Alcohol has a long-standing history in many customs, religions, and cultures. Some communities believe it is an art form and pass the brewing process down as a right of passage, while other communities believe that alcohol is sacred.
In most of today’s society alcohol is associated with friendship, socializing, and the much-needed icebreaker to build new friendships and relationships.
Unfortunately, there is another side to alcohol that is a little bit more sinister than just leaving you with a hangover and embarrassing flashbacks. Enjoying the occasional glass of wine at dinner is not really a cause for concern… It is when excess amounts of alcohol become a part of your daily life that it really becomes a problem for your mind and body.
Here are a few ways alcohol affects your sleep, productivity, and overall health.
A No Brainer
It only takes a few seconds for the alcohol to start influencing various chemicals and receptors in the brain. There is a very good reason why it is illegal to drink and drive. Alcohol hinders reaction time and also affects the way the brain communicates with the entire body. The most obvious signs of going a bit overboard with the alcohol are when you lose your balance, your speech becomes slurred, and you have no coordination.
When you continue to drink for extended periods of time or abuse alcohol, it can end up actually shrinking your brain! When tissues, cells, and other chemicals are damaged, especially in the frontal lobe, it can impair various cognitive functions such as judgment, long term, and short term memory, emotional control, and reasoning.
You may think that knocking back a few helps you to sleep better, but it actually does the complete opposite. At first, a drink or two does make you drowsy, and it is easier to fall asleep, however, it does not mean you are getting a night of quality sleep.
According to studies, alcohol affects various physiological processes that happen while you are sleeping such as rapid eye movement (REM). REM sleep occurs a few times per night during a sleep cycle and is usually when most dreaming occurs.
REM is vital for restoration and improving several physical and cognitive functions such as retaining and recalling information as well as the development of the Central Nervous System. Without REM, you don’t get a proper night’s sleep and if this happens frequently due to alcohol, it can lead to weight gain, reduced coping mechanisms, and migraines.
Misusing alcohol regularly can inhibit your natural immune defenses against viruses and harmful bacteria. Right now the world is facing something we never thought we would live to see, a pandemic that has led to the shut down of most parts of the world. While we are requested to stay in our homes and not go to work, some are getting creative with passing the time, which let’s be honest, sometimes results in having a glass of wine a little earlier than usual.
We are all guilty of going overboard more often than we should, we are only human. Unfortunately, while this may pass the time or take the edge off, alcohol isn’t doing us any favors, except in our hand sanitizers!
Drinking excessively increases the risk of developing viral and bacterial infections such as tuberculosis (TB) and pneumonia. Research states that at least 10% of TB cases around the globe are directly linked to drinking.
Heavy drinkers have an extremely high risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. The reason for this is because alcohol affects the way the body absorbs and uses calcium. A calcium deficiency causes bones to become thin and fragile over time.
In addition to this, excessive amounts of alcohol also cause estrogen levels to dip. Estrogen is a sex hormone that is responsible for bone growth and remodeling.
Osteoporosis is a painful condition that can lead to nerve damage and fractures, especially of the spine and hip.
Not So Frisky
It’s no secret that sharing wine over a romantic dinner can lead to a steamy evening together. This is because the alcohol helps to calm the nerves, however, your nerves are not the only thing it is affecting.
Males who have indulged a bit too much may experience erectile dysfunction. Excessive drinking can also lead to lower testosterone levels – a sex hormone responsible for sex drive as well as achieving and maintaining an erection.
Women who drink excessively are also at risk for infertility because as we mentioned before, misuse of alcohol can cause a decrease in estrogen, which can cause irregular periods or stop menstruation altogether. Women who abuse alcohol during pregnancy are also at higher risk of miscarrying, stillbirth, or premature delivery.
Stuck On A Loop
Alcohol is known to have a negative impact on productivity in the workspace, and unfortunately, creates a vicious cycle. As we mentioned before, from the very first sip, drinking is already making changes in the brain. When you drink a lot, it can affect cognition, memory, problem-solving, and of course productivity.
In addition to that, drinking also affects your quality of sleep, which makes you feel even more tired and less motivated to get things done. Not to mention the impact lack of sleep has on your motor skills.
Depending on the environment you work in, you may be invited to regular lunchtime meetings with clients and discuss business over a drink or two. Once again, this then leads to changes in the brain, poor sleep, and another day without much productivity. In other work environments where you don’t have lunch meetings, you may enjoy a drink or two after work to blow off steam from the stressful day because you weren’t able to get much done. Again, the cycle starts.
Unfortunately, these behaviors turn into a bad habit and dependency that is difficult to break and detrimental to your health if it continues for a long time.
The Bigger Picture
While enjoying a drink here and there in moderation is not going to have a devastating effect on your health, it is easy to become dependent on it. Whether it is on tv or in a print advert, alcohol is always associated with having fun with your friends, but the sad reality is that the fun runs out when you feel that you need a drink to survive.
Alcoholism is a very real and frightening disease that can lead to liver cirrhosis, malnutrition, jaundice, pancreas damage, and death. If you have an emotional and physical dependence on alcohol, meaning that you suffer from withdrawals without a drink there are various resources and professional programs that can assist with detoxification and getting sober.
Always remember that you are not alone, there are thousands of people to reach out to who care and understand what you may be going through. Your life is always worth saving.