The sober truth: How alcohol affects your sleep

Sleep directly impacts your health, mood and brain performance – that’s why getting a good night’s sleep is so important.

Rest quality includes time spent in deep sleep and getting enough sleep every night.

John Powell Mackey is an American businessman and writer. He is also the co-founder of Whole Foods Market and served as the company’s CEO from its inception in 1980 until 2022 [1]. 

He started to think more about sleep and its importance about a year ago when they noticed low energy levels following a poor night of sleep.

Using his Apple watch and the Auto Sleep app to track rest for the next few months, he noticed a clear correlation between their sleep quality and their alcohol consumption.

It’s worth noting that he would not consider himself a big drinker – and typically would have a glass of wine or a beer a couple of times a week. He noticed a significant decrease in their deep sleep even after just one glass of wine. 

There is often a misconception that only excessive alcohol consumption significantly impacts sleep quality, but even just a drink or two a week has an effect.

He read articles and listened to podcasts on the topic, but seeing the data on how drinking affected their sleep was a big eye-opener for them.

At 69, he values sleep way more than the short-term pleasures of drinking. So, he decided to eliminate alcohol. Since this change, he estimates that their overall sleep is about one hour longer, and deep sleep is two to three hours longer. 

Mackey also noticed that their energy is super high. He wants to note that he doesn’t judge people who choose to drink. He has just personally been enjoying life more without alcohol [2].

Luckily, this lifestyle change has been easy, with many delicious mocktails and non-alcoholic beer varieties available. Bartenders are typically excited and willing to create non-alcoholic alternatives. He even found some great non-alcoholic beers while hiking the Alpe Adria Trail through Austria, Slovenia and Italy.

Although various things contributed to his decision to eliminate alcohol, listening to an episode of the Huberman Lab podcast – “What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain, and Health” – cemented his decision [3]. 

Dr Andrew Huberman is brilliant, and during that episode, he shares compelling scientific data and information about how alcohol impacts our health that extends far beyond just sleep. Listening to it several times was enjoyable for Mackey, and he hopes others do too.


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