How Long Should You Wait Between Drinking Alcohol and Going to Bed?

Nightcaps May Fragment Sleep and Contribute to Insomnia and Snoring

Alcohol near bedtime may contribute to insomnia. Annabelle Breakey/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you drink alcohol late and have trouble falling or staying asleep, symptoms that characterize insomnia, you might wonder: How long should I wait between my last alcoholic drink and going to bed? Whether it is beer, wine, or hard liquors, learn how much time should elapse after your last drink before bedtime and what symptoms you might experience if you don’t wait long enough before going to sleep.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Sleep

Alcohol has a dual relationship with sleep: it can make us feel sleepy initially while intoxicated and it can disturb our sleep as it wears off. The former characteristic led to alcohol’s frequent use as a nightcap, meant to assist in the transition to sleep. However, alcohol is a muscle relaxant. This can contribute to relaxation of the airway and worsen snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, alcohol has a short half-life, meaning that it wears off quickly. As the blood alcohol levels drop, decreasing through metabolism by the liver, this can contribute to sleep fragmentation and awakenings.

How Long to Wait Between Your Last Drink and Bedtime?

It is recommended that alcohol not be consumed in the last 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.

This timing actually varies somewhat based on your own rate of alcohol metabolism, which depends on the function of your liver, your body weight, ethnicity, and sex.

It also matters how many servings of alcohol have been consumed.

As a general rule of thumb, it takes 1 hour for one serving of alcohol to be metabolized. Therefore, if you have a couple of drinks, you will want the last to be at least several hours before bedtime to avoid impacting your sleep.

If despite changing when you consume alcohol you continue to have difficult falling or staying asleep, speak with a sleep specialist about ways to help you to sleep better.


Healthy Sleep Tips.” National Sleep Foundation. Last accessed: November 22, 2014.

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