Why Do You Wake Up Early After Drinking?

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. [Read our full health disclaimer]

Updated on September 22, 2023

Is it Saturday night, and you’ve been waking up for what seems like trillions of times? Well, of course you will have a weird wake-up pattern when you drink the night away.

Excessive alcohol consumption can cause many sleep disorders like sleep apnea and can also contribute to poor sleep quality and reduced REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you keep waking up after drinking, keep waking up early, or have similar sleep problems, this article will clarify why.

Why Do I Wake Up Early After Drinking Alcohol?

If you’ve ever wondered why you wake up early after a night of drinking, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the long-term effects of alcohol may involve sleep disturbances. But, the most commonly felt short-term consequence is waking up early and unrested.

The Rebound Effect

It’s all due to a phenomenon known as the rebound effect. Well, that might be an overstatement as there are numerous factors at play, but simply put, once alcohol is metabolized in your body, you need to sort of “readapt” to its absence, causing sleep disruption. 

In less simple terms, that readaptation is due to the fact that while your body metabolizes alcohol in the first half of the night, it also suppresses REM sleep to do so more easily. Since sleep consists of interchanging cycles of REM and non-REM (or deep sleep), by suppressing REM, your body is thrown off-track.

Once alcohol is completely metabolized (usually 4 to 5 hours after sleep onset), in the second half of the night, certain physiological variables like the one we mentioned above tend to change. This change is what the rebound effect essentially is.

In a nutshell – that’s it, but let’s take a look at other particulars that impact sleep when drunk.

Glutamine Rush

Glutamine helps in boosting the immune system and performs various roles in the human body. Alcohol intake inhibits the production of glutamine. So, the body ends up using the existing, already available glutamine. 

Once the glutamine reserves have been depleted, your body starts to produce glutamine. This unusual production of glutamine at night increases brain activity, waking you up from a good night’s sleep.

You Need to Pee

The other point is much simpler; of course, you’ve been drinking alcohol, and alcohol is a diuretic. So now, you might have to run some extra rounds to the bathroom to get rid of all the liquids the body’s expelling, thus contributing to weird sleep patterns.

Alcohol Can Affect Your Upper Respiratory System

Alcohol contains a sedative chemical known as ethanol, which is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. That means that it can relax your upper respiratory system, making you snore or even experience sleep apnea after prolonged use of alcohol before sleeping. 

But Why Do I Feel Sleepy After Drinking?


As we mentioned, once REM sleep is suppressed, your natural sleep cycles will also be disturbed. Another important factor in this sleep disturbance, also taking part in the rebound phenomenon, is adenosine. 

As soon as you consume alcohol, adenosine levels increase. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain, so naturally, you get sleepy at first. This may lead you to the conclusion that a nightcap is a good idea, but it isn’t exactly so.

Even in the sleep-wake cycle, the body strives to maintain homeostasis. Adenosine levels are known to naturally decrease during sleep, which leads to a normal sleep-wake cycle. However, alcohol causes yet another disturbance by offsetting, or in this case, introducing extracellular adenosine

In short, an earlier-than-usual increase of adenosine may result in an earlier decrease as well, causing you to wake up sooner than you would’ve without drinking alcohol. That – paired with irregular sleep cycles – is simply not a winning combination.

What Are the Consequences of Waking up Early After Drinking?

This one is a no-brainer. After a night of low-quality shut-eye, it’s only natural that you’ll feel groggy in the morning. You’re probably familiar with the symptoms of a hangover as well. Feelings of irritability, headaches, fatigue, and perhaps even nausea (being hungover), paired with not getting enough sleep is never good and will most likely negatively impact your whole day.

As you’ve probably realized by now, it’s never one single thing that goes into your alcohol-induced sleep disturbance; it’s more of a snowball effect. So, how do you alleviate the avalanche?

How Do I Stop Waking up Early After Drinking?

The most straightforward solution would be to cut out the root cause: just stop drinking (too much). However, we know that this is easier said than done, so the next thing you can do is create a sleep-friendly environment. That way, even if you do end up inebriated, your sleep quality won’t be as affected. 

If you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night after drinking, try to limit or completely avoid using mobile phones or other digital devices. Their screens emit blue light that disrupts melatonin production leading to disturbed sleep cycles and circadian rhythm. 

The next step would be to make your room as dark as possible. Blackout curtains or blinds can help you in that regard, but you could also use a sleeping mask.

A lot of us are used to sleeping in noisy environments, but even the noise that doesn’t wake you up can have an impact on your sleep quality.

Last but not least, keep the temperature in your bedroom cool or at least colder than usual.

We could go on and on with relaxation techniques and OTC sleep medicine suggestions, but neither would really be feasible (or advised) when drunk.

Final Words

Hopefully, this article has answered all your questions about why you wake up early after drinking. In addition to avoiding poor sleep, you should also be aware of how much alcohol you can drink safely and avoid a hangover.

If you have been facing sleeping problems after drinking alcohol, you should consider trying some of the tips we mentioned in this article. If you have severe symptoms and mental health problems related to alcohol and sleep, make sure to contact a health professional right away.

Bree Taylor - Lead Editor

Lead Editor

Bree is an interior designer with a passion for helping people improve their sleep quality.

She specializes in creating comfortable and functional bedroom spaces that promote a good night’s rest.

When she’s not testing mattresses or helping people get the best rest possible, Bree loves to travel and explore new cultures.

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