Alcohol and Learning

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is a great book, and contains many gems about sleep and it’s affect on us.

While Walker has come under some criticism for some of the claims in the book, the idea that sleep is incredibly important is something that most people miss.

It turns out that sleep is one of the most important things that we do. It’s up there with food, water and reproduction.

I was reading this book and found an interesing section on alcohol and it’s affect on learning.

Alcohol is one of the most powerful REM sleep inhibitors. REM sleep is where your memories are processed by your brain.

Consistent consumption of Alcohol can cause a severe backlog of missing REM sleep, and mean that people can begin hallucinating while they are awake.

The next part about learning really stuck with me.

The researchers did an experiment with 3 groups.

Each group learnt a new memory task, the exact kind that REM sleep is good for. On the first day, each group had about 90% accuracy.

The groups were again tested after 6 days.

The first group consumed no alcohol.

The second group consumed 2-3 shots of vokda and orange juice before bed (standardised for bodyweight).

The third group consumed this same alcohol but on the 3rd night instead.

After testing on the 7th day, the results astounded me.

The second group had forgotten 50% of what they had learned.

Even the third group had forgotten 40% of what they had learned. This is amazing to me as they started drinking days after the original knowledge was obtained.

So, nightly alcohol like nightcaps will mess up your learning and your sleep.

This is why I don’t like to drink much through the year and especially not during periods of intense learning like exam periods.