This Article is From May 05, 2020

Increased Stress, Disturbed Sleep And Other Risks Associated With Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Excess intake of alcohol can result in chemical imbalance which can lower your immunity and affect your sleep. It increases anxiety, which is especially damaging during the ongoing lockdown period.

Increased Stress, Disturbed Sleep And Other Risks Associated With Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Regular intake of alcohol can disrupt your sleep

Highlights

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol can harm your health
  • It can disrupt your sleep and increase anxiety
  • Alcohol can reduce alertness in the body

We are all aware of the fact that alcohol consumption needs to be limited. But how often do we really follow it? If you have been drinking more than usual or if you are drinking every day, then this article can provide you with some important insights. Nutritionist Pooja Makhija recently took to Instagram to talk about how drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can increase anxiety, disturb sleep and increase your stress levels. All of these side effects can definitely make survival during lockdown more difficult.

Risks of drinking too much alcohol

In an IGTV, Makhija talks about the thin line between alcohol acting as a reliever of anxiety and the one that triggers anxiety and causes hangover. "While we are all stuck at home and there's nowhere to go, there has been an uptake in alcohol consumption, even though we are not visiting bars. People are having happy hours happening on zoom calls, some have begun drinking earlier in the day, all in order to curb lockdown stress and unwind," she says in the video.

Also read: Is Alcohol Consumption Linked To Heart Disease: Let's Find Out

Imbalance of neurotransmitters

She goes on to explain what happens when you drink alcohol in moderate quantities, and when you go overboard with tis consumption. "Our central nervous system works on the basis of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help in firing up neurons, which helps in transmission of data in thinking, processing and action. There are also neurotransmitters that calm us and slow us down," she says.

When it comes to alcohol, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate are two neurotransmitters involved. "GABA has a calming effect on our system. Glutamate, on the other hand, triggers physical action or thoughts. Alcohol mimics action of GABA in the GABA receptors, which results in a calming effect on the body. But this occurs only when you consume alcohol in moderate amounts," Makhija explains.

But, when you drink regularly and in increased amounts, alcohol suppresses glutamate levels. It is the reason that drunk driving needs to be avoided because our senses are not alert enough to see in all directions and act swiftly. Glutamate also plays a role in learning and memory. As alcohol suppresses it, one is not able to remember several events from the time of binge drinking or over drinking.

"Our brain does not like this chemical imbalance of low glutamate and high GABA and tries to clear it up. However, we don't feel anything till them we are under the influence of alcohol."

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Alcohol can disturb balance of neurotransmitters in the body
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: Yet Another Good Reason To Eat This Green Veggie: Treats Alcohol And Mood Disorders

Disturbed sleep

Alcohol also disrupts your sleep. During first half of your sleep, one may sleep, but it is not deep sleep (Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep). This is also important for memory formation. In the latter half of your sleep, the effect of alcohol wears off from the body. "In this phase, you wake up feeling restless and cannot sleep well. Therefore, you may end up sleeping for longer hours but wake up tired the next day," she explains in the video.

Stress

In the next day, nervous system tries to fix what was wrong. It releases cortisol, which is also the stress hormone, to clear the mess created by low glutamate and high GABA transmission. "Now, glutamate levels increase and GABA levels come down. This is what is known as han (hangover-induced)-anxiety. This is why during a hangover, a person feels irritable and edgy."

The idea is to understand that excessively drinking alcohol can result in chemical imbalance which can lower your immunity and affect your sleep. It increases anxiety, which is especially damaging during the ongoing lockdown period.

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Regulat intake of alcohol can cause stress and anxiety
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: Use Mindfulness To Beat Stress: Here Are 5 Different Ways

Limit alcohol consumption to once or twice a week. Avoid it entirely if possible because no amount of alcohol is actually good for your body.

Stay indoors and stay safe everyone!

(Pooja Makhija is a nutritionist, dietitian and author)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.