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Alcohol, Drug Withdrawals

Alcohol Withdrawal and Insomnia

Experiencing insomnia during alcohol withdrawal is a common but challenging obstacle for many attempting to reduce or cease alcohol use. It’s vital to understand these challenges to navigate the path to recovery more smoothly. 

Alcohol Withdrawal and Insomnia: What's the Connection?

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when your body, which has adapted to regular alcohol consumption, suddenly must operate without it. This adjustment can lead to various symptoms, including some that impact sleep quality and duration profoundly. 

Key Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal 

  • Anxiety and agitation 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Sweating 
  • Tremors 
  • Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns 
  • Understanding these symptoms is the first step toward managing them effectively. 

Alcohol Helps You Fall Asleep, How Can it Cause Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?

After a few drinks, many people feel so relaxed they start getting drowsy. This is because alcohol is a depressant. So, when they need help falling asleep, 10 percent of people turn to alcohol.   

However, this can be dangerous. A tolerance can develop quickly, causing trouble sleeping without alcohol. As a result, it takes more alcohol to cause sleepiness, leading to addiction and alcohol use disorder.   

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep?

The Impact of Alcohol on Sleep Cycles

Regular alcohol consumption, especially in large quantities, significantly disrupts the natural sleep cycle. While alcohol might initially induce sleepiness, it dramatically reduces the quality of sleep by altering the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage, which is crucial for cognitive function and memory. 

Neurological Impacts

Alcohol affects neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for regulating sleep. GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleepiness, is artificially boosted by alcohol, and the brain may reduce its natural production in response, leading to difficulties in achieving restful sleep without alcohol. 

Exploring Alcohol Withdrawal and Insomnia in Depth

Why Does Stopping Alcohol Use Lead to Insomnia?

As you cease alcohol intake, the sudden reduction in GABA activity can lead to heightened alertness and anxiety, making it difficult to sleep. (1) Additionally, the body may experience an increase in adrenaline and cortisol, which are stress hormones that can further disrupt sleep. 

How Common is Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?

Although you may not feel like alcohol disrupts your sleep, it does damage your overall sleep health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), up to 72 percent of individuals in recovery for alcohol misuse experience alcohol withdrawal insomnia. (2)   

Managing Insomnia During Alcohol Withdrawal

Photo with information about coping with insomnia during alcohol withdrawal

Here are several strategies that can help manage insomnia during alcohol withdrawal: 

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to help regulate your body’s internal clock. 
  • Create a conducive sleep environment: Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Consider using sound machines, blackout curtains, or eye masks if necessary. 
  • Avoid stimulants: Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine, particularly in the hours leading up to bedtime. 
  • Avoid Naps: Your body only needs a certain amount of sleep each day. When you nap during the day, it decreases the amount of sleep you need, increasing alcohol withdrawal insomnia. 
  • Wind down before bed: Develop a pre-sleep routine that promotes relaxation, such as reading, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. 

When to Seek Professional Help

If lifestyle adjustments don’t improve your sleep during withdrawal, it may be necessary to consult with a healthcare provider. They can prescribe medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and recommend therapies to help reestablish a healthy sleep pattern. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps you change sleep habits and how your thoughts and beliefs impact insomnia. During CBT, you typically meet with your therapist weekly to take sleep assessments and discuss any trouble sleeping without alcohol.  Keeping a sleep journal can help track what helps and what doesn’t.   

Alcohol Detox and Rehab in St. Louis: Finding Help

Choosing the Right Facility for Alcohol Detox in St. Louis

For those living in or near St. Louis, several reputable facilities offer specialized programs tailored to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia. Choosing a facility that provides comprehensive support can significantly enhance recovery outcomes. 

Comprehensive Care in St. Louis

Alcohol rehabs not only focus on detox but also provide counseling and aftercare services designed to address all aspects of alcohol use disorder. These programs aim to equip individuals with the tools they need for long-term sobriety and health, including managing sleep disorders like insomnia. 

Taking the Next Steps Toward Recovery

Understanding the link between alcohol withdrawal and insomnia is crucial for anyone beginning their journey to recovery. With the right strategies and support, it’s possible to overcome these challenges and move toward a healthier future. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder and insomnia, reaching out for professional help can provide the necessary tools for effective management and recovery. 

Find Lasting Recovery for Alcohol Use Disorder at Sana Lake Recovery

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it is time to get help. Do you have trouble sleeping without alcohol? Is insomnia making it difficult to cope with the stress of daily life?  

At Sana Lake, we help you overcome the challenges of detox and alcohol cravings to live a life free of alcohol and drugs. Give us a call and start your new life today. 

  1. Bayard M, McIntyre J, Hill KR, Woodside J Jr. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Mar 15;69(6):1443-50. PMID: 15053409.
  2. SAMHSA (2014). Treating Sleep Problems of People in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders. In Brief, 8(2). 

Picture of Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry, LCSW, is the Chief Clinical Officer at Sana Lake Recovery. She oversees clinical operations, ensuring effective treatment strategies and compliance. Before this, she was Program Director at Gateway Foundation, managing care programs and collaborating with state departments. Ashley has also served as Director of Clinical Services at Treatment Management Company, improving staff retention and clinical standards. She holds a Master's in Social Work from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor's in Social Work from Saint Leo University. She is licensed in Florida, Arizona and Missouri.
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