1-2 glasses of wine a day...should I be concerned?
September 28, 2011 9:44 PM   Subscribe

1-2 glasses of wine per night. On occasion, as a substitute, yoga or klonopin. How sustainable / normal is this as a night time regimen?

I am very stressed by my job (pretty much just all of the time), and when I come home at night, I want to relax so I can get to sleep. I've found that I feel a little better and settled in after a glass of wine or two, either by myself or shared with friends/roommates. This worries me because I'm concerned that, since I drink regularly and alone, I might be an alcoholic. Some nights, I will just take Klonopin (prescribed to me a while back, to be used "as needed") instead. If I ever have a night when there's time, I'll just go to a yoga class, and often that will do the trick, but there isn't often time to go to one of those.

Am I at risk of doing any real harm to myself? Is 1-2 glasses of wine a night normal or is it unhealthy? How can I know when I've crossed the line from normal relaxation during a difficult time to just plain old unhealthy self-medicating?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I do this. I see no problem with 1-2 glasses per night. I don't think the "drinking alone" thing is the big deal that some make it out to be -- why would it be bad to drink alone? If you're getting knock out wasted alone, ok, that can be a problem, but 1-2 drinks is not going to do that unless you're not eating anything or you've got a disorder.

As for the yoga, fantastic! See no issues there. The klonopin - keep in mind that you can build up a tolerance and it's a bitch to come off of, but otherwise on occasion it can be a very helpful aid. It's definitely helped me sleep when stressed, without the hangover/groggy feeling of sleep meds.

I hope you're still maintaining your mental health in other ways though. Are you in contact with the doc who subscribed the meds? If you're so stressed by work, maybe see a therapist to manage those feelings? Are you eating well? Etc.
posted by sweetkid at 9:50 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sounds like perfectly responsible adult behavior to me, and you're certainly not a wet alcoholic. Come back and see us if you start doing both the wine and Klonopin.
posted by rhizome at 9:52 PM on September 28, 2011

As long as you can get by without either the clonazepam or the wine, you're neither an alcoholic nor a benzo addict. To be sure you should try just the yoga for a couple of nights running and see whether you can sleep on the second night.
posted by Ahab at 9:58 PM on September 28, 2011

I definitely don't think 1-2 glasses of wine per day (drunk alone or not) is, by itself, a sign of alcoholism. It's whether you continue to do it in the face of negative consequences, and whether you can't function without it.

Instead of worrying about addiction, I think you should worry about your stress levels in general because IMO that is going to do more long-term damage to your health. What can you do to lower your stress? What can you do to manage it in healthy ways? A glass of wine or the occasional klonopin might be part of the answer, but I'm sure there are other ways, too.
posted by asciident at 10:02 PM on September 28, 2011 [9 favorites]

I wouldn't worry, but keep an eye on it, especially if you have alcohol or pills in the family.
posted by skbw at 10:15 PM on September 28, 2011

I can't speak to the benefits of either Klonopin or yoga, but this is an utterly ordinary, perfectly reasonable consumption level for alcohol.

There is nothing fundamentally worrisome about enjoying an alcoholic beverage unsupervised by other humans. The red flag of "drinking alone" refers to hiding the extent of one's dependence on alcohol from others. Like secret mid-day drinking, or the inability to stick to socially-acceptable level of drinking when in social situations.
posted by desuetude at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Only a puritan or a nervous American looks down on 2 glasses of wine a day. There is nothing at all wrong with it.
posted by twblalock at 10:42 PM on September 28, 2011 [8 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with drinking that much, but it kind of sucks to feel like youre dependent on an external drug to get to sleep. I bet that's really what's bugging you, not so much the amount of booze (or the number of pills). You've recognized a behavior pattern in yourself that you might want to change (or grow to accept, if only to resolve your own mental discomfort).

I went through something very similar recently, and decided I didn't like keeping a bottle of wine at my bedside. I realized that I had unwittingly made a glass of wine part of my bedtime routine, so if I wanted to cut back on the booze, I needed to develop new night-time rituals. It sounds like a little kid thing, but coming up with a few basic "when I do X, that means it's time for bed" actions has helped me switch from go-go-go to relax. In particular, I got one of those insta-boiler hot plate things and now have a mug of SUPER hot tea to sip while I get into chillax mode. Actually, most of the time I even skip the tea- something about warm water has come to mean something sleepy and soothing to me. To make the switch, I suggest having a mug of hot tea after wine for a few nights, then dropping the wine once you've developed a tea=night association.
posted by samthemander at 11:08 PM on September 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

nthing the comments above: just keep a wee bit of watchfulness to make sure that you don't start feeling twitchy about not having had that glass of wine (or klonopin), and if that happens, do ten minutes of yoga and have a cup of camomile tea instead. It's a question of making sure that you feel like you're dictating the choices of how you relax after work, and that you're not being equally constrained by them.
posted by holgate at 11:09 PM on September 28, 2011

I agree that this is not a problem; I also agree that you should try to do something about the non-stop stress, which is a problem. There was a great thread about bedtime rituals a while back -- you might check it out and see if one or more of these suggestions will help you relax.
posted by vorfeed at 11:34 PM on September 28, 2011

oops, sorry, I meant to link to the thread itself rather than my comment in it. Scroll up!
posted by vorfeed at 11:35 PM on September 28, 2011

Alcohol can help you relax and get to sleep. However, it does mess with your sleep cycle and can make your sleep less restful. So personally I'd suggest avoiding it, especially if you are waking up feeling not rested. I wouldn't worry about that being alcoholism, however.

If yoga works for you, I'd suggest a relaxation exercise or two before sleep to help unwind instead. You can get good effects in as little as five minutes. I often do it in bed, and find I fall asleep in the middle of it. As a bonus, people who regularly use Breathing Retraining report that they cope better with stress in general.
posted by gilsonal at 1:01 AM on September 29, 2011

Only a puritan or a nervous American looks down on 2 glasses of wine a day. There is nothing at all wrong with it.

Well it depends. I'm a drinker and because I intend to continue to drink everyday into my old, old age, I try to follow the guidelines.

A large glass of wine contains about 3 so-called alcohol units. Two such glasses of wine makes it 6 alcohol units.

The UK NHS recommends that "Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day" (Fortunately for me, the limit for men is higher.)

That's one glass. If you regularly have two glasses, you're clearly pushing the limits - puritan or not. It's also a lot of empty extra calories.
posted by three blind mice at 3:50 AM on September 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Three blind mice has a good point about the size of a glass of wine-- for both your health and the calories. Many restaurants now pour "glasses" of wine that are actually 2 or more servings. Does your wine bottle make 5-6 glasses of wine? That's about normal. Does it make more like 3-4? You're getting quite a bit of alcohol per night.

But the real questions is how you feel. It sound like you need the wine or the medicine to help you sleep (because the yoga sounds like it's rare). Needing something like that can feel scary, at least to me. It might be a sign that you should start addressing the underlying causes. Even if that means tough conversations at work, or starting to search for a new job.
posted by ohio at 5:04 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

three blind mice is right. It's not a moral issue, but one of health and considering whether your alcohol use is exacerbating your stress. I am pretty much an average sized male, and I can tell you that if (when) I drank that amount of alcohol for an extended period (starts around a week), I ended up worse off. Sleep quality suffered and I was more stressed out and depressed feeling during the day.

A family member has been drinking at approximately that rate for most of her life. If I am on the phone with her, I can literally hear her getting stupider from the first glass. She is clearly dependent on it, and it is incredibly frustrating.

So look at the long term. It seems like you are approaching the threshold of dependence, and that's not fun.

There are no rules of thumb or signs for substance abuse. Well, there is one: looking for rules of thumb to justify or constrain behavior.

As for stress, a great deal of it is not in the actual events that are happening, but in one's mindset toward it. When a troublesome event occurs, what's your immediate reaction? Probably something like "oh, ffs, not again"? Change that. If there is too much to do, give up the things you can control to make room for the things you can't control.
posted by gjc at 6:24 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My father drank a glass of wine most nights for the majority of his life. My grandfather did the same. They are both 100% italian. My grandfather lived until his mid-80s and was mobile and healthy up until the end.

I myself am more of a beer guy, and will have a beer most night at least during the warmer months. For me, its relaxing and refreshing. If its a hot day and I am sweating in the car ride on the way home. A nice cold beer really does the trick for me.

No harm no foul. If you want, try a week without wine and see how you feel.
posted by amazingstill at 7:39 AM on September 29, 2011

I drink 1-2 glasses of wine/day, usually with dinner, and don't see why it would be a problem. Since I've started doing that I feel like I digest food better when I have wine or beer with it, but it is also a nice transition from work/daytime to evening relaxation. I also try to make sure I finish it a few hours before bed or else I do notice sleep disruption.

Tea before bed is a great idea, I do that every night as well.
posted by fromageball at 7:45 AM on September 29, 2011

I enjoy a bit of booze on a somewhat regular basis, particularly before bed. No shame in my game. Kind of like you, it relieves stress, and grad school + work is fucking stressful!

I also find a walk does wonders, and I do enjoy cannabis regularly as a stress release, and general mental health goodness.
posted by handbanana at 7:53 AM on September 29, 2011

Have you tried melatonin? I personally love the stuff, but it's not to be taken every night. maybe mix it in with your wine / yoga schedule.

I seriously hope you are never mixing the alcohol and the klonopin -- that can have serious repercussions.

If 1-2 glasses of wine relaxes you but doesn't get you tipsy, there's no problem with it. They say a glass and a half a day is good for you, though that report seems to get rescinded every couple years or so.
posted by custard heart at 11:08 AM on September 29, 2011

For women, it is recommended that you do not exceed 1 drink per day, for men it's 2 drinks - and that really is per day, and not averaged per week. One drink is defined as follows:

"A standard drink is equal to 13.7 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

12-ounces of beer.
8-ounces of malt liquor.
5-ounces of wine.
1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).

Note, that this is a very small amount of wine. You must adjust the 5 ounces for the alcohol content of the wine - 12.5% used to be standard, but these days many wines routinely go up to 15%, which means you can take in even less than 5 ounces (or 10 for a man). Check the alcohol content of your wine - it gives that information on the label.

Research shows, that taking the wine with food (in your case, dinner) is definitely superior to drinking it without food. It is best not to drink too close to your bedtime, as alcohol lowers the quality of your sleep. There is convincing research showing health benefits of such moderate drinking, but there are caveats. One caveat, is that alcohol is strongly oncogenic - bad news for women in particular; if I were a woman with a family history of breast cancer, I would not drink.

So, assuming you are a man, and assuming that the amount of alcohol does not exceed the above guidelines, you should be fine. It's a little high, if you are a woman.

One additional caveat - it is slightly worrisome that you need to drink to relax, rather than drinking for enjoyment or health. This very often leads to an escalation of intake - and it's very, very hard to control; if you drink for enjoyment or health, it's much easier to cut back should negative consequences appear, but if you're doing it to medicate yourself, it becomes a problem.

Bottom line: you are fine so far, but I'd watch like a hawk to make sure you are not escalating the intake - it's very, very important. At the first sign of escalation, absolutely cut back. And yes, try to find other means to relax, like exercise.
posted by VikingSword at 11:38 AM on September 29, 2011

While I agree that 1-2 glasses of wine a night shouldn't be a problem, I would say that you should always be careful and aware of your body.

A close family member recently passed away from long term liver damage caused by drinking no more than 1-2 glasses a night, more on celebrations. After symptoms of mood swings, tiredness and weight loss had been misdiagnosed as depression and liver disease was finally diagnosed, the consultant said that while this almost was not considering "alcoholism", over 30 years with very few alcohol-free days, it could still cause damage to someone who was unlucky.

This story would not put me off drinking, but it just serves as yet another reminder that common sense and knowing your own body's limits are far more important than the official recommended amounts! For example, a petite woman drinking 2 glasses a day is totally different to a heavy man doing the same.
posted by jenp at 12:38 PM on September 29, 2011

One or two glasses per night are fine -- good for you, in fact, according to most studies.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:29 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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