It is a common practice to have a drink or two to alleviate stress after a hard day, to make you feel more confident in a social situation or to help silence your mind. Your anxiety may be the reason for drinking, but it may also be the cause of your anxiety.
Have you ever wondered why you feel more anxious the day after drinking alcohol? Here are 3 reasons why alcohol is not your anxiety’s friend.
Alcohol interacts with our neurotransmitters in our central nervous system (CNS), which is why people are often drawn to alcohol in social situations and to help in falling asleep.
Alcohol increases the concentration of:
GABA, our calming hormone
Serotonin, our happy hormone
Dopamine, our motivation and pleasure hormone
Increased levels of these neurotransmitters can make us feel great, however, the concentration of GABA, serotonin and dopamine leave the brain as quickly as they arrived often leaving us more depleted then before. This can make us rebound emotionally and begin to experience feelings of anxiety, maybe even worse than before (1).
2. Interrupted sleep
Alcohol is often used as a means to help you fall asleep. It can make you feel sleepy because alcohol acts a sedative due to its ability to increase the production of adenosine, a sleep-inducing chemical. This sounds great if you are needing some extra support to fall asleep, however, the quality of your sleep will be poor. Alcohol can cause you to wake before you are truly rested, often leaving you feeling unrefreshed. A poor night’s sleep can heavily influence emotions often leaving us irritable and anxious.
3. Nutrient loss
When alcohol is metabolised, it taxes many different nutrients in the body, in particular B vitamins, zinc and magnesium (3).
After a night of drinking it can leave the body feeling tired and for some, anxious. Due to the body using up many of the nutrients as mentioned previously, it can leave the body a little depleted.
These nutrients are surprisingly important when it comes to anxiety. We need these nutrients to support the production of the neurotransmitter GABA, low levels can often trigger anxiety in some people and increase the risk of experiencing anxiety (2).
Gorka, S. M., & Phan, K. L. (2017). Impact of anxiety symptoms and problematic alcohol use on error-related brain activity. International journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology, 118, 32–39. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2017.05.011
Haynes, J., Farrell, M., Singleton, N., Meltzer, H., Araya, R., Lewis, G., & Wiles, N. (2005). Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for anxiety and depression: Results from the longitudinal follow-up of the National Psychiatric Morbidity Survey. British Journal of Psychiatry, 187(6), 544-551. doi:10.1192/bjp.187.6.544
Lieber, C.S. (2004). Relationships between nutrition, alcohol use and liver disease. Alcohol research & health: The journal of the National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, 27(3), 220-231. Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-3/220-231.pdf
Jess is a degree qualified Naturopath. She has a special clinical interest in mood disorders, sleep and mental health. She assists many clients with managing stress levels, anxiety, insomnia as well as digestive conditions like IBS. She is available for consultation Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at The Sana Co. Book your appointment HERE