Stampede, Alcohol & Sleep

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Cowboy sleeping against a wagon

It’s that time of year again when Calgary turns into something akin to the wild west, or at least that’s the objective. Downtown skyscrapers adorn their front entrances with hay bales and make-shift wooden fences and their windows with painted “yeehaws” and “yahoos”. Men, women and children play dress-up for 10 days, in cowboy hats, boots and plaid shirts that haven’t seen the light of day since last year at this time. Calgarians and people from around the globe spend hours in line-ups for free pancakes, and often brave cold, rainy weather to catch a local band covering popular country tunes. Yes folks, it’s the Calgary Stampede! 

Some Calgarians take the opportunity to get out of Calgary during this 10-day fiesta, but a great many others enjoy every bit of the revelry. From massive tents set up in parking lots amassed with hay, beer and country music, to the exhibition grounds with mid-way rides, Nashville North and all the rodeo events. Did I mention the corporate parties? Corporations use the Stampede as an opportunity to show appreciation to their clients, offering free food and drinks, with a little bit of hobnobbing and networking. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in downtown Calgary during this 10-day celebration could attest to the amount of alcohol that is consumed during this time. Hint: it’s a lot. 

Excessive consumption of alcohol is overall undeniably bad for our health, and that includes its impact on our sleep. Sure, you might feel really sleepy after an evening of over-indulgence and find it fairly easy to crash once your head hits the pillow; however, you also probably woke up several times throughout the night, and struggle to fall back to sleep. That is because it messes with your sleep-wake cycle. Drinking alcohol increases the production of adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain, decreasing sleep onset latency, or the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. As the alcohol is metabolized this sedative effect dissipates, causing you to awaken easily. You may also find that you wake up feeling foggy and struggle to concentrate or remain focused. This is because alcohol reduces the amount of time spent in the REM sleep stage, which is considered to be the most restorative type of sleep. 

Another ill-effect of alcohol on sleep is its impact on breathing. Alcohol makes your muscles relaxed, including the muscle tissue in your airway. Even people who have not been diagnosed with sleep apnea can experience episodes of OSA, after an evening of moderate or heavy drinking. People who do suffer from OSA can worsen their condition by consuming alcohol, and should probably abstain completely.

So, for those without a sleep apnea diagnosis, does this mean you shouldn’t drink at all? No! Enjoy Stampede, and have a few drinks; however, try not to over-indulge. If you limit your consumption and stop several hours before bedtime you should have no issues falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up well rested the next day. Happy Stampeding!


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