Thursday, November 10, 2011

Alcohol and sleep disturbance


One of my happy memories as in Intern is the ward Sister on one of the wards where I worked. In those days of open Nightingale wards with 10 patients down each side and Sister very much in charge of everything, "Frankie" ruled supreme!

One of her great delights was hidden in the linen cupboard. Here amongst the sheets and pillow slips were to be found two large Winchester bottles containing hospital grade brandy! What she did was to get the Interns to order a "wee dram" of Brandy for all the elderly ladies on the ward - and that meant 90% of the patients - which was duly administered in a cup of warm milk .... minus about 5mls of the prescribed "dose". Over a period of months she managed to fill two Winchesters that she kept for the Staff Christmas party, which was always a roaring success!!

Since then I've always been under the impression that a small drop of spirits was the least offensive form of night sedation for the elderly: but sadly recent research may be proving me wrong. What the researcher found was that sleep quality ratings were worse for those drinking alcohol compared with those who received a placebo drink in the trial. And women who drank alcohol suffered more sleep disruption than their male tipplers!

The only thing that I can say about the study was that the researchers got their subjects to drink until intoxicated, something any self respecting senior would reject with great indignity! In fact the study reinforces the serious downsides of drinking outside ones safe individual limit -as a rule of thumb that means one to two standard drinks for a woman and two to three for a man, allowing for size variations, medications, illnesses etc -.

What I'm looking forward to is the result of a trial where those with mild sleep disturbances are enrolled and one group gets the "Hot Toddy" and the other gets the Warm Milk: anyone interested?

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6 comments:

vladimir vasiljevic said...

Alcohol is a real danger to human health. I think that everyone should stay clear of it. Thank you for sharing this with us.

StudentinDistress said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StudentinDistress said...

How badly do your sleep patterns get disturbed in the long term if your a teenager and you're awake at hours such as...2 am? Serious question.

Creative said...

I have an over-active thyroid which means sleep disturbance. I try to get as much rest, sleep and the correct food each day but what else to do? On a bad night, I will sleep for three hours, be awake for three (and often have to get up and do something) and then catch up a few more. On a good night, I will have very little disturbance. Any suggestions?

Dr Duncan Jefferson said...

Sleep quality decreases with age: your bones ache, there are more worries to deal with and so on. But if you are having ongoing poor sleep, talk to your family physician or maybe get a referral to a Sleep Physician. I have often involved a psychologist on my team approach too.

Dr Duncan Jefferson said...

Student in distress: everyone does crazy things in their youth - it should lead to wisdom - thanksfully the human body is great at healing itself! If you develop a habit, that can be harder to change, but we can change our "neural pathways", for that read habits, with persistence. And healthy habits create better lives.