Alcohol and Fatigue: What’s the Connection and How Do They Impact You?

If you have a lot on your plate, you probably search for ways to unwind once in a while. The occasional glass of wine (or other alcoholic beverage of your choice) is sometimes exactly what you want. But even just a few sips can make you less energetic, driven, and focused. So, what’s the link between alcohol and fatigue?

Alcohol and Fatigue: What's the Connection and How Do They Impact You? | Quit Chronic Fatigue

How Are Alcohol and Fatigue Connected? 

There is a noticeable connection between alcohol and fatigue. You may pour yourself a beverage intending to relax and enjoy your time, but the next thing you know, you’re snoring on the couch!

There are a few ways consuming alcohol and feeling tired are intertwined. See for yourself! 

Alcohol Suppresses Your Nervous System to Make You Sleepy

From the second alcohol touches your lips, it starts on the express route to your central nervous system. It slows the firing of your neurons, muffling communication in your brain and causing you to feel super (or even too) relaxed. 

The onset of fatigue after alcohol usually doesn’t take long—but it does depend on a few things:

  • Your personal drinking tolerance
  • What foods you’ve eaten (and how much)
  • Your gender
  • How much water you’ve had to drink
  • Your age
  • The type of alcohol you’re having

It’s important to be familiar with the ways that alcohol impacts your unique body and mind. For example, even if your friends can handle a few alcoholic beverages with little effect on their energy levels, your metabolism could be very different. You don’t want to overindulge on alcohol and have to end your evening early because you are so fatigued.

…But Then It Wakes You Right Back Up 

Given the sleepy effects of alcohol, you may be thinking, “Perfect! Alcohol will cure my insomnia.” But you couldn’t be more wrong. The effects of alcohol on your nervous system are temporary, which means you’re sure to wake up later in the night after it wears off. 

What’s more, as alcohol metabolizes and fades from your system, it causes you to feel stress. So you probably won’t be up and ready to go after an alcohol-inspired nap. Your body’s natural sleep cycle will be completely out of whack, leaving you worse off than you were before you even poured your cocktail.

An added obstacle: drinking alcohol sends you running to the bathroom more often than usual. The increased urge to use the bathroom combined with increased stress as the alcohol wears off is sure to interrupt your sleep at all points of the night. 

Hangovers Extend Your Fatigue Even Further 

Your problems with alcohol and fatigue don’t end when you wake up the next morning. Even if you were able to force yourself to rest and stay in bed all night, the dreaded hangover will be waiting for you when you wake up. 

A hangover can make you irritable, nauseous, and, of course, still fatigued. The gravity of your symptoms will depend on many factors, but the best cure regardless is rest and getting back to your regular sleep cycle.

Focus on eating well and drinking plenty of water the day after you drink alcohol. Odds are that after a full night of sober, uninterrupted sleep, you’ll be feeling like your old self once more. 

How Do Alcohol and Fatigue Impact You? 

Let’s get a bit more scientific, shall we? While you now understand that alcohol and fatigue are tightly tied, you may still be wondering where you fit into the situation. Here’s a look at how alcohol can mess with your energy and overall well-being.

Alcohol Interrupts Your REM Cycle 

Sometimes you can enjoy one or two drinks and sleep a full night, but still feel fatigued the next day. This is because alcohol disrupts your natural sleep cycle, preventing rapid eye movement, or REM sleep.

It’s essential to reach REM (the deepest stage of sleep) for you to feel fully rejuvenated and refreshed each day. And since drinking alcohol makes you feel relaxed and sleepy at first, it’s easy to mistake it as part of the solution (when it’s actually the source of the problem).

You could find yourself completely consumed by the cycle of alcohol and fatigue if you don’t take steps to break it. 

Related: 7 Adrenal Fatigue Sleep Tips To Help You Feel More Rested

Alcohol Prevents Your Body From Absorbing Nutrients That Keep You Energized

Eating nutritious foods is a surefire way to boost your energy—unless you’ve consumed alcohol! Alcohol blocks certain vitamins from being absorbed by your body as they should.

For example, vitamin B12, zinc, and folic acid are necessary to keep your metabolism and blood levels in check. But alcohol works like a barrier, causing all of them to flush right through your body. 

In short, not only does alcohol cause you to be tired, it prevents you from using nutrients as a solution (as you normally would when fatigued). 

Alcohol Disrupts Your Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm tells your body when it should be asleep and when it should be awake. It doesn’t respond well to alcohol and fatigue-related interruptions! A healthy circadian rhythm requires your hormones to be steady and (you guessed it!) alcohol prevents that.

Specifically, your circadian rhythm relies heavily on controlled amounts of melatonin and serotonin. When both of these hormones are regulated, you feel happier during the day and sleep better at night.

Alcohol consumption throws off the balance of melatonin and serotonin in your body. Even if you’re able to go through the motions of your day, you won’t be optimal unless you can get your hormones and circadian rhythm back on track.

What About Alcohol and Adrenal Fatigue? 

Since alcohol and fatigue go hand in hand, it’s no wonder that alcohol can be the direct cause of (or a major influence on) adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is thought to be caused by constant stress for a prolonged period of time. 

Alcohol causes multiple interruptions to your body’s natural hormones and sleep cycles, which causes mental and physical stress. And if you drink with the misconception that alcohol will relieve other stresses (like a heavy workload or family issues), you will unwittingly multiply your problems. 

No matter the main cause of your adrenal fatigue, understand that alcohol is not a solution! If you are a person with adrenal fatigue, it is best to stay far away from alcohol so your body has a chance to recalibrate for a full recovery.


Problems associated with alcohol and fatigue look different for everybody. Whether you’re struggling with your mood or unable to keep your eyes open past dinnertime, alcohol could be part of the problem. Take a break from alcoholic beverages to experience better quality sleep and more energy during the day!

Alcohol and Fatigue: What's the Connection and How Do They Impact You? | Quit Chronic Fatigue

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