Alcohol and Sleep

Alcohol is a substance that’s known for depressing the central nervous system (CNS). When alcohol depresses the nervous system, falling asleep is easier and happens faster. Because alcohol helps people fall asleep faster, there’s a misconception that alcohol can help with symptoms of insomnia.

Studies have shown that alcohol use can exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea. While falling asleep faster after drinking alcohol can feel like it’s helping insomnia, the opposite is true. When someone falls asleep after drinking many alcoholic beverages, sleep quality declines. In fact, most studies suggest that there is a direct correlation between alcoholic beverages consumed and the quality of sleep. Insomnia is a disorder that prevents someone from achieving a restful night’s sleep. This could mean that they aren’t reaching a deep level of sleep, are waking several times through the night, or can’t fall asleep to begin with.

Alcohol and Insomnia Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Waking up multiple times per night to use the bathroom can contribute to insomnia and reduce sleep quality. People with Insomnia may also turn to alcohol or other drugs to relieve symptoms of insomnia. In these cases, insomnia becomes alcohol insomnia a co-occurring disorder that makes alcohol addiction worse. For example, it’s normal for individuals to experience insomnia a few times per year. Insomnia only becomes a diagnosed medical condition when it’s persistent.

Studies have shown that behavioral techniques, such as stimulus control and biofeedback, can help nearly all people with primary chronic insomnia. There are a variety of programs available for those wishing to undergo alcohol detox. These specialists in treatment for alcohol addiction will guide users through withdrawal effects with psychotherapy, group therapy, and medication. Alcohol further increases the effects of sleep apnea by relaxing the muscles in the throat, collapsing the upper airway and lowering oxygen levels. This not only worsens pre-existing sleep apnea but may also lead to episodes of sleep apnea in individuals who previously did not experience it. So, does alcohol help you sleep or is it actually interfering with your quality of rest?

Recovery, Sleep, and Relapse

An older study concluded that alcohol might reduce sleep in the first half of sleep and increase disruption in the second half. As alcohol enhances the GABA’s function, it causes a slowing of brain activity, which can make a person feel sleepy and tired. If you’re planning on heading out for a night that will involve some drinks, there are some things you can do to help you sleep afterward. Finally, going to bed with alcohol in your system increases your chances of having vivid dreams or nightmares, or sleepwalking and other parasomnias. This leads to sleep that is less restful and restorative and can encourage the use of alcohol to try to increase sleep.

It’s true, sleep may happen more quickly after consuming a drink or two. Alcohol often does reduce sleep onset latency—the time it takes to fall asleep. Depending on how much alcohol is consumed, however, what seems like falling asleep may be something closer to passing out.

How much does it take to affect sleep?

This episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring neurologist and sleep expert Chris Winter, shares strategies for sleeping better at night. Working on your sleep hygiene is another way to help prevent or reduce insomnia. These are changes you can make to your environment and routine to help promote sleep. People in recovery are often more likely to have problems with sleep onset than with sleep maintenance, which is why some might conclude that they can’t sleep sober. Someone looking for treatment for their Insomnia, without taking their alcohol use into consideration, could make the problem worse.

alcohol insomnia

These are known as rapid eye movement (REM), and nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. NREM sleep is broken down into three sub-stages, which show how ‘deep’ your sleep is. Good sleep hygiene also includes exercising before dinner, avoiding naps and engaging in a quiet, relaxing activity in preparation for bedtime. Getting quality sleep can assist people in maintaining sobriety during recovery.

The withdrawal then tends to last hours, lessening in severity as times goes on. However, this time can be quite challenging, especially for a suicidal alcoholic. In the short term, however, alcohol can help people fall asleep faster. Because alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, falling asleep is easier after consuming alcoholic beverages. People with insomnia who abuse alcohol have an increased risk of experiencing insomnia.

  • People with insomnia who abuse alcohol have an increased risk of experiencing insomnia.
  • If you pass the moderate threshold, though, you’ll get a lot more of that initial non-REM sleep, but significantly reduce the total percentage of REM sleep over the whole night.
  • Research shows that between 33% and 40% of people who consume alcohol experience mild to severe anxiety.
  • Research has linked the combination of sleep apnea, snoring, and alcohol consumption with an increased risk of heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke, and sudden death.

Alcohol interferes with these circadian rhythms regulating the liver, and can contribute to compromised liver function, liver toxicity, and disease. Some common medications have a diuretic effect, which means they make you urinate more than you usually would. This can contribute to excess fluid loss and dehydration symptoms at night. Heat is a common cause of dehydration, particularly in older adults. During hot weather, you need to increase your water intake during the day to make up for the extra fluids you lose through sweat.

Sleep Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice

Many people with insomnia may have difficulty falling asleep at night. As a result, they may consume alcohol to speed up falling asleep, but evidence shows this technique does not improve sleep quality. Alcoholism is a substance abuse disorder that develops over time as people drink alcohol. Habits like binge drinking increase the risk of alcoholism and people who abuse alcohol at a young age are more likely to become lifelong alcoholics. Small amounts of alcohol may cause short-term sleep disturbances, but frequent and large quantities of alcohol consumption may lead to chronic insomnia for certain individuals. Researchers have noted a link between long-term alcohol abuse and chronic sleep problems.

alcohol insomnia

Due to alcohol having uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal, it can be hard for people to sleep at night when not consuming alcohol. The relationship between alcohol consumption and sleep disturbance is complex. Alcohol acts as a sedative and reduces sleep onset latency5, and as such, may be used proactively to relieve insomnia6.

Our finding that those who have trouble falling asleep were more likely to be persistent heavy drinking suggests that they may be using alcohol as a sedative. This is partially corroborated in an earlier study on same population. Though alcohol can have a sedative effect, it has also been linked to sleep disorders like insomnia. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, alcohol consumption could be a contributing factor.

During sleep, a person’s heart rate should slow and drop to below 60 beats per minute. A racing heart may disrupt sleep or cause someone to fully awaken. Alcohol consumption can be a trigger for sleepwalking or talking during sleep.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *