The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Sleepy Wine, Sleepy Heads

Posted on | September 20, 2010 | Written by Francesco Vigorito | No Comments

Lioness after a glass of Soldera

Here is question that I often get asked, being the only wine nerd in my family: I sometimes drink a glass of wine and get pretty sleepy afterward. What is it about wine that makes you tired?

This question, in some ways, stands for everything that wine represents, and its simplest response also answers all wine questions: wine affects everyone differently. It makes a lot of people tired, but many people also feel invigorated, those like me, for instance. Drinking a glass of wine, be it cheap jug wine or  high-end juice, creates a personal experience for your mind, palate and body.

Of course, simple answers rarely give satisfaction, and thus we look to the more complex. Alcohol—all alcohol—is a depressant.  Ethanol, the principal alcohol in wine, inhibits the activity of the central nervous system pure and simple. This in turn, makes you feel “down” and sleepy.

Some other people blame their wine-related sleepiness on sulfites. While sulfites are sometimes added to wine to help preserve it, they’re also added to cold cuts, hot dogs and other preserved meats. Sulfites in wine also occur naturally; they’re just there, a byproduct of fermenting grapes. Many people blame the sulfites in wine for a host of woes like headaches, allergies, hangovers and sleepiness. It may or may not be the sulfites that make you tired because, as I said before, everyone is different. Maybe hot dogs make you sleepy too.

There may be additional research that suggests wine’s role as a soporific. Recently, Italian scientists tested eight varieties of grapes for melatonin, the sleep hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland in your brain.  These scientists found large levels of this hormone, or a possible melatonin-like compound, in the skins of the grapes.  Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese had the highest amounts.  However, there is skepticism from other scientists that the compound found may not actually be melatonin. Clearly, more testing is in order.

If you find yourself getting tired because of wine, try to eat something before you drink as to slow the absorption of alcohol into your system. Or just drink near your bed. There are worse things than drinking a glass of wine and taking a nap.

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