Coming home to a relaxing evening with an IPA in hand is a great way to unwind. But for some people, it’s a quick trip to la la land even after a single brew. This sleep-inducing aspect of IPAs is well-known – but is it real?
IPAs can make you sleepy because hops have sedative effects. This may be more apparent in IPAs because of the large amounts of hops used in this style. Beer in general makes you sleepy because alcohol is a depressant. While it may make you more tired, neither IPAs nor other beers will help you sleep better since the alcohol also disrupts REM sleep.
Some people won’t be as affected by these ingredients. Whether you’re naturally more susceptible or not, let’s look at the reasons in more detail.
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Why do IPA beers make you tired?
If a beer at the end of the day is liable to lull you to sleep, it could be a couple of different things that are actually making you tired. The human body is a complex thing. What’s making you sleepy might not make someone else tired. Here’s why an IPA might do so.
IPAs are full of hop oils and resins which encourage sleep by affecting the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA. IPAs are also often high in alcohol content. Similar to hops, alcohol affects the central nervous system and neurotransmitters. The combination of these ingredients is more than enough to make you tired.
Then there are the reasons outside of the beer. If you’re having a beer at home after work you’ll be much more relaxed. It is harder to fall asleep when you’re stressed out.
Of course, there is some science to back up the anecdotes surrounding this phenomenon. Below are breakdowns of each of the major factors.
Hops are sedatives
The first culprit is what makes IPAs so great (or unappealing, depending on your taste). Humulus lupulus or hops have been known to act as a sedative for centuries.
The method by which hops cause sleepiness is believed to be its effect on serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA). When these two neurotransmitters are altered, you will feel more relaxed and sleepy.
A study on quail suggests that this effect has an optimal range. Below or above this range and the result is not as pronounced. This may be why you feel so sleepy after just a few IPAs but not after more.
Alcohol is a depressant
The next major reason isn’t specific to IPAs.
It is widely known that alcohol is a depressant. Since IPAs usually have a higher alcohol content than other beers, this effect is greater.
Alcohol, directly and indirectly, affects the central nervous system. This results in many side effects, such as loss of alertness, impaired coordination, and impaired thinking.
These effects contribute to the overall sleepy feeling.
Alcohol affects sleep neurochemicals
Alcohol also messes with the neurotransmitters in addition to the downer effects of alcohol. In regard to sleep, alcohol mostly affects GABA.
The neurotransmitter GABA is responsible for the reduction of brain signals that promotes sleep. Alcohol increases GABA’s function in the brain.
By adjusting the neurotransmitter GABA, alcohol makes you incredibly sleepy.
A good beer is relaxing
Lastly, it could just be that you’ve had a long day, week, or month and the relaxation that comes with finally being done will have you out in short order.
Drinking a beer or two is a stress relief for many. Ignoring all else that alcohol does, if it puts you in a better mood you are more likely to fall asleep.
Besides, beer is a great companion to other relaxing activities such as watching television.
Does all hoppy beer make you sleepy?
Although IPAs are the most well-known for containing hops, they are far from the only hoppy beer. Even the beers that don’t taste particularly hoppy have a decent hop addition.
All hoppy beers have the potential to make you sleepy. Whether they will or not depends on the concentration of hops, how much you drink, and how susceptible you are to the effect.
Odds are, if IPAs don’t make you sleep, you won’t be affected by other hoppy beers either. That said, there are other factors that might push you toward dreamland. Non-hoppy alcohol still holds the potential to make you sleepy.
Do IPAs help you sleep?
If IPAs make you tired, do you they also help you sleep?
While IPAs can help you fall asleep quickly, they do not help you sleep through the night. As your body slowly metabolizes alcohol, it will eventually stop affecting the neurotransmitters that manage sleep. When this occurs, you will become less asleep and may even wake up. This is referred to as the “rebound effect.”
Alcohol does not lead to quality restful sleep for this reason.
Additionally, alcohol disturbs your REM cycles. So even when you are fully asleep, you won’t be getting the sleep you need. REM sleep is highly important to waking refreshed.
It is for these reasons that alcoholism forms a vicious circle with insomnia. Alcohol helps those with insomnia fall asleep, which is difficult. This seems like a solution, but the sleep is of poor quality, which leaves the individual feeling worse.