprivation is regarded by researchers as an underappreciated global health problem. Alcohol is frequently used at night to aid in sleep and caffeine during the day to keep people awake when they have sleep problems. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine discovered that users of both drugs did not feel as though their quality of sleep had decreased. Scientists surmise that this misguided perception could set off an unconscious cycle of self-medication that results in restless nights. Researchers believe that sleep deprivation is an underappreciated global health issue. Studies from the past indicate that symptoms of insomnia affect about one-third of people worldwide. Furthermore, up to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Caffeinated beverages are frequently consumed during the day by people who experience daytime fatigue due to inadequate sleep. These same individuals might also use alcohol as a sleep aid at night. This new research, which looks at how using alcohol and caffeine affects overall sleep, is the first of its kind and was just published in the journal PLOS ONE. Even though each substance lowers perceived sleep quality when studied separately, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine discovered that study participants who used alcohol at night and caffeine during the day did not perceive a reduction in their sleep quality.
Scientists surmise that this misguided perception could set off an unconscious cycle of self-medication that results in restless nights. Frank Song, lead author of this study and a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, notes that while previous research has shown people the detrimental effects of alcohol and caffeine on sleep, no study has examined the combined effects of the two substances on sleep as people go about their daily lives. A study on alcohol use that was released in October 2021 discovered that a higher alcohol intake was linked to shorter sleep duration and lower sleep quality. Alcohol is known to cause sleep disturbances in a number of ways, including aberrant circadian rhythms and an increase in breathing-related sleep disorders, according to research published in December 2019. Regarding caffeine consumption during the day, a September 2023 study found that caffeine can postpone the onset of REM sleep. Furthermore, studies have shown that prolonged caffeine use can impair the quality of a person’s sleep, even though it may help someone feel and stay awake during the day.
For this study, Song and his colleagues measured the sleep-related metrics and alcohol and caffeine consumption patterns of 17 male, full-time financial traders over the course of six weeks using digital daily surveying tools. “We decided to focus on financial traders since, as an investment analyst on Wall Street, I worked with many traders, and we know from research that this is an adult population that regularly consumes both caffeine and alcohol,” Song told Medical News Today. “They value alertness and mental acuity during the day, which I think represents the lifestyles of many working adults,” he said. “Also, their profession requires high attention and cognitive speed.”. When caffeine consumption was examined separately, researchers discovered that, on average, each cup consumed the day before decreased the amount of sleep that study participants reported getting. Based on earlier studies on caffeine and sleep, Song stated, “We had anticipated we would find an actual caffeine-induced decrease in sleep duration.”. The size of the reduction caught us off guard because it was greater than we had anticipated. Additionally, they discovered that individuals who had alcohol the night before reported, on average, a 3% decline in sleep quality with each drink. “This made sense to us because we had also predicted this decline based on what we learned from prior research on alcohol and sleep,” Song said.
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