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Caffeine, alcohol, and the holidays (12/23/10)

December 23, 2010

What Will You Do This Year?

What do people do during the holidays? Many will drink too much and eat too much (please see the recent article  “Don’t Stuff the Wrong Turkey” for help controlling excess eating.)  What else do lots of us do?

Stay up late with relatives and friends, talking and drinking – which means many use caffeine late at night.

The end result – you may need a whole new vacation to recover from the holidays.

To avoid feeling wiped out after January  1st, here are a few tips you might use:


Alcohol relentlessly denatures sleep.  It makes people snore more.  Sleep apnea get worse – sometimes to the point, with heavy, heavy drinking, of respiratory failure.  Normal folks will generally not recognize it, but alcohol usually adds another 15-20 extra arousals to the night. Over prolonged use it creates many insomniacs. It’s liquid fat – causing rapid weight gain.  It’s liquid fat –  making blood lipids go up, particularly at night.  It can make people irritable and angry just as it makes them sleepless.  It can foul up glucose metabolism, and make you less able to avoid colds and other infections.

If You Do Drink –

Alcohol’s effects change dramatically through the day.  It is metabolized far more effectively in the evening than late at night.  The effects at midnight will be two to three times as great as at 6 P.M.

So if you drink, drink earlier.  Drink slowly. And after you drink, move around.

Walk. Talk and converse. Notice what you’re drinking,  making sure that you drink slowly and evenly, paying particular attention to what stimuli make you drink move.

If you move after drinking; drink slowly; check what you’re drinking; drink in the evening and not the night, you’ll help control the many effects of alcohol on your waistline, your mood, and your sleep.


Most people love coffee or tea – the tastes, the pharmaceutical effects, the social ambience.  Beyond aiding the long reign of the British Empire, tea remains a way throughout the world to socially engage. Coffeehouses have sparked philosophical and political revolutions.

Yet caffeine plus alcohol is a different issue.  Many young drinkers like combining highly caffeinated drinks like Red Bull with vodka because they frequently don’t notice the effects of the alcohol – until it’s too late. Police around the world attest to the increase in tension and violence alcohol plus caffeine produces.

So you don’t want to drink alcohol and coffee around the same time. Both will interfere with sleep.  Caffeine may also increase some of the ill effects of alcohol through its effects on that drug’s pharmacokinetics.

And caffeine lasts a long time. If you’re staying up with relatives to talk, and having your cup of coffee or tea at 10 PM, you may end up sleeping woefully little.

So as with alcohol, if you will drink caffeinated drinks, drink them rather early during the day. Often you will not need even your usual cup  – the stimulation of family and friends will prove sufficient to keep you alert. On the other hand, caffeine may be just the thing in the early afternoon following a long drive, keeping you sharp for the evening’s festivities.  But remember – caffeine’s average half life inside your body is 5 hours.  After a late afternoon or evening cup, it may stay with you all through the night.  That will lighten sleep, which will make you less bright eyed and bushy tailed the next day(s).


Caffeine is a highly useful drug, and is, in some cases, so is alcohol – but both can interfere with rest.  Rest rebuilds your body, and is necessary to life as food.

So try to rest through the holidays.  Rest socially, rest spiritually, and rest mentally.  Holidays are meant to revive and rebuild you.  And that is what rest is – the process by which your body rebuilds itself, using the way it’s built.

We’re designed to do certain things at certain times – and that’s still true during the holidays.  That’s one way to enjoy them more.

Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

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