For a productivity boost, say ‘no’ to that nightcap

by | Nov 13, 2013 | Energy

Takeaway: Don’t drink alcohol before bed–it lowers your sleep quality, which provides you with less energy the next day. Instead, drink something else, or consume alcohol earlier in the evening.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 31s.

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Many people think having a drink before bed helps you sleep better, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Research has shown that having a drink before bed helps you fall asleep faster, but actually decreases your sleep quality overall. This is because after alcohol clears out of your system, you sleep lighter and wake up more often, which makes you less rested and energetic the next day.1

This was confirmed in a 1970’s study that analyzed society’s (in my opinion) most skilled drinkers–college students. Researchers gave participants between 1-6 servings of alcohol before they went to bed, and observed their sleep quality. What did they find? “[D]espite falling asleep faster, the subjects who consumed more alcohol woke more frequently had experienced lighter sleep during the second half of the night.”2

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Drinking alcohol decreases your sleep quality and provides you with less energy the next day. What should you do if you already have a nightcap before bed?

  • Replace your nightcap with another equally-satisfying reward. Habits are hard to break, and what’s often more effective than trying to replace a habit is replacing the ‘reward’ you receive from a habit you already have (in this case, alcohol). For example, instead of drinking alcohol before bed, make a cup of tea, or eat a bit of dark chocolate.
  • Consume alcohol earlier in the evening, so it has time to clear out of your system before it can disrupt your sleep.
  • In addition to drinking earlier in the evening, reduce how much you drink. Your body can only metabolize .25 ounces of alcohol every hour.3

Drinking alcohol decreases your sleep quality and provides you with less energy the next day. If you have a habit of drinking a nightcap before you head off to bed, it’s worth replacing the drink with something else, drinking it earlier in the evening, or eliminating it from your nighttime regimen entirely.


  1. Source: http://www.gainesonbrains.com/2013/10/alcohol-sleep-and-why-you-might-re.html 

  2. Source: http://www.gainesonbrains.com/2013/10/alcohol-sleep-and-why-you-might-re.html 

  3. Source: http://alcohol.addictionblog.org/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-system/ 

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 27 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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