Alcoholism and Insomnia are tightly linked. Insomnia can happen with regular alcohol abuse and also when you are withdrawing from alcohol. It seems counterintuitive, since drinking alcohol can cause you to feel sleepy, but alcohol abuse can seriously disrupt your sleep patterns. It can cause dehydration and act as a stimulant as well, preventing you from getting healthy sleep. While alcohol can help you fall asleep initially, many people find that it disrupts the second part of sleep. Alcohol is actually said to be worse for your sleep quality than caffeine.
Alcoholism and insomnia is prevalent even when the alcoholic is in recovery. Alcoholics with both short term and long term abstinence can experience sleep problems for many months after they stop drinking. When an alcoholic is in recovery, however, the problem seems to stem more often from inability to fall asleep rather than inability to stay asleep. In this way, it is exactly the opposite from the type of insomnia that is commonly experienced by active drinkers.
Alcoholism and Insomnia: The Danger
One of the biggest dangers of the link between alcoholism and insomnia is that is can worsen alcoholism during active drinking and it can be a factor in relapse during recovery. In active drinking, alcoholism and insomnia can cause a person to drink more and more alcohol just so they are able to sleep at night. Insomnia also gets worse as alcoholism progresses, so it becomes a vicious cycle.
In recovery, alcoholism and insomnia can be a factor in relapse. The insomnia can increase daytime drowsiness and psychological distress. Some alcoholics cannot handle the added psychological stress, and they end up relapsing. Trying to refrain from drinking can take a lot of vigilance, self-control, and self-worth. It becomes even more difficult to do if you are exhausted.
Alcoholism and Insomnia: The Facts
Alcoholism and insomnia are so connected because of alcohol’s effect on the body. Here are some of the ways that alcohol can interrupt sleep:
- Alcohol dehydrates the body.
- Alcohol produces adrenaline in the body, which acts like a stimulant and disrupts a person’s sleep.
- Alcohol interferes with normal sleep patterns by disrupting particular neurotransmitters in the brain which control or regulate sleep.
- Alcohol can be associated with sleep apnea; a disorder in which the upper air passage narrows or closes during sleep causing you to wake up many times during the night gasping for air.
- A person whose body has become dependent on alcohol will commonly have insomnia when they quit drinking because alcohol is a depressant.
- Alcoholics and recovering alcoholics often have poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to behaviors that constitute good sleep habits, such as keeping a regular rising time, avoid napping, and refraining from stimulants like caffeine in the evening.
- Sleep can be improved in recovering alcoholics through using and approach that emphasizes good sleep habits, relaxation, and stress management.
- Alcoholism and insomnia can lead to relapse in recovering alcoholics; so many treatment centers address this issue specifically through cognitive-behavioral therapies and non-narcotic pharmaceutical treatment.
- Insomnia occurs in 36-72% of alcoholic patients and may last for weeks to months after initiating abstinence from alcohol.