Alcohol Disrupts Women's Sleep More

Female Drinkers Experience More Sleep Disruptions

Sleepless Woman
Alcohol Affects Women's Sleep More Than Men. © Getty Images

Although drinking alcohol may help you fall to sleep, alcohol consumption can actually disrupt your sleep later in the night resulting in fewer overall hours of sleep. Now there is research that shows this disruption of sleep is more pronounced for women than men.

Scientists believe this is because women metabolize alcohol differently than male drinkers.

University of Michigan researcher J. Todd Arnedt studied 59 women and 34 men who were given a placebo beverage or alcohol to the point of intoxication.

Their sleep was monitored from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. and they completed questionnaires before bedtime and after awakening.

Women Had Fewer Overall Hours of Sleep

Compared to the males in the study, the researchers found that the women:

  • Had fewer hours of sleep
  • Woke more frequently and for more minutes
  • Had more disrupted sleep.

More Alcohol, More Sleep Disruption

Few previous studies involving alcohol and sleep have included women. Arnedt's research confirmed the finding of earlier studies regarding alcohol's effect on sleep in both genders.

Previous research has found that drinking a little alcohol before sleeping can decrease the time needed to fall asleep, but can cause disruptions later during the second half of sleep. Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol before sleep, can decrease alcohol's sleep-inducing effects, while continuing to increase its disruptive effects.

Family History Not a Factor in Sleep Disruption

Other findings of the study included:

  • Family history of alcoholism was not a factor in sleep disruption.
  • Alcohol produced solid sleep in the first half of the night.
  • More wakefulness was reported in the second half.

"Our decision to examine family history was based on some observational studies showing different sleep characteristics among family-history positive participants compared to family-history negative participants," Arnedt said in a news release.

"Family-history positive individuals also seem to be more resistant to the acute intoxicating effects of alcohol than individuals without a family history of alcoholism."

But Arnedt's study found no differences between the two family-history groups in terms of sleep disruption.


Arnedt JT, et al "Sleep Following Alcohol Intoxication in Healthy, Young Adults: Effects of Sex and Family History of Alcoholism." Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research February 2011.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Alcohol and Sleep." Alcohol Alert No. 41 July 1998.

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