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night sweats + insomnia: is your cocktail your culprit?

Have you ever enjoyed a glass of wine or cocktail before bed, only to wake up in the middle of the night tossing off the covers + drenched in a pool of sweat? Turns out, your internal thermostat is not broken.

Enjoying alcohol has been woven into the fabric of our society, however little is discussed regarding the impacts of alcohol on hormone health [especially for women].

If you are a woman of any life stage [pre-, peri- or post-menopausal] weathering symptoms of hormone imbalance, you may consider diving deeper into your body's response to alcohol, as it could be one of the culprits underlying the following:

  1. weight stagnation

  2. trouble falling asleep / staying asleep

  3. hot flashes

  4. loss of libido

  5. inability to gain muscle mass

  6. thinning / dry hair

  7. PMS

  8. unwanted facial hair

  9. acne

Alcohol is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it disrupts levels of hormones in the body. The following hormones experience the greatest fluctuations after alcohol intake:

Testosterone + Estrogen

Even one drink can raise estrogen levels after consumption due to the increase of aromatization of testosterone to estrogen [leading to lower testosterone and increased estrogen levels]. This rise in estrogen levels can cause hot flashes during the night and even residually into the next day as the body works to regulate estrogen levels.

Cortisol + Melatonin

Similarly, alcohol increases cortisol levels [a stress hormone] and decreases melatonin levels which both lead to disrupted sleep. In fact, alcohol is a known circadian rhythm disruptor as it causes an increase in snoring, insomnia and restless sleep after consumption. Restless sleep raises the body's core temperature, creating a sensation of overheating during the night and resulting in night sweats.

Anti-Diuretic Hormone [ADH]

The primary function of ADH is to conserve water in the body so that it is not eliminated in the urine. Alcohol shuts this hormone down, leading to increased urine production and, eventually, dehydration. Paired with the increase in body temperature that results after alcohol intake, the body is not able to regulate its core temperature adequately, leading to sweating in an attempt to cool itself down.

Each of these hormone disruptions work synchronously to create night sweats and less than optimal sleep. In women, these effects may be exacerbated due to the already increased amounts of circulating estrogen in their bodies, especially during peri-menopause as hormones fluctuate.

Does this mean you should pass up on alcohol for good? Not necessarily. Consider these tips + tricks to keep your sleep quality optimal next time you raise your glass.

  1. tune in with yourself before indulging to make a conscious + intentional choice to pour yourself a drink

  2. pair charcoal with alcohol: take activated charcoal with each drink to help aid the detoxification process

  3. check in with yourself often while drinking and the day after to "encode" the impact - driving compassionate future decisions

  4. finish enjoying alcohol no later than 3 hours before bed to allow it to metabolize

  5. after alcohol consumption, drink water to re-hydrate your body [aim for a volume of water at least double that of the volume of alcohol consumed] A solid routine creates a groove for one's mental energies, staving off the tyranny of decision fatigue.



The Art of Cleansing + Detox

Unfortunately, the term detox has also become synonymous with a restrictive diet or a way to reactively rebound from a bit of over-indulgence.

Consider this your science-based [no-fluff] guide to understanding how the body detoxes itself and how to support it in a comprehensive way. As a functional registered dietitian, I delight in teaching how to be a catalyst to the detoxification pathways working on our behalf around the clock to keep us safe.

In a nutshell, cleansing and detoxification entail decreasing exposure to toxins, then feeding your body with an abundant supply of nutrients [found in whole foods] to support the organs of elimination including: liver + kidneys + lymphatic system + digestive tract + skin + lungs.


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