The Link Between Alcohol and Insomnia

However, more research is necessary to determine whether this is a common occurrence. As alcohol enhances the GABA’s function, it causes a slowing of brain activity, which can make a person feel sleepy and tired. When people get older, they naturally experience a decrease in slow-wave sleep and an increase in nighttime wakefulness. Research has found that people over 65 often awake three or more times during the night. Consuming two servings of alcohol per day for men and one serving for women can reduce sleep quality by 9.3%. However, even small amounts of alcohol can have noticeable effects in some people.

While alcohol can make you feel tired at first, it can also disturb your sleep as it wears off. Alcohol can cause sleepiness and may initially have a sedative alcohol insomnia effect. This is because it depresses the central nervous system and enhances the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter, which slows brain activity.

Recovery, Sleep, and Relapse

Withdrawal symptoms are a whole different world than alcohol-induced sleep problems. Because on top of sleep disturbances, you can also experience anxiety, shakiness, headaches, brain fog, and a range of other detox symptoms. Research on alcohol and sleep shows that moderate-to-heavy drinking has a detrimental effect on sleep. But this is more of a guideline than a rule—simply because the amount of alcohol that causes insomnia is different for everyone. When you’re heading to bed after a long day, a few drinks can feel like the perfect way to get some shuteye.

If you think dehydration is interfering with your sleep, try increasing your water intake throughout the day. Electrolyte imbalances can interfere with the quality of your sleep. For example, low sodium levels have been linked to restlessness and difficulty sleeping. If you regularly experience night sweats, it’s important to talk with a doctor.

Additional Treatment Services For Alcohol Use Disorder

Another example is calcium, which helps your body regulate slow-wave or deep sleep. A 2022 study suggested a link between low calcium levels and sleep disruption among shift workers. Night sweats are a symptom of menopause, hyperthyroidism, and anxiety disorders, among other conditions. In addition to waking you up, excessive nighttime sweating can lead to dehydration. 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.

It is to be noted that individuals in early recovery may overestimate their subjective SOL but underestimate their WASO, as compared to their PSG estimated indices (Conroy et al., 2006b). Statistics show that 5.3 percent of all people 12 and older in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder.12 And many others might deal with problematic drinking, but fall into the gray area. All this is to say that “just quitting” isn’t always easy, even when alcohol use harms your sleep and well-being. In fact, 12-step recovery programs often refer to the factors that increase a person’s risk for relapse as HALT, standing for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Sleep disruptions may increase the risk that a person will feel tired, which might cause a person to reach for a drink if they feel like they can sleep sober. Alcohol withdrawal leads to reductions in deep sleep and abnormalities in REM sleep.

Causes and risk factors

REM sleep is characterized by increased brain activity, relaxation of the body, rapid eye movements, and increased dreaming. If you drink to excess, even occasionally, you have probably experienced sleep problems. Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and restart during sleep, affecting the amount of oxygen your body gets. Individuals with sleep apnea often snore, gasp for air while asleep and wake frequently throughout the night. You may wake feeling tired, groggy and not well rested—even if you seemingly slept the entire night. “Even if alcohol initially helps [someone] fall asleep, they may wake up many times throughout the night or not get into a deep sleep,” she continues.

does alcohol cause insomnia

However, if you continue to have sleeping difficulties, reach out to a sleep specialist. Alcohol consumption can be a trigger for sleepwalking or talking during sleep. Sleepwalking can lead to injuries, disrupt sleep, and leave a person feeling fatigued and not well-rested after waking. Researchers believe the link between insomnia and alcohol consumption to be bidirectional, meaning that each contributes to the other. Most experts agree that drinking will mess with your sleep, no matter your age or gender.

How Does Insomnia Affect Sleep?

While Insomnia can lead to a dependency on alcohol, the opposite, like many mental disorders, is also true. In general, the use of alcohol can prevent someone from falling into deep sleep, which is crucial to maintaining normal brain function, physical health, and emotional well-being. The toll this takes could already cause strain to one’s life and relationships.

These findings contrast with lack of REM sleep abnormalities reported in 2 other studies, as compared to healthy control subjects (Williams and Rundell, 1981, Schiavi et al., 1995). Insomnia from alcohol use is pretty common, and studies have shown that anywhere from 36% to 91% of those who are alcohol dependent will struggle with sleep disturbances or insomnia. This is all due to how alcohol impacts your sleep cycles, along with its other physical and mental health effects. In short, it’s mainly due to your body rebalancing itself after stopping a substance. And because alcohol is a sedative, the withdrawal can follow the opposite sort of pattern. For example, you might feel overstimulated, restless, and anxious after quitting.

Alcohol Withdrawal and Sleep

The main role of GABA neurotransmitters is to regulate the nervous system in the body. Alcohol harms the production of GABA, and may lead to physical, emotional , and mental health damage. 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.

This means that someone self-medicating spirals deeper into their dependency, turning it into a full-blown addiction faster. Finally, regular drinking has been linked to insomnia and other sleep disorders, especially later in life. Researchers have found that the sedative effect only lasts for the first part of the night, though. People who consume alcohol before bed don’t wake up as often during the first few hours of sleep.

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