The Link Between Alcohol and Insomnia

Submit your number to receive a call today from a treatment provider. If you or a loved one is ready to overcome an alcohol addiction, reach out today. Treatment providers can connect you with programs that provide the tools to help you get and stay sober. Alcohol consumption can lead to a lack of sufficient quality sleep, which can seriously affect cognitive functions such as learning and memory.

alcohol insomnia

This information was published by Bupa’s Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals and deemed accurate on the date of review. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our healthy lifestyle articles.

Alcohol Makes You Sleepy, but That Doesn’t Translate to Good Sleep

Because alcohol is a CNS depressant, it can help people fall asleep faster. While alcohol can provide short-term relief from insomnia, it reduces sleep quality when alcohol is abused for long periods. Alcohol can also affect people with insomnia because of its addictive qualities.

Consuming alcohol and experiencing restricted sleep reduces alertness during the day. If you’re turning to alcohol to help you sleep, you may be making the quality of your sleep worse. Many of us find ourselves tossing and turning at night, trying to get that elusive 7 to 8 hours of sleep experts say we need but never finding it. By Buddy T

Buddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Because he is a member of a support group that stresses the importance of anonymity at the public level, he does not use his photograph or his real name on this website. Science does not know what function REM sleep performs for the body, but it seems to be required for restoration.

How Much Alcohol Causes Insomnia?

It is often partly caused by the coinciding sign of anxiety, which sends the mind racing and makes it incredibly difficult for the person withdrawing to sleep. “Typically, it’s advised to stop drinking alcohol around three to four hours before bed. This should give the body enough time to metabolize the alcohol and get it out of one’s system, allowing them to enjoy unaffected sleep,” explains Dr. Hsu. “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. Most insomnia medications help people fall asleep and stay asleep by slowing down the central nervous system. While this process helps with sleep, it also slows the rate of breathing.

Anyone experiencing insomnia should speak with a doctor to learn more about what treatments may work best for them. An uncomfortable sleep environment can make getting a good night’s rest challenging. It can also negatively affect mood, which can, in turn, alcohol insomnia affect personal relationships. This website is using a security service to protect itself from online attacks. There are several actions that could trigger this block including submitting a certain word or phrase, a SQL command or malformed data.

Other general adverse effects

You may have also noticed that you snore after you’ve had a drink or two. Alcohol can make breathing-related issues, like snoring or sleep apnoea, worse. This is because alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, making it harder for air to reach your lungs. To get enough oxygen, you must work harder to inhale air, causing vibration and snoring sounds. When your sleep is disrupted, it can affect the hormones and brain signals which are normally released during sleep.

  • As a passionate advocate for science-based content, she loves writing captivating material that supports scientific research and education.
  • However, it is also important to note that many people experiencing insomnia during withdrawal and recovery also had insomnia before they became dependent on alcohol.
  • Here’s why alcohol before bed actually interferes with you getting the rest you need.
  • Over time, poor quality sleep can have a negative influence on many different aspects of your life, including your long-term health.
  • This is because it depresses the central nervous system and enhances the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter, which slows brain activity.

Any of these possibilities mean that when the person wakes, they aren’t feeling rested. On a day-to-day basis, this doesn’t seem like that pressing of an issue. In the long-term, however, it can be detrimental to one’s mood, energy level, physical and mental health, work performance, and quality of life. Insomnia is characterized by difficulties falling asleep, prolonged wakefulness and poor sleep quality. One study showed that 58 percent of alcoholic men developed insomnia during the first six days of alcohol withdrawal.

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. If you want to understand why alcohol has a contradictory effect on your sleep cycle, it can help to think about things in terms of sleep stages. Drinking alcohol reduces your sleep onset latency (SOL), or the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

This type of behavioral therapy works to improve your sleep efficiency, or the time you spend asleep divided by the time you spend in bed. Many people who are recovering from alcohol use disorders had sleep problems that predated their alcohol dependence. Insomnia can be easily treated for most and, if it is caught early enough, completely avoided before any permanent damage has taken hold. Unfortunately, many attempt to use the sedative effects of alcohol to combat their insomnia through self-medication. Some individuals find that alcohol consumption can trigger hot flashes and night sweats during menopause.

If you’re struggling to get enough quality rest, talk to a health care professional about ways to improve your sleep. Making a plan to focus on better sleep habits can help you feel your best and improve your overall health. Normal sleep cycles through four stages, which are either considered rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or non-REM sleep. Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows down brain activity. While “relaxed” may sound appealing, alcohol has also been shown to negatively affect sleep and other physiological processes that occur during sleep. As you work toward quitting, you can try adjusting your drinking around your sleep for less severe impact on your sleep patterns.

  • At present, most literature is based on cross-sectional studies and thus cannot assess direction of effects6.
  • This can contribute to excess fluid loss and dehydration symptoms at 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.

Drinking alcohol can disrupt the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, an important, restorative stage of deep sleep during which dreaming occurs. Although alcohol can initially have a sedative effect, it can lead to problems in the sleep cycle. Having the occasional nightcap to unwind is no biggie and may help you fall asleep faster. Some people may resort to drinking alcohol as a sleep aid or agent that initiates sleep. 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.

Alcohol can help people fall asleep but the quality of sleep is reduced. After drinking alcohol, the liver and other organs need to remove alcohol from the blood to low blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Depending on how many alcoholic beverages were consumed, this can take several hours.

alcohol insomnia

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. This means that someone self-medicating spirals deeper into their dependency, turning it into a full-blown addiction faster. The major issue is that people may not feel the negative effects at first.

Looking for health + wellness advice?

If you think dehydration is interfering with your sleep, try increasing your water intake throughout the day. If you regularly experience night sweats, it’s important to talk with a doctor. In contrast, a very small 2018 study found that participants’ hydration status did not affect their sleep. Aside from these disruptive symptoms, there are no clear links between hydration levels and insomnia. Other side effects of dehydration — such as headaches and muscle cramps and spasms — can also keep you awake.

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