The Sleep Struggles of Alcoholics: Insights & Solutions
The year 2023 has been significant for American medical researchers who specialize in the science of sleep as it relates to substance abuse. At the University of Missouri, Dr. Mary Beth Miller was awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her research into developing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies that may alleviate insomnia and alcoholism simultaneously.
At the MRI Global Institute, a private research facility also based in Missouri, the results of a longitudinal study involving hundreds of thousands of alcoholics around the world were published in June 2023, and its findings indicate that nightcaps of liquor, beer, or wine are terrible for sleep hygiene from a neurological perspective.
The Neurological Impact of Alcoholism on Sleep
You’ll never find a healthcare professional who advises against good sleep hygiene. In fact, getting adequate sleep is part of all medical recommendations because this is when the tissues, endocrine system, muscle fibers, metabolism, and immune system go through various processes of repair. These are physiological benefits, but there are neurological considerations as well. The aforementioned MRI Global Institute research study looked at the melatonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), adenosine, and norepinephrine levels of alcoholics who didn’t get proper sleep, and the findings show they weren’t conducive to mental health.
Sleep Problems Related to Alcoholism
Insomnia, the struggle to fall or stay asleep, is the most common sleep disturbance associated with alcoholism. Other disruptions range from fragmented sleep to night terrors, hypersomnolence at inconvenient times, and sleep apnea. Not all alcoholics will experience only one sleep problem. In fact, most will develop at least two disturbances when their alcohol use disorder (AUD) falls into the moderate to severe stages.
How Drinking Disrupts Sleep
Ethanol is a strange chemical compound with regard to sleep. Although it acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, ethanol ends up disrupting the circadian rhythm the body should adhere to for optimal health. When the GABA receptors are stimulated by ethanol molecules, the body gets that initial warm and fuzzy feeling that promotes drowsiness. This may sound like a prelude to sleep, but researchers from MRIGlobal have noted this isn’t a healthy sedative effect because it throws the dream cycles into disarray rather quickly. By the time your physiological processes give up and send you to bed after many drinks, your neurochemistry has been altered to the point that rapid-eye movement (REM) cannot be aroused.
Prioritizing Sleep during AUD Recovery
Insomnia is often a catalyst for AUD relapse because lack of proper sleep promotes irrational behavior, neurosis, and a lack of impulse control. Getting AUD patients back into a healthy circadian rhythm is crucial. For many alcoholics who stay at facilities such as Solana Beach sober living homes as part of their recovery journeys, being able to sleep through the night feels like a heavenly blessing.
Some patients require antidepressants and light doses of sleep medication to get their sleep cycles back to normal. Others get into physical activity, proper nutrition, and mindfulness exercises. Anecdotal research into insomnia and alcoholism suggests the risk of relapse can be reduced by nearly 70 percent with good sleep hygiene.
If you’re newly sober and you need help with sleep issues, call on the experienced team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing Solana Beach sober living housing for men, we work with each individual resident to develop a customized plan that combines treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. We provide sober companionship, coaching, and mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information about our sober living facilities, call us today at (760) 230-2996.