We've long known that alcohol kills brain cells and that long term alcohol abuse can interfere with mental health. Now, new research has found that while heavy drinking affects both men and women's ability to produce an important mood-controlling neurotransmitter, it affects ladybrains three times faster than it affects men's. The end result is that heavy drinking may cause women to quickly turn into sleepless sad sacks.
A Swedish study to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research examined the impact of alcohol abuse on the production of serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating depression, anxiety, ability to fall asleep, and ability to stay awake. Researchers found that women who drink heavily experience a 50% reduction in serotonin production after just 4 years of alcohol abuse.
If you're worried that this study proves you've drank yourself into insomnia, don't: the study followed women who had drank the equivalent of more than a dozen bottles of wine per week. If you're not alcohol dependent, your occasional makeout session with Maker's Mark probably isn't immediately and forever destroying your chance to be happy, but it might be making it more difficult for your brain to manage stress and sleep.
Men don't get off the hook, either. The effects of Charles Bukowski levels of alcohol consumption catches up with them to the same degree that it does to women; it just takes longer for the effects to manifest.
Researchers aren't sure how reduction in serotonin production actually impacts heavy drinkers' quality of life and say that more work needs to be done in this field. In the mean time, consider a healthy substitute for the two bottles of wine you planning on drinking this evening. Maybe sparkling grape juice or O'Doule's.
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