Women, alcohol, and sleep

Science Magazine reports on a new study that shows alcohol affects women’s sleep more than men’s.

It’s long been known that alcohol can deepen sleep during the early part of the night but disrupt sleep later in the night, something called the “rebound effect.” But there’s been little research into how alcohol’s effects on sleep may differ in women and men.

This study included 59 women and 34 men in their 20s who consumed either alcohol until they were drunk or a non-alcoholic beverage before they went to bed. Researchers then monitored the participants’ sleep.

Women who consumed alcohol had fewer hours of sleep, woke more frequently and for more minutes during the night, and had more disrupted sleep compared to men who drank alcohol.

In my own life, sadly, it’s true that alcohol radically affects my sleep. And because I love sleep more than anything, I’ve practically given up wine. I blogged about my experience with drinking and sleep here, “No Wining, It’s Bedtime” on Drinking Diaries, a great site that “serves as a forum for women to share, vent, express, and discuss their drinking stories without judgment.”

Drinking and parenting

I have not read The Three Martini Playdate, but the title cracks me up. Even though it makes me laugh, drinking and parenting don’t work for me.

In Nora Ephron’s last book, I Feel Bad About My Neck there’s  a piece called “What I Wish I’d Known.” I just reread her hilarious list, reprinted in an anthology called  I Found This Funny edited by Judd Apatow. One of Ephron’s maxims: “The reason you’re waking up in the middle of the night is the second glass of wine.”

My last blog post was about sleeping. I love sleeping. Love it. I think it’s the best thing ever. I love my bed, I love being in my bed. I think a lot of parents fetishize sleep. Ephron is right, alcohol messes with my sleep, even just a little bit of it. When I don’t sleep, I get cranky. Then I yell at my kids and feel guilty and horrible.

Not only am I meaner when I’m sleepless, I’m less productive. I’m self-employed, and I need to be highly motivated  to get anything done. I started a non-profit, and I can’t just show up for work and slog through. I’m also a writer, and I have little desire to write when I’m sleepless or hungover. I know lots of writers, incredibly famous and successful ones, have managed it: Hemingway (though he shot himself in the head) Faulkner, Mary Karr (though she got sober) But not me. Not with three little kids. Of course, lots of factors contribute to exhaustion. Some are just very easy to eliminate.

I’m sure lots of people can handle drinking a glass of wine or two–jeez– and many parents probably find kids less tiring than I do. I can’t imagine being a preschool teacher or kindergarten teacher, for example. I think I’d last about one hour. I adore my children,  but they’re energy suckers. Or maybe something more symbiotic, less parasite sounding. My kids make me incredibly happy, but I need to choose very carefully what else I allow in my life or I wouldn’t be able to do much else but amble through the day.

Not drinking makes me happier, nicer, more patient, and more motivated. It’s very possible I won’t always feel this way, but right now it’s working for me.