University of Missouri School of Medicine MU Health School of Medicine
News Divider
Mahesh Thakkar, PhD and Pradeep Sahota, MD
At right: Mahesh Thakkar, PhD, associate professor and director of research in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology, and Pradeep Sahota, MD, chair of the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology, have studied alcohol’s effects on sleep for more than five years. Their study, recently published in the international biomedical journal Alcohol found that drinking interferes with the brain’s built-in system for regulating a person’s need for sleep.



MU Researchers Find Alcohol Interferes with the Body's Ability to Regulate Sleep


Study finds alcohol affects the body's sleep homeostasis and can cause insomnia over time

Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found that drinking alcohol to fall asleep interferes with sleep homeostasis, the body’s sleep-regulating mechanism.

Alcohol is known to be a powerful somnogen, or sleep inducer, and approximately 20 percent of the U.S. adult population drinks alcohol to help fall asleep. The researchers, led by Mahesh Thakkar, PhD, associate professor and director of research in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology, have studied alcohol’s effects on sleep for more than five years. They found that alcohol interferes with the brain’s built-in system for regulating a person’s need for sleep.

“The prevailing thought was that alcohol promotes sleep by changing a person’s circadian rhythm — the body’s built-in 24-hour clock,” Thakkar said. “However, we discovered that alcohol actually promotes sleep by affecting a person’s sleep homeostasis — the brain’s built-in mechanism that regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness.”

Sleep homeostasis balances the body’s need for sleep in relation to how long a person has been awake. If an individual loses sleep, the body produces adenosine, a naturally occurring sleep-regulating substance that increases a person’s need for sleep. When a person goes to sleep early, sleep homeostasis is shifted and he or she may wake up in the middle of the night or early morning. The researchers found that alcohol alters the sleep homeostatic mechanism and puts pressure on an individual to sleep. When this happens, the sleep period is shifted, and a person may experience disrupted sleep.

“Based on our results, it’s clear that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid,” said Pradeep Sahota, MD, chair of the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology and an author of the study. “Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished. Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go the bathroom and causes you to wake up earlier in the morning.”

In addition to studying alcohol’s impact on sleep homeostasis, the researchers explored how alcohol withdrawal affects sleep. The investigators found that after extended periods of frequent drinking, subjects would fall asleep as expected, but would wake within a few hours and would be unable to fall back asleep. When the subjects were not given alcohol, the researchers found that subjects showed symptomatic insomnia.

“During acute alcohol withdrawal, subjects displayed a significant increase in wakefulness with a reduction in rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep,” Thakkar said. “This caused insomnia-like symptoms and suggests an impaired sleep homeostasis.”

The researchers hope to use these findings to explore other effects of alcohol consumption.

“Sleep is an immense area of study,” Thakkar said. “Approximately one-third of our life is spent sleeping. Coupled with statistics that show 20 percent of people drink alcohol to sleep, it’s vital that we understand how the two interact. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcohol. Talk to your doctor or a sleep medicine physician to determine what factors are keeping you from sleeping. These factors can then be addressed with individualized treatments.”

The study, “Alcohol Disrupts Sleep Homeostasis,” is an invited article published in the international biomedical journal Alcohol. In addition to Thakkar and Sahota, the MU research team includes Rishi Sharma, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology.

The research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA020334 and AA0174720) and by resources from the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.


Click here to download a high-resolution portrait of Thakkar and Sahota.

Posted Dec. 10, 2014




MU Health Magazine

Divider

News and Events

David Chang Grill with Caution
Wire bristles from barbecue brushes can cause serious injuries
Tahir Rahman Extreme Beliefs Often Mistaken for Insanity, New Study Finds
Researchers say new term offers more precise definition of non-psychotic behaviors
Paul Tatum Family Medicine Professor Wins Distinguished Physician Award
Tatum recognized for outstanding care of patients near the end of life
Seth Sherman Minimally Invasive Tendon Repair Technique Supports Knee Movement Sooner after Surgery
Researchers found suture anchors, a less-invasive repair technique, responded better to strength-testing after surgery
2016 Graduation MU School of Medicine Awards 86 Medical Degrees at Commencement Ceremony
The graduates will go on to receive additional training as resident physicians in their chosen specialties
Patrice Delafontaine MU School of Medicine Dean Inducted into Prestigious Medical Society
Delafontaine joins elite group of physicians in American Clinical and Climatological Association
Steven Zweig MU Family Medicine Ranked Among Nation’s Best by U.S. News & World Report
Department has been in top 10 for 23 consecutive years
Uzma Khan MU Initiative Helps Rural Doctors Treat Chronic Pain
Show-Me ECHO to offer special training session April 28
Legacy Teachers MU School of Medicine Program Expands to Other Medical Schools
MU’s Legacy Teachers program lets students recognize patients as educators
Susan Nagel Oil and Gas Wastewater Disposal May Increase Endocrine Disrupting Activity
Scientists draw conclusions after study at natural gas and oil extraction wastewater disposal facility
St. Baldricks 2016 Participants Go Bald for Childhood Cancer Research
Community donates more than $40,000 to the cause



Media Relations
University of Missouri Health System
One Hospital Drive, DC028.00
Columbia, MO 65212
24/7 on-call pager: (573) 876-0708

Mary Jenkins
jenkinsmg@health.missouri.edu
(573) 882-7299

Jeff Hoelscher
hoelscherj@health.missouri.edu
(573) 884-1608

Derek Thompson
thompsonder@health.missouri.edu
(573) 882-3323

Diamond Dixon
DixonDi@health.missouri.edu
(573) 884-7541

Justin Kelley (Photographer)
kelleyju@health.missouri.edu
(573) 882-5786
Pager (573) 397-9289


Web Communications
University of Missouri Health System
One Hospital Drive, MA204G, DC018.00
Columbia, MO 65212
(573) 884-0298

Jennifer Orford
orfordj@health.missouri.edu
(573) 882-0298

Deidra Ashley
ashleyde@missouri.edu
(573) 884-3988

Jesslyn Chew
chewj@missouri.edu
(573) 884-2891

Velvet Hasner
hasnerv@health.missouri.edu
(573) 884-1115

Justin Willett
willettj@health.missouri.edu
(573) 884-7740



Printer Friendly
Follow us on Twitter!   Facebook   YouTube Videos   Instagram   Pinterest  
Website created and maintained by the Office of Communications. Contact the MU School of Medicine.
Revised: December 10, 2014 - Copyright © 2014 - Curators of the University of Missouri. All rights reserved. DMCA and other copyright information. An equal opportunity/access/affirmative action/pro-disabled and veteran employer.