Creating alcohol requires fermentation. That process creates organic molecules called congeners that are responsible for the impact that late-night imbibing has on sleep, says Carrie Wilkens, Ph.D., co-founder and clinical director of the Center for Motivation and Change in New York City.
Red wines and dark spirits have the most congeners, making them a poor nighttime drink choice, Wilkens notes. Instead, opt for white wines or colorless spirits, which have the least. Bourbon, for example, contains 37 times more congeners than vodka.
Pairing your drink with a high-carb snack will only make your sleep suffer more since the macro raises blood sugar. (Avoid high-carb beverages like beer for the same reason.) If you want to nosh while you sip, have a low-glycemic snack like nuts or olives, which will stabilize your blood sugar levels.
The bottom line:
The later you imbibe, the worse the effects are, says Wilkens. She recommends finishing your last drink four hours before bedtime and having at least four alcohol-free days each week.
Interestingly, research shows alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythm the least between 5 and 7 p.m., she adds, making a case for a happy hour round.