Nighty nightcap

Skip the booze for better sleep.

woman trying to sleep with beer

Source: Shutterstock, Blake Dinsdale

Published on Show Me Mizzou Dec. 16, 2022
Story by Tony Rehagen, BA, BJ ’01

For years, Mahesh Thakkar heard friends and colleagues casually mention having a drink or two at night to help them sleep. As a professor and director of research in the Department of Neurology who has studied sleep-wake cycles, Thakkar decided to test the efficacy of a nightcap cocktail. He found that alcohol provides the opposite of a good night’s rest.

“If you take alcohol one time, you’ll have nice sleep,” Thakkar says. “But if you take it regularly, you’ll need more and more to get that same sleep.”

The study, which was published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, found that drinking not only starts a cycle of increased consumption that can lead to alcoholism, but also that it actually disrupts sleep homeostasis, triggering insomnia and sleep disruptions. “You might get a good sleep for a couple of hours,” Thakkar says. “But you’ll have problems during the second half of the night.”

Next, Thakkar plans to apply this work to develop a treatment for people with PTSD who drink to go to sleep.

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