Wine Wine Features

Why Does Red Wine Make Me Tired?

It’s happened to me so many times before, at meals with friends or dining out on press trips: somebody asks if we’d like red or white wine, and I usually go for white, regardless of what I’m eating — because red wine makes me tired.

“Don’t you like red wine?” they ask (of course I do, I’m a Wine Ninja). “Oh, it doesn’t have that effect on me.” But inevitably, after a couple of glasses, some of the red-wine guzzlers are snoozing into their sirloin. They blame it on a food coma, of course, but they’re just in denial. I’ve known about red wine’s sedative effect since I was a teenager. That’s why I save it for cosy nights in, when I don’t have to engage in upbeat chit-chat. But why does red wine make so many of us sleepy? Let’s look at the science…

Apart from the colour of the grapes used, the main difference between red and white wines is that reds are fermented along with their skins and seeds, while whites are pressed first and fermented as juice only. Could this be the mystery solved already? Apparently so.

You see, grape skins contain melatonin, the hormone associated with regulating sleep cycles. So that’s that sorted then? No so fast. Some scientists have suggested that the amount of melatonin in a glass of red isn’t nearly enough to make your eyelids droop, and therefore… red wine doesn’t make you tired. You’re just imagining it.

But this sort of conclusion irritates me. Just because the data available doesn’t suggest a correlation, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. This is the the sort of science that says “hot tea cools you down” and “alcohol doesn’t dehydrate you”. What about the heaps of anecdotal evidence? Personally, I believe in my own subjective experience. Just because statistical proof hasn’t been found that red wine makes me tired, doesn’t mean I’ve been imagining it for the past 25 years.

And I’m not the only one. Sixty per cent of drinkers agree — according to a recent study of 30,000 people (published in the journal BMJ Open and reported in The Independent) into the varied emotional responses induced by different alcoholic drinks.

So what can knackered red-wine lovers do to mitigate the drink’s seductive-sandman effect? I wouldn’t recommend espresso chasers… not if you value your beauty sleep. The most effective method I’ve found is simply to drink lighter reds, such as Pinot Noir or Gamay, and avoid heavyweights like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Save those full-bodied bad boys for a relaxing fireside soiree, and you might just give your social life a boost.


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