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Stopping alcohol is a smart health decision but can cause short-term symptoms during detox. One of these symptoms is insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. While alcohol withdrawal insomnia can be disruptive, you can do many things to offset it and get a full night’s sleep.
Alcohol over-stimulates GABA receptors in the brain. The receptor causes relaxation when stimulated, making alcohol create the feeling of enhanced relaxation that makes it enjoyable. During withdrawal, GABA receptors are under-stimulated. While over-stimulation of these receptors causes relaxation, under-stimulation causes the opposite effect. The resulting hyperactivity makes sleeping difficult, creating temporary insomnia during detox.
If you have insomnia, all you want is to sleep well again. While alcohol withdrawal causes an unavoidable increase in insomnia, the good news is that you can do many things to help yourself get to sleep during withdrawal.
Your body has a natural clock called the circadian rhythm. If you go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time daily, your body will quickly adjust to this cycle. This will make your body primed to go to sleep at the same time each night, helping you fall asleep more predictably. Setting a regular sleep schedule helps most with alcohol withdrawal insomnia if started at least a week before beginning detox.
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and increase the stimulation you experience during alcohol withdrawal. Using either substance can contribute to insomnia, especially when you use it closer to bedtime. Because your body is already hyperactive from withdrawal, it is best to avoid caffeine and nicotine altogether until you finish detoxing from alcohol.
When you’re tired from insomnia, you may want to nap more. However, napping makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night. You should avoid napping during the day to sleep better at night and make your naps short if you do take one.
Regular exercise helps you sleep better at night. The exact reason exercise promotes sleep is not fully understood; however, 30 minutes of moderate activity will help you feel more ready for sleep. Some people find that exercise before bed helps promote sleep, while others find it more effective to exercise in the morning. You will ultimately have to figure out which time of day best promotes sleep at night.
Medication can help you sleep better if you struggle with alcohol withdrawal insomnia. There are two ways that medicines can help. Firstly, you can take medications that make you feel more relaxed and ready for sleep. Secondly, during medical detox, you can take medicines that counter the effects of alcohol withdrawal. This promotes sleep by reducing the underlying cause of your insomnia.
After you stop drinking, insomnia will typically set in within a night or two. Insomnia will continue most of the time you have withdrawal symptoms. This duration differs based on the individual; however, it generally lasts about a week to 10 days. Once withdrawal symptoms are gone, insomnia will typically resolve. Any insomnia that lasts longer than detox is more likely to have a psychological cause than a physical cause.
Detoxing from alcohol is dangerous, with many symptoms that can be more unpleasant than just insomnia. Alcohol withdrawal can even be fatal in some cases. Alcohol detox under medical supervision is vital for safely and comfortably detoxing from alcohol. At The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, we have experience helping people medically detox while avoiding the dangers and discomfort of withdrawing. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to learn how we can help you achieve lasting recovery from alcohol addiction.
Because alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous – and even kill you – make sure you have medical advice from your doctor or a rehab facility when you decide to stop drinking.
There are many misconceptions about alcoholism that make it sound like an alcoholic is an easy person to spot, however, many alcoholics function effectively and lead relatively normal lives.
An alcohol abuse problem can include binge drinking, having negative consequences such as hangovers with your drinking but continuing anyway, and drinking despite the desire to stop.
In a recent study by The Recovery Village, 44% of respondents reported abusing alcohol in an attempt to ease uncomfortable feelings that stem from underlying anxiety.
Drinking more than three drinks in a single sitting will temporarily cause your blood pressure to rise, but extended binge drinking or regular alcohol consumption can cause a permanent increase in blood pressure.
MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed May 9, 2023.
Davies, Martin. “The role of GABAA receptors in mediating[…]ntral nervous system.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. July 2003. Accessed May 9, 2023.
Dugdal, David C. “Alcohol withdrawal.” MedlinePlus. January 17, 2021. Accessed May 9, 2023.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tips for Better Sleep.” September 13, 2022. Accessed May 9, 2023.
Kline, Christopher E. “The bidirectional relationship between e[…]nd sleep improvement.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. November 1, 2015. Accessed May 9, 2023.
Newman, Richard K.; Stobart Gallagher, Megan A.; & Gomez, Anna E. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls. August 29, 2022. Accessed May 9, 2023.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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