Of all the phenomena associated with our rightful national beverage, hangovers seem to be becoming more prominent as I struggle through yet another drinking year. However, given the fast-paced, always connected world of beer blogging, they are something of an occupational hazard. You just have to call in sick, reach for the Xbox controller, and deal with it. Recently, though, there’s a further sauce-based side-effect I’ve noticed affecting me more – beer sleep. This fitful state of slumber, peppered with bizarre dreams, is certainly happening more often.
It seems as if there’s some degree of scientific basis to it, as the BBC reported last month on the effects of alcohol and sleep patterns. The study quoted refers to that fact that boozing reduces the amount of time spent in deep REM sleep – so resulting in fitful, less rejuvenating nights. I can certainly concur with this – waking up after a night on the beer, even if I’ve backed off before the hangover-inducing level (i.e. after two pints), still leaves me groggy and disorientated.
Interestingly though, the report then goes on to say that people who go up the oak-aged stairs to Boozyshire tend not to dream very much. As they toss and turn, they are robbed of the REM state where dreaming is most likely to occur. I understand the science (just about), but have always found I tend to dream more after beerage, rather than less. It’s as if my gently pickled cortex fights back during the night, alcohol-ravaged cells desperately flashing luminescence, like a deep-sea mollusc trying to avoid predators.
Following Monday’s BrewDog tasting, I had a series of weird and highly bizarre dreams – the most vivid being a huge CAMRA beer festival, held in a dark, gothic cathedral. Dozens of snarling, piratical real ale drinkers sloshed tankards around in the pews, as I searched in vain for a seat. Fleeing from the rabble, I found myself outside, in the rain. Led by flashes of lightning, I saw the glint of something on the ground, which turned out to be a bottle of American Imperial IPA, which was being used to wedge the church gate open.
That particular dream could be due to the combined ingredients of six Abstrakts sloshing around inside me (ginger, blackberry, liquorice root, cacao, coffee, raspberry, oats, whisky, red wine, tayberry, chipotle, blackcurrant – to name but a few). BeerCaster Paul, who was also there, reported a fevered hallucinogenic state of his own – “watching great white sharks and some unidentified large elephant like fish having a feeding frenzy on sardines,” he told me, in confidence.*
*When he woke up, his pillow was gone (™Bob Monkhouse, 1981)
I don’t know about him, but weird dreams are definitely becoming more common when I’ve had a night’s ‘research’. That would seem to be the opposite of the BBC study. So, is there a specific Beer Sleep state, beyond REM? Does BSS exist? Findings are inconclusive at this point. But, as this study subject ages, and under continued exposure to these (highly enjoyable) external factors, it’s an issue that’s sure to rear its head again…
Does the drink cause you to have strange and confusing dreams? Or does it knock you out into many hours of untroubled sleep? Basically, what I’m asking is, should I seek help?