There is a link between alcohol and insomnia, referred to as alcohol insomnia. Consumption of alcohol interferes with a person’s ability to enjoy better sleep.
It is also common for someone who is alcohol dependent to experience long-term sleep problems. Insomnia and other sleep disorders are common symptoms of alcoholism.
Insomnia occurs when a person has sleep difficulties. It might include:
Risk factors that increase a person’s potential for developing insomnia include:
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The Academy of Sleep Medicine describes insomnia conditions in the following ways:
Alcohol and insomnia have a “bidirectional” relationship. This means people with insomnia tend to have an increased risk of alcohol abuse and other substance use disorders.
Insomnia doesn’t directly cause alcoholism, nor does alcoholism always cause insomnia. The relationship between the two disorders is complicated and closely linked. And in general, the use of alcohol – even healthy use – affects the quality of sleep.
Drinking alcohol does not allow you to get deep sleep. Many people often wake up a few times in the middle of the night without knowing and do not enjoy a normal sleep routine.
Drinking alcohol can lead to the following sleep problems:
People with alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) experience insomnia at higher rates than those who do not abuse alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can cause insomnia.
20 percent of adults in the US use alcohol to help them fall asleep.
In 2011, it was estimated that over 252 days are lost across the U.S. Workforce every year due to the symptoms of Insomnia.
It is estimated that 30% to 35% of adults in the U.S. deal with some kind of insomnia.
Additionally, individuals dealing with co-occurring medical conditions have an even higher risk of developing insomnia and/or alcohol use disorder.
For instance, according to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
Someone with alcohol use disorder has a high risk of developing insomnia as part of the withdrawal and recovery process.
In one study, 58 percent of men in observational treatment for alcohol use disorder experienced insomnia during their first six days of withdrawal.
There are a few reasons why alcohol withdrawal and insomnia are linked, including:
Treatment for alcoholism can be more challenging when the person also has insomnia. The problem worsens when there is an additional co-occurring psychological or physical health condition.
In part, this is because a lack of sleep affects the quality of life and a person’s ability to perform optimally even under the best conditions. The inability to get enough rest during detox and recovery tends to exacerbate the already challenging circumstances, leading to disturbed sleep.
The best option is to take an integrated and comprehensive approach to help a person cope with alcohol use disorder, insomnia, and any co-occurring condition. This means the person receives support and guidance from a multi-disciplinary team of treatment providers.
Alcoholism treatment programs begin with an assessment to evaluate a person’s physical and psychological health and identify all problem areas. Next, he or she undergoes medical detox that allows the patient to manage withdrawal symptoms as effectively as possible.
Medical care related to insomnia and any co-occurring conditions will continue throughout the treatment process. In addition to medications, this might also include different types of therapy that address a person’s use of alcohol, co-occurring issues such as depression or anxiety, and insomnia.
Coping skills aid in falling asleep, such as meditation and breathing techniques, because they improve your mental health. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can also help support a healthy sleeping schedule.
Some lifestyle changes that can help manage alcohol insomnia include:
Alcohol dependency is rarely the only issue a person in withdrawal is dealing with. This is why a comprehensive approach to treatment is often the key to a successful recovery.
Here are some frequently asked questions about alcohol and insomnia:
Alcohol may help with sleep onset because of its sedative properties, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly. However, people who drink alcohol before bed often experience disruptions later in their sleep cycles when liver enzymes metabolize alcohol. Additionally, this can result in excessive daytime sleepiness and other problems the following day.
Drinking to fall asleep can also make you build a tolerance, forcing you to drink more alcohol each night to experience the sedative effects.
Consuming alcohol in excess is likely to have a more negative impact on sleep than light or moderate alcohol consumption. However, as the effects of alcohol vary from individual to individual, even small amounts of alcohol can worsen sleep quality for some.
One study compared sleep quality among people who consumed different amounts of alcohol.5
The results are as follows:
You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
(1) Ornelas, Christopher, and MD. “Chronic Back and Neck Pain’s Close Connection to Insomnia.” SpineUniverse, https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/sleep/chronic-back-neck-pain-s-close-connection-insomnia
(2) “Insomnia.” Www.Instituteforchronicpain.Org, https://www.instituteforchronicpain.org/understanding-chronic-pain/complications/insomnia
(3) “Using Alcohol to Relieve Your Pain: What Are the Risks?” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 25 Apr. 2019,https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/using-alcohol-to-relieve-your-pain
(4) Arnedt, J. Todd, et al. “TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR SLEEP DISTURBANCES DURING ALCOHOL RECOVERY.” Journal of Addictive Diseases, vol. 26, no. 4, 2007, pp. 41–54, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2936493/