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Countering the myth that alcohol can help a person sleep better, a small study indicates drinking interferes with the restorative functions of sleep.

Alcohol appears to interrupt sleep by disrupting the functioning of the nervous system, HealthDay reports. “It is generally believed that having a nightcap may aid sleep, especially sleep initiation,” researcher Seiji Nishino, Director of the Sleep & Circadian Neurobiology Laboratory at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a news release. “This may be true for some people who have small amounts of alcohol intake. However, it should be noted that large amounts of alcohol intake interfere with sleep quality and the restorative role of sleep and these negative consequences may be much larger during chronic alcohol intake.”

The study included 10 male university students who drank different amounts of alcohol before going to bed on three occasions, HealthDay reports. The researchers studied the participants’ heart rate during sleep. They found alcohol increased the heart rate and interfered with the restorative functions of sleep. The more a student drank, the greater the effect, the researchers report in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The researchers said clinicians who are treating physical and psychological disorders related to alcohol should consider the effects that habitual drinking can have on sleep.

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