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Published on June 21, 2021

5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Energy Levels

5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Energy Levels
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From social gatherings, sporting events to religious ceremonies, people have been drinking alcohol throughout history. In fact, evidence suggests that cavemen intentionally fermented fruits and grains to make alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, although we may never know exactly where, when, or how it all started, the simple fact remains that people all over the world continue to drink alcohol to this day.[1]

Initially, in moderation, alcohol can make you feel more outgoing, but in excess, it can essentially hold you back from wanting to go anywhere or be near anyone at all. So, before you got out and indulge in another glass of your favorite Zinfandel from New Zealand or perhaps try and cool off with an ice-cold pint of Guinness at the Irish pub around the corner, you may want to take the time to carefully consider some of the potential side-effects of drinking alcohol, especially how it can affect your mood, judgment, and energy levels.

As a professional addiction counselor and interventionist, I have worked with a lot of good people over the past twenty years who have found themselves doing a lot of bad and questionable things while under the influence of alcohol. Approximately 28% of all traffic-related fatalities in the United States involved alcohol-impaired drivers, and according to the World Health Organization, approximately 55% of perpetrators of domestic violence drank alcohol prior to the assault.[2][3]

Although each case may have a unique set of circumstances, many of the underlying factors leading to alcohol abuse remain the same. For example, most people who have experienced alcohol abuse issues started off by drinking recreationally—in other words, drinking once in a while and at specific events. Then, over a period of time and with continued use, they developed a tolerance for it, meaning that more and more alcohol was needed to achieve the desired effect, such as intoxication.

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Furthermore, given the impact of alcohol on the central nervous system with prolonged use, your body can actually become dependent on it to function, albeit dysfunctionally.

Many of my clients who have suffered from alcohol dependence have often reported that they needed to have a drink of alcohol just to get out of bed so that they could steady their nerves and get unstuck. As a result, alcoholics tend to spend a significant amount of time and energy making sure that an ample supply of alcohol is readily available, while at the same time, significantly reducing time spent engaging in more productive and healthy daily activities, such as work, personal hygiene, proper nutrition, exercise, and interpersonal relationships.

Concerning statistics aside, the reality is that alcohol use is not going away anytime soon. Prohibition is not coming back. Therefore, in my opinion, it is important to learn how to live with it rather than trying to vilify its presence or simply pretending that the problem does not exist, whether you are interested in having a drink or not.

With that being said and without trying to ruin anyone’s upcoming party plans, if you are focused on the importance of maintaining control over your mood, judgment, and level of energy, hopefully, you are also ready to take a closer look at how alcohol can affect your body.

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1. Alcohol Increases Risk of Depression

To start off with how alcohol affects the body, alcohol is classified as a depressant because it appears to reduce arousal and stimulation of the central nervous system. Although it may initially elevate your mood as it begins to interact with dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain, over a period of time, with continued use and your emotional defenses down, you can end up feeling overwhelmingly depressed as the alcohol begins to deplete those chemicals from your brain, leaving you considerably more vulnerable to emotional distress.[4]

Similar to the chemical version of a self-destructive self-fulfilling prophecy, the more alcohol you drink, the more depressed you feel and, therefore, the less active you become as your energy level is depleted.

2. Alcohol Reduces Your Energy Level

There are a variety of ways in which drinking alcohol reduces your energy level. First and foremost, alcohol initially raises your blood sugar level, then as insulin is released into your bloodstream, your blood sugar level rapidly decreases, making you feel weak. Although you are taking in plenty of fluids when you drink alcohol, you will typically find yourself urinating more frequently as your kidneys are working overtime to flush the alcohol out of your body. This then leads to dehydration, which in turn depletes your level of energy as an overabundance of vital minerals and nutrients are flushed away.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce the level of melatonin in your body, which is a critical element in regulating your circadian rhythm, thereby interfering with your internal sleep-wake cycle. And without an adequate amount of rest, your endurance and stamina will decrease if your body is unable to recharge.[5]

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3. Alcohol Reduces Your Reaction Time

So, with all that being said, alcohol does not actually make you feel depressed simply by drinking it, but rather alcohol slows down messages between the brain and the body. It essentially reduces your reaction time.

At first, you may feel more active and engaged, then after continued drinking, you may begin to feel more lethargic and unbalanced as you depress your central nervous system with continued consumption. Recent studies have shown that alcohol has actually been directly linked to changes in brain chemistry and composition with little or no medicinal benefit at all.[6]

4. Alcohol Reduces Your Inhibitions

Nevertheless, not all of the effects of alcohol are necessarily bad, at least not right away. In moderation, alcohol has been known to reduce your inhibitions in relation to your declining reaction time. In other words, with alcohol, your brain may not necessarily have enough time to effectively process anxiety that you might have otherwise experienced in a similar situation without it, for example, meeting new people at a party or perhaps even spending time with your in-laws. Unfortunately, however, reducing your inhibitions can also reduce your ability to know when it is okay to have another drink, which can ultimately lead to lapses in judgment.

5. Alcohol Impairs Your Judgment

Recent studies have shown that prolonged alcohol use can actually alter the structure of the brain, especially in the area of the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for judgment and reasoning. As a result, there is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and making bad decisions, such as driving under the influence and drinking on the job.[7] Furthermore, alcohol is considered a gateway drug because using it can lead you down the path to using even more potent mood-altering substances since your judgment is impaired.

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Additionally, given the fact that most of us are hard-working people who need to provide both financially and emotionally, we have to be able to move swiftly and with precision when the opportunity presents itself, while at the same time, we have to be able to provide love and attention to the people that we care about. So, without actually avoiding a fun night out with your friends, you might want to simply reconsider ordering another cocktail at the club, especially if you want to stay far away from all of the potentially unpleasant consequences associated with poor judgment, such as legal, financial, medical, and family issues.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, most people who have a drink every so often will more than likely never experience any serious consequences associated with alcohol abuse. Some may not even be aware of how alcohol affects their bodies. Nevertheless, educating yourself on the potential impact of regular alcohol use may, in fact, prevent that from actually happening.

So, whether or not you condone or condemn drinking adult alcoholic beverages, the reality is that alcohol has been around for thousands of years, and there are no plans that I am aware of to stop making it as it continues to be served all over the world at family gatherings, sporting events, religious ceremonies, or almost everywhere you look. Nevertheless, given the fact that drinking alcohol can directly impact your mood, judgment, and energy level, I firmly believe that everyone should be aware of the effect that it can have on you before consuming it.

Although alcohol can reduce your inhibitions, making you feel just a little more outgoing and engaging, with an initial artificial boost of energy, over time, and with continued use, it can lead to bouts of depression as it impairs your judgment and depletes your energy level.

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More Articles on How Alcohol Affects the Body

Featured photo credit: Taylor Brandon via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Evan Jarschauer

Professional Mental Health Interventionist & Licensed Psychotherapist

How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind 5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Energy Levels How To Recognize the Most Common Types of Mental Illness 5 Ways Meditation Improves Your Daily Focus and Concentration 6 Proven Ways To Improve Your Intellectual Wellness

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better
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Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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