Alcohol Withdrawal and Insomnia

Getting a great night’s sleep is one of the best feelings. At the same time, spending the night tossing and turning puts you in a bad mood and starts the day off wrong. People who struggle with insomnia may think alcohol will help, but over time it leads to dependence and trouble sleeping without alcohol. 

What is Insomnia, and Is it a Side Effect of Detox?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has consistent trouble falling or staying asleep. A person with insomnia may also get adequate sleep yet still have an unrestful sleep. 

Types of insomnia include:

  • Onset insomnia – trouble falling asleep
  • Maintenance insomnia – inability to stay asleep all night
  • Acute insomnia – short period of sleep trouble, typically caused by stress
  • Chronic insomnia – problems falling or staying asleep three or more nights per week for more than three months
  • Comorbid insomnia – insomnia co-occurs with other sleep interfering disorders such as anxiety and depression

Insomnia is a common side effect when someone goes through alcohol detox or withdrawal. A Journal of Addiction Medicine study states insomnia in early recovery is five times higher than the general population. 

Why Do You Experience Insomnia During Withdrawal?

When you struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and decide to stop, your body goes through withdrawal. As your mind, body, and spirit find balance without alcohol, you often struggle with insomnia. 

Besides alcohol damaging your sleep cycle, it also negatively affects your circadian rhythm. This damage leads to grogginess and daytime sleepiness. 

Unfortunately, insomnia increases anxiety, irritability, and the challenges of recovery. Additionally, alcohol withdrawal insomnia can last weeks, months, and even years. And while alcohol withdrawal insomnia will eventually fade, it can contribute to the recurrence of use in early recovery. 

What are the Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?

The number one concern for people in recovery is a recurrence of use. When people have trouble sleeping without alcohol, it can cause various negative side effects. Above all, insomnia can influence people to drink again. 

Other side effects of alcohol withdrawal insomnia include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Increases the challenges of recovery

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. 

ScienceDaily quotes David Hodgins, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary, as stating, “Sleep has a reputation among the recovering community of being one of the last things to fall back into place for an individual. It’s also recognized as a potential precipitant of relapse.”

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. 

Does Binge Drinking Increase Insomnia?

When a man has five drinks, and a woman has four drinks within two hours, it is called binge drinking. Binge drinking often increases insomnia. A study on insomnia and binge drinking shows people who binge drink twice a week are 84 percent more likely to have insomnia. 

What is Non-Restorative Sleep in Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?

Restorative sleep is completing all five stages of sleep along with the chemical changes that allow the brain and body to repair themselves. The two phases in which the brain and body do the most healing are deep sleep and REM. Studies show alcohol withdrawal insomnia interferes with restorative sleep for a year or more of recovery. 

The 12-step community has a saying when describing the risk factors of relapse – HALT. When individuals are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, they increase their risk of recurrence of use. And non-restorative sleep is unfortunately common in alcohol withdrawal. 

Create Good Sleep Hygiene to Ease Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia

Creating and maintaining good sleep hygiene can reduce or prevent insomnia. By making the following changes to your routine and environment, you will promote a good night’s sleep.

Develop a Calm and Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Instead of sitting down with a glass of wine and your cell phone, try a hot cup of tea and your journal. Or, maybe a good book and a hot bath sound better. Staying relaxed in the evenings sets the stage for a solid sleep. 

Create a Dark, Cool, and Comfortable Bedroom

Once you go into your bedroom at night, computers, cellphones, and TVs should all stay off. The blue light from these devices suppresses your sleep-inducing melatonin. In addition, the lights can interrupt your internal clock. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should keep your room around 65 degrees and use light-blocking curtains or blinds. 

Maintain a Regular Sleep/Wake Schedule

Go to bed at the same time each night. Wake up each morning at the same time. Sticking to a sleep/wake schedule (+/- 20 minutes) gets your body in a routine that eases trouble sleeping without alcohol.

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.

Stay Away From Caffeine and Other Stimulants

Stimulants include coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, and nicotine. The effects of these stimulants can last for hours after consumption. To decrease your trouble sleeping without alcohol, you should avoid stimulants in the evening.

Coping with Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia in Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Completing alcohol detox often lessens your trouble sleeping without alcohol. However, it is common for alcohol withdrawal insomnia to last for months, which must be addressed in treatment. Behavioral therapies are common treatments for alcohol withdrawal therapies. They are also preferred over medication therapy since some medications can lead to a recurrence of use. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps you change sleep habits and the negative beliefs about 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. 

How Does Sleep Restriction Help with Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?

Sleep restriction is a type of behavioral therapy. It works to improve your sleep efficiency or time asleep divided by time in bed. It is believed that by limiting your time sleeping and staying in bed, you increase your sleep drive or desire to sleep. As a result, you will sleep more soundly and efficiently. 

What Medications Can Ease Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?

If you continue to struggle with insomnia, your therapist may discuss putting you on medications. However, this decision should not be taken lightly. Both benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines have a high risk of misuse and can lead to a recurrence of use. 

Can Holistic Therapies Ease Your Trouble Sleeping Without Alcohol?

Perhaps when you stopped drinking alcohol, you also cut out all pharmaceutical drugs as well. The best way to support lasting recovery is to live an all-around healthy lifestyle. This includes exercising, eating healthy, and incorporating holistic therapies into your routine. 

Meditation Eases Trouble Sleeping Without Alcohol

When you decide to stop drinking, it takes mental discipline and self-control. When alcohol has been your go-to every evening before bed, not drinking can cause trouble sleeping without alcohol. Meditation can help calm the mind, ease cravings, and induce tiredness. 

Meditation can take as little as a few minutes to an hour or longer. You are in control of your meditation session. Create a quiet and calm environment to help you remain focused. Meditation can include repeating positive affirmations such as “I will have a peaceful sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.” 

Another form of meditation includes picturing yourself snuggled in your bed, sleeping peacefully, and waking up ready to start the day. It is also helpful to imagine yourself with years free of alcohol and living a healthy lifestyle in recovery. 

Yoga Helps Cope with Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia

Yoga is a gentle exercise that helps you get in tune with your body. When you struggle with alcohol withdrawal insomnia, it can make you feel totally out of wack mentally and physically. By including yoga in your daily routine, you decrease your trouble sleeping without alcohol and become more connected with yourself. 

Typically, yoga includes slow, gentle movements in rhythm with your breathing. However, there are many types of yoga, including slow-paced Hatha yoga to vigorous power yoga. Making yoga a lifetime practice also increases lifelong 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.

References:

https://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/Abstract/2014/11000/An_Evidence_Based_Review_of_Insomnia_Treatment_in.1.aspx

https://aasm.org/frequent-binge-drinking-is-associated-with-insomnia-symptoms-in-older-adults/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2936493/