An alcohol detox is an imperative part of getting sober. But with detox comes withdrawal.
Withdrawal is different for everyone and the severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on several different factors. While some may be lucky enough to get by with a few annoying, but manageable, side effects, others may experience more severe, persevering symptoms. Shaking, sweating, and nausea are all common symptoms that go away quickly, but sleep problems like alcohol withdrawal insomnia can haunt recovering alcoholics for a while.
Why Does Alcohol Cause Insomnia?
Anywhere from 25 to 72% of patients getting alcohol abuse treatment report experiencing sleep problems.1 Although insomnia is a side effect of alcohol withdrawal that is common, many people with alcohol use disorders already struggle with insomnia before treatment begins.
It is common for people with drinking problems to use alcohol to help them fall asleep. While drinking can help people fall asleep faster, it can make sleep problems like insomnia worse in the long run. People who regularly use alcohol as a sleep aid are more tired and less alert than people who do not drink alcohol at night.2
Part of the reason that insomnia and alcohol are so connected is the way alcohol can impact the sleep schedule and cycle. High doses of alcohol can increase the time it takes someone to fall asleep.2 Drinking high amounts of alcohol can also inhibit REM sleep that is thought to help with memory consolidation. Although these effects become less prominent as regular alcohol use continues, there is usually a REM rebound effect when drinking stops.2 This sudden change may be part of the reason for alcohol withdrawal insomnia as the body is trying to adjust back to a normal sleep cycle sometimes years after being out of whack. This increase in REM can also lead to sleep disruption later in the night from increased dreaming and nightmares.2
How Long Does Insomnia from Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
The alcohol withdrawal insomnia timeline is different for everyone, but sometimes insomnia problems are still present even months after abstaining from drinking.3 While the seriousness of withdrawal symptoms usually depends largely on the severity of the addiction, insomnia from alcohol withdrawal may not follow this same pattern. A study found that the severity of alcohol withdrawal insomnia depended more on the person’s level of depressive symptoms rather than their drinking history.4 Fortunately, there are ways to treat alcohol withdrawal insomnia and a residential treatment center will often have programs in place to help with this process.
Alcohol withdrawal insomnia is more than just annoying, persistent sleep problems; It is often associated with relapse.1 At Clearbrook Treatment Centers, we understand that recovery from a substance abuse problem comes with many hurdles, but we have our patients’ long-term success in mind.
If you or someone you love needs assistance with a substance abuse problem, stop waiting. Call 570-536-9621 to get started.
- SAMHSA – Treating Sleep Problems of People in Recovery From Substance Use Disorders
- NCBI- Disturbed Sleep and Its Relationship to Alcohol Use
- Oxford Academic- Impact of Alcoholism on Sleep Architecture and EEG Power Spectra in Men and Women
- Wiley Online Library- Comprehensive Assessment of Insomnia in Recovering Alcoholics Using Daily Sleep Diaries and Ambulatory Monitoring