Why You Should Rethink the Nightcap

It’s not hard to guess why 20% of American adults use alcohol to help them fall asleep—after all, the reasoning behind it seems sound. Consuming even a little bit of alcohol leads to drowsiness in most people, so, for believers in the nightcap, a little drink before bed serves as a way to drift easily into sleep without any tossing or turning. The problem is that sleeping is so much more than being unconscious.

During natural sleep, your brain is very much like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. It draws you in with a soft and quiet prelude, and then it progresses through the movements (or stages) of sleep in a beautiful cycle, culminating in a finale where we wake refreshed and energized for the new day. Throughout this symphony of sleep, your brain is performing lots of intricate maintenance, either on

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