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Alcohol and Insomnia

Jan 5, 2022

Your ability to manage the amount of quality of sleep you get at night is pivotal in sustaining your career, among other things. One factor you may be overlooking right now is when you drink and how much beer, wine, or liquor you consume.

Let’s explore the connection between alcohol and insomnia and when treatment may be necessary.

Drinking alcohol regularly can both worsen the symptoms of a chronic sleep disorder and lead to insomnia. Having drinks close to bedtime plays a role in disrupting sleep cycles and can lower the amount of quality sleep you get at night. It’s recommended to stop drinking at least four hours before bedtime if you already suffer from insomnia.

Dual diagnosis treatment for insomnia and alcohol use disorder is available. It’s important to determine if routine alcohol use contributed to the onset of insomnia or if the presence of a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress, has had an impact on sleep.

How does alcohol affect your sleep?

Alcohol is a depressant with sedating effects so it’s not uncommon to assume it’s going to help you sleep well. But, it actually does interfere with getting a good night’s rest in several ways. Several factors contribute to exactly how alcohol affects your sleep, from your age and gender to body type and physical health.

It may take longer for heavy drinkers to fall asleep. The body remains at work while you’re resting so it can metabolize the alcohol in your system. This process is slow and can lead to lower quality of sleep and instances of waking up during the night.

People who fall asleep more quickly aren’t guaranteed a restful slumber either. Drinking in the evening can affect their sleep cycles through the night. The result can be a loss of deep sleep in the second half of the night and a negative effect on long-term memory.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can develop from a variety of causes. A high-stress job can be a factor. Demanding work or travel schedules are another potential cause. Poor sleep and eating habits can create or worsen the problem, too. Medical conditions and medications are other potential causes.

Mental health disorders are another factor in someone developing insomnia. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress can make falling asleep or staying asleep challenging. Drinking in response to the feelings tied to these conditions can add to your overall sleep disruption.

How close to bedtime should you stop drinking?

The amount you drink in the evening is a factor in affecting your sleep. Even a moderate amount of alcohol (two drinks for men, one for women) consumed after dinner can lower sleep quality significantly. More than two drinks before bedtime can have a much greater impact.

The recommended amount of time between a single (or last) drink and going to bed is at least four hours. For some people, this may look like having a drink with dinner and stopping there for the evening. Giving yourself that four-hour span of time allows your metabolism to work and blood alcohol levels to return to a normal range.

How Alcohol Affects Those with Insomnia

Someone with insomnia feels the effects of poor sleep the next day while at work and trying to function in their personal lives. They may turn to having a drink in response to their sleep issues. If a drink or two helps them fall asleep, they may feel the choice to use alcohol is working.

Unfortunately, drinking before bedtime is actually robbing them of much-needed deep sleep.

The pattern of drinking before bed every night can lead to a dependency on alcohol. They may not want to attempt to sleep until they’ve had a few drinks and feel relaxed. As their tolerance increases, they may drink even more every evening. Heavier drinking can not only affect their ability to get quality sleep, it can also interfere with their ability to get to work and perform properly over the course of the workday.

Over time, continuing to drink can worsen the symptoms of insomnia. Waking up during the night may include waking up too early. Your ability to pay attention and remember important tasks may be affected. Your mood can change as you become irritable, depressed, or anxious.

Drinking routinely while suffering from insomnia can also lead to an increased threat or costly errors or dangerous accidents at work.

Insomnia as a Co-occurring Disorder

The relationship of insomnia and alcohol can move in either direction. Drinking regularly and heavily can be a factor in someone developing this chronic sleep disorder. A person who routinely disrupts their sleep cycles through alcohol use can make them vulnerable to insomnia.

Also, a person with insomnia can develop an alcohol use disorder over time as they drink to manage their lack of sleep.

Insomnia can be connected to a person’s overall mental health as well. Someone may suffer from insomnia and not be aware of how it’s related to depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. A major life-changing event can contribute to insomnia as well and may include empty nesting, starting a new job, moving to a new town, becoming a parent, retiring, or losing a loved one.

Alcohol Use Disorder and Insomnia Treatment

Dual diagnosis treatment may be necessary for someone with an alcohol use disorder and insomnia. If insomnia is connected to a mental health disorder, treatment for both substance use and sleep disorders is highly recommended. In a setting that provides both, a person can begin working on recovery goals while learning healthy strategies to address sleep issues.

 Headwaters at Origins is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 844-439-2837.

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