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For someone who enjoys 6 to 8 hours of deep, peaceful sleep every night, it is easy to take it for granted. However, if you have ever struggled with insomnia, you can deeply appreciate how important sleep is for your overall well-being and health. Such people often indulge in alcoholism, particularly at night, to unwind or feel drowsy. The association between alcohol and sleep is much more complex than this.

As a disorder that prevents someone from achieving peaceful sleep at night, insomnia makes it difficult for an individual to fall asleep or wake up several times during the night. In any of these possibilities, the individual never feels well-rested. On a day-to-day basis, this may not be that pressing an issue. However, in the long term, it can deteriorate one’s mood, mental health, energy levels, work performance, and overall life quality. It’s tempting to use alcohol as a sleep aid in such circumstances, but according to research, doing so negatively affects sleep quality. In fact, up to70% of people who use alcohol suffer from insomnia, which is surprising considering alcohol is a depressant for the brain.

Here is everything you need to know about insomnia from alcohol, how it occurs, and what can be done to manage it.

For many people, a little alcohol before bedtime may work like a charm to induce sleep and overcome the difficulties associated with insomnia. However, such individuals can quickly develop tolerance to these sedating effects of alcohol. Multiple studies have explicitly highlighted how quickly alcohol can become ineffective when used for sleep induction, increasing the risk of acquiring alcohol use disorders.

With higher doses, especially in chronic alcoholism, the effects of alcohol on sleep may worsen. Higher amounts of all alcoholic beverages have been found to disrupt sleep, especially during the second half of the night.

In addition to the effect of alcohol on sleep, studies have also demonstrated its potential to exacerbate related disorders, such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Heavy drinkers are particularly at risk of exacerbation of sleep apnea which, in turn, increases their chances of suffering from stroke, heart attacks, and sudden death.

When someone develops an addiction to alcohol, it indicates that their body has developed a physical dependence on this beverage over time. Hence, when these people get into detox, their bodies need to readjust themselves to the absence of alcohol chemically. As a result, a variety of symptoms may develop, such as tremors, headaches, depression, and not mention, sleeping difficulties.

If you have suffered an addiction to alcohol, then your body has built a physical dependence on alcohol over time. Thus, when you experience withdrawal from alcohol, your body must chemically readjust very suddenly in response. Up to three-fourths of individuals addicted to alcohol report difficulty sleeping during detox. As if insomnia alone weren’t a big enough problem, maintaining a good quality sleep for the entire night becomes an even more significant challenge.

Commonly known as alcohol withdrawal insomnia, there are multiple reasons why it manifests in detox. Alcohol is naturally a sedative; hence, most people who abuse it are accustomed to drinking it to fall asleep more peacefully. Once such people enter withdrawal, their bodies may find it challenging to regulate their sleep patterns without alcohol. For someone with pre-existing insomnia, withdrawal from alcohol can exacerbate the problem even more.

Insomnia from alcohol withdrawal is very real, and recovery from it can last months or years if no professional is sought for it.

Whether you are in recovery or not, abstinence is the first line of treatment for insomnia due to alcohol. Sobriety has helped many patients see improvements in their sleep patterns within weeks. Many rehabs offer behavioural therapies and medications to reinforce recovery to complement this benefit

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The aim of cognitive behavioural therapy for alcohol withdrawal insomnia is to alter sleeping habits and remove any misconceptions perpetuating sleep difficulties. The therapy entails regular meetings during which qualified therapists provide sleep assessments and work with clients to change their problematic sleep behaviours. Clients are encouraged to complete a sleep diary at home if it is being conducted on an outpatient basis.

Sleep Restriction

This type of behavioural therapy aims to improve sleep efficiency (the time spent in sleep divided by the time spent in bed). The concept behind sleep restriction is that by controlling the duration of time clients give themselves to sleep and stay in bed, they can increase their sleep drive or the desire to sleep. As a result, they can expect to sleep more efficiently every night.

Medication

People dealing with insomnia as a part of alcohol withdrawal in a detox centre are usually asked to avoid taking any extra medications not prescribed by a healthcare professional. At the same time, the detox may add certain medications, such as acamprosate, to the treatment plan to battle insomnia during withdrawal.

Research has also found that diazepam and tetrabamate can improve sleep in clients undergoing detox from alcohol. They can also help manage other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as anxiety, seizures, and muscle spasms. Some rehabs also prescribe anticonvulsant medications to treat insomnia related to alcohol use.

Sleep Hygiene

In addition to providing the therapies mentioned above, many addiction specialists recommend clients work on their sleep hygiene to prevent or reduce insomnia. These include changes to make in the bedtime routine and environment to promote sleep, such as:

Development of a relaxing bedtime routine

Schedule a relaxing bedtime routine by incorporating activities that relax your mind and body. It can be journal writing, a warm bath, or a meditation app.

Keeping the room cool, dark, and comfortable

Experts advise against using any e-gadgets in the bedroom, such as television, cell phones, laptops, and e-readers. These devices release blue light that suppresses melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, and interferes with sleep. Keep the room cool, ideally around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees Centigrade, and use shades, curtains, or blinds to block light from coming in.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule

Fixing times for sleeping and waking up enables the body to get used to a particular sleep schedule. Once the body gets used to this schedule, it will start preparing to shut down close to bedtime.

Avoiding daytime naps

Napping during the day decreases the overall amount of sleep debt, making it challenging to fall asleep at night at the appropriate time.

Avoiding stimulants close to bedtime

Any stimulant that disrupts sleep, such as coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, cigarettes, and tea, must be avoided close to bedtime. According to research, an average person loses more than one minute of sleep for every cigarette.

Numerous complementary therapies are routinely offered to people under alcohol detox to regulate their sleep patterns and ease the pathway towards recovery. These therapies commonly include:

Guided Imagery

Many rehabs offer guided imagery therapy to tackle the sleep issues encountered during alcohol withdrawal holistically. These programs are now widely available on the internet and in the form of smartphone apps. In this technique, a narrator provides sound effects and verbal cues to the listeners to conjure up a relaxing and peaceful scene in their minds and practice slow, quiet breathing simultaneously. This relaxes the mind and helps it shut down and fall into sleep more easily.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils, such as rose, lavender, and ylang-ylang, have been long known to calm down a tensed mind and body. Aromatherapy utilises the power of these essential oils to help addicts fall asleep by placing a few drops in the bath or on the pillow. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Relaxing the muscles helps the mind fall asleep faster. The key is to focus on each group of muscles at a time, starting from the feet up. Clients are directed to tense the muscles as they inhale, hold their breath for a count of 5, and then exhale, releasing the tension.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that helps clients guide their thoughts toward the present moment. This trains the mind to prevent developing stressful thoughts and focus on the sounds and sights in the surroundings.

If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol use disorder and struggles to go to bed every night, it is time to get help. Alcohol-induced insomnia, whether it comes from binge drinking or withdrawal, can make it extremely difficult to cope with life’s stressors. At our addiction rehab, we can help you overcome the challenges of detox, alcohol cravings, and sleeping difficulties under medical supervision. Give us a call to begin your new life today.

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