According to research published in the Journal of Neurochemistry by the University of Missouri School of Medicine, one heavy drinking session alters the gene responsible for sleep regulation, leading to sleep disruption in mice.
"Sleep is a serious problem for alcoholics," says Dr. Mahesh Thakkar, lead author of the study and director of research in the MU School of Medicine's Department of Neurology and lead author of the study.
"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."
Analysing a group of mice, Thakkar monitored the effects of binge drinking on sleep patterns. Interestingly, mice exposed to excessive drinking suffered an increase in non-rapid eye movement sleep four hours after their binge, followed by further disruptions in subsequent sleep periods. Notably, researchers found that the mice did not experience an increase in a sleep promoting chemical, adenosine, in the brain.
Findings also suggest that binge drinking resulted in changes to the gene responsible for regulating sleep.
"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," says Thakkar.
"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."
If you're curious about how much drinking is too much, here is the amount that can cause premature death.