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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have been having a problem staying asleep. I heard that a brandy before bed helps? Is this a good idea?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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August 21, 2014
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That’s a common myth. Many people think that a little nightcap will help them sleep soundly through the night.

Here’s why it’s not a good idea:

Yes, brandy and other alcoholic beverages can make you drowsy. So you might fall asleep easier. But alcohol also has other effects that can later wake you up and interfere with quality sleep.

Several hours after that nightcap, the alcohol raises your body’s level of epinephrine. This is a stress hormone that increases the heart rate and generally stimulates the body. The result — nighttime awakenings. Alcohol may account for 10% of cases of persistent insomnia.

Alcohol also relaxes throat muscles. This relaxation can make sleep-related breathing problems worse. And it can even contribute to sleep apnea. Alcohol may also increase the need to urinate during the night. Yet another way in which it can disrupt sleep.

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