Drinking alcohol is known to disrupt a good night’s sleep but just one night of binge drinking can create biological changes leading to long-term problems for one of the most important health behaviors.
New findings from the University of Missouri School Medicine found that a single episode of binge drinking can affect the gene that regulates sleep, according to mouse trials.
“Sleep is a serious problem for alcoholics,” Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D., professor and director of research in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology and lead author of the study, said in a statement.
“If you binge drink, the second day you will feel sleep deprived and will need to drink even more alcohol to go to sleep. It is a dangerous cycle. How can we stop this cycle or prevent it before it begins? To answer that question, we need to understand the mechanisms involved.”
The study was published last month in the Journal of Neurochemistry.
In their experiment, the researches exposed mice to the equivalent of one night of binge drinking and found, among other things, the alcohol affected the gene that regulates sleep and resulted in sleep disturbances.
After the binge session, mice did not experience an increase in the sleep promoting chemical adenosine.
“What we have shown in this research is that a particular gene — which is very important for sleep homeostasis — is altered by just one session of binge drinking,” Mr. Thakkar said in the statement.
“We were not expecting this. We thought it would be affected after multiple sessions of binge drinking, not one. That tells you that as soon as you consume four drinks, it can alter your genes.”
Not getting enough sleep can have severe impacts on a persons mood, memory and health. Being tired can affect cognitive ability, lead to weight gain and increase a persons risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia, to name a few.
At least one in six U.S. adults binge drink at least four times month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Binge drinking is described as having over four drinks in two hours for women and five drinks in the same time frame for men, according to the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.