Alcohol is one of those things that will come up a lot at university, particularly during Fresher’s week. When I first started at Exeter, I was determined not to make a fool of myself and do something I might regret. This lasted for about a month, and once I started to drink, it was very difficult to stop. This led me to feel exhausted all the time, needing naps nearly every day.
Many people think that when you drink you go to sleep really easily, especially as a lot of people just pass out once they get in from a night out. However, even a few drinks can cause you to go straight into deep sleep, thereby missing out on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. On an average night, one has 6-7 cycles of REM sleep which allows you to wake up feeling refreshed but when drinking you often only have around 1-2 cycles of REM sleep, leading to exhaustion.
One night in particular, I drank far too much and remember very little of the evening. ‘Blackouts’ are caused by a rapid increase in blood alcohol concentration, which then distorts the activity of neurons in the hippocampus and therefore impairs the ability to form new episodic memories. I fell over a lot that night and had to be carried up the lift and to bed; the reason for ‘falling-down drunk’ is the effect that alcohol has on the cerebellum. It is the centre of movement and balance and so when alcohol affects this area, there is often a lack of control.
There were also nights where I was surrounded by lots of new people and felt out of my comfort zone so drank to compensate. And yes, it did make me feel more confident and therefore more able to be myself but only up until a certain point. Alcohol increases levels of norepinephrine, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for arousal. This explains why someone experiences more excitement and happiness when they start drinking.
Alcohol also increases levels of dopamine in the brain, which makes people feel good due to the strong role this neurotransmitter plays within the brains “reward centre”. However, it should be noted that this feeling can diminish over time, which is what leads to alcoholism, and also depending on the quantity of alcohol being consumed can serve as depressant.
“it’s important to remember that you don’t need to compensate for being a little shy with a lot of alcohol”
Alcohol can be extremely fun though and I’ve discovered that more in my second year. It’s sometimes nice to be completely care-free and act a bit silly and alcohol is one way of achieving this state, but it’s important to remember that you don’t need to compensate for being a little shy with a lot of alcohol. That way you can enjoy your week and your university career here at Exeter without looking back on it with any alcohol induced regrets.