When the body gets used to a substance such as drugs or alcohol, ceasing use of the substance produces an effect called withdrawal. Depending on how long you’ve been abusing a substance, how much you use, and the substance itself, withdrawal can produce effects that are uncomfortable enough to disrupt everyday life. One example of this is alcohol withdrawal insomnia.
Alcohol withdrawal can produce a range of effects that are mild or serious in nature. One of these effects that is on the serious side is insomnia. Insomnia after quitting drinking can be so serious that it pushes people to relapse just so they can get the relief of a good night’s rest.
If you are currently going through a medical detox program for alcohol, you may be currently experiencing alcohol withdrawal insomnia.
Luckily, there are ways to ensure that you get the sleep you need without undoing the hard work and progress you have made in your recovery from alcohol addiction. In this blog, we will provide tips on how to get sleep during alcohol withdrawal, so you can get the rest you need.
What is Insomnia?
First, insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by a lack of sleep and disturbed sleeping patterns. Many people think insomnia means you cannot sleep at all. However, insomnia can affect sleep patterns in a few different ways. Insomnia can cause poor sleep quality, make it hard to fall asleep, or prevent you from staying asleep throughout the night. Overall, the symptoms of insomnia include the following:
- Lying awake at night for a long time before finally falling asleep
- Sleeping for short periods before waking again
- Remaining awake for most of the night
- Feeling as if you did not sleep at all when you wake up
- Waking up much earlier than you planned to and not being able to fall back asleep
The disturbance to restful sleep due to insomnia can result in you feeling fatigued during the day. Concerningly, fatigue caused by insomnia can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability. This can cause you to have a hard time paying attention, remembering things, or performing daily tasks.
Insomnia may not sound like a serious side effect, but the consequences of insomnia can be. Insomnia is dangerous for several reasons. For example, being excessively tired can make it dangerous to operate a vehicle like a car. Further, alcohol withdrawal insomnia can cause a person to relapse just to get a good night’s rest.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal is the body’s response to alcohol cessation. This means that the alcohol is no longer entering the system, but rather leaving it. Alcohol has a short half-life, meaning alcohol leaves the body very quickly—on average after 1/2 to 2 hours. For this reason, alcohol withdrawal can start soon after someone quits drinking.
While going through alcohol withdrawal, insomnia is very common. However, it is not the only symptom that people experience. When withdrawing from alcohol, individuals may experience the following symptoms:
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Jumpiness or shakiness
- Mood swings
- Not thinking clearly
- Memory problems
- Sweating, clammy skin
- Enlarged (dilated) pupils
- Insomnia (sleeping difficulty)
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Sweating, clammy skin
- Tremor of the hands or other parts of the body
When going through alcohol withdrawal, there is also the risk of developing a condition called delirium tremens. This condition can cause serious effects such as seizures, hallucinations, or severe confusion. This is why you mustn’t go through alcohol withdrawal alone. Medical detox allows individuals to stop abusing substances in a controlled environment where dangerous symptoms can be controlled with medication and careful monitoring.
The Connection Between Alcohol Withdrawal and Insomnia
Alcohol withdrawal insomnia is a common occurrence during alcohol detox. In fact, it’s a symptom of a larger syndrome called alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The alcohol withdrawal syndrome is caused by the body trying to adjust to alcohol no longer being in your system. This process causes you to have flu-like symptoms, anxiety, and other issues that make it difficult to sleep.
While some people experience insomnia after quitting drinking, others experience it before picking up the bottle. Some cases of alcohol use disorder (AUD) begin due to an individual’s desire to sleep. For example, someone might start drinking occasionally to fall asleep.
How to Deal with Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia
In the early stages of recovery, alcohol withdrawal insomnia is common. As the mind and body begin to adjust to life without substance abuse, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. To prevent relapse, it is important to find ways to cope with possibly persistent alcohol withdrawal insomnia. If you are experiencing insomnia during detox, the following strategies can help you get the sleep you need to give recovery your all.
Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep Hygiene is a term that describes behaviors that can help with sleep. These behaviors may be incorporated into daily life or only when struggling to fall asleep at night. Examples of sleep hygiene include: limiting caffeine and alcohol before bed, avoiding bright lights, or avoiding phone and television screens.
Certain activities can cause your brain to stay active around bedtime. This is why it is important to create a “wind-down” time that includes relaxing activities. A structured bedtime routine to help you wind down can include reading a book, having a cup of herbal tea, or taking a warm bath before bed. The idea is to do things that relax you before bed.
Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule
When you go to sleep at the same time every night, your body will grow accustomed to that sleep schedule. This makes it easier to fall asleep at night. Your body’s internal clock, called the circadian rhythm, can be set over time by going to bed at the same time regularly.
Watch What you Eat and Drink
If you have alcohol withdrawal insomnia, what you eat and drink can be contributing to your insomnia. It is important to avoid drinking too many beverages before bed. Having to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night is not conducive to a good night’s rest. This goes for food as well. Eating too much or too little before bed can also negatively impact your sleep.
Associate Your Bed with Sleep
The brain will build associations through repetitive behaviors. If you are always using your computer or phone in bed, your brain will associate wakefulness with you being in bed. Instead, you can associate your bed with sleep by only sleeping in your bed. Other activities, such as watching tv, should be done in other areas of the house.
Get Some Exercise
There are many benefits to exercise. One of these benefits is improved sleep. Exercise can help regulate your circadian rhythm, promote restful sleep, and help you wake up refreshed in the morning. When we tire out our bodies during the day, it’s often easier to sleep at night.
Exercise can also be a great way to stay healthy, active, and sober. Going for a jog or to the gym instead of drinking can promote healthy habits that replace your old habits. Overall, there are many reasons to get and stay active.
Avoid Caffeine and Other Stimulants
By avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants around bedtime, you are setting yourself up for sleep success. These products are all known stimulants that will make falling asleep more difficult. This is especially true when it comes to coffee and caffeinated teas, which are commonly consumed in the US.
After the morning, it is not recommended to drink coffee or other beverages with caffeine. If you usually have soda that contains caffeine at dinner or around lunchtime, flavored sparkling water or a beverage without caffeine is a much better option.
Don’t Watch the Clock
You may be tempted to watch the time tick away while you lay awake in bed due to alcohol withdrawal insomnia. This is not a great way to get to sleep. Watching the clock is associated with feelings of anxiety and dread. As time passes, you become aware of the sleep you are losing and the hours between the present and when you have to wake up.
Instead, try to read a book, listen to music, relax and get your mind on something else. Don’t focus on not being able to sleep because this will only make insomnia worse. Once you have begun to feel drowsy, you will be able to get to sleep more easily.
If you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal insomnia, avoiding naps can help you feel tired enough to sleep at night. Insomnia at night may cause daytime drowsiness that pushes you to want to nap. However, napping during the day can cause it to be harder for you to fall asleep at night.
If you have to take a nap, it is best to keep naps short. The longest amount of time you should nap is for 30 minutes. Napping for 15 to 20 minutes is ideal to not disturb nighttime sleep or confuse your body’s internal clock.
Managing Alcohol withdrawal Insomnia with Coastal Detox
The withdrawal process comes with pain and discomfort that can disrupt your life and push you to turn to your substance of choice for relief. To help you stick to your commitment to sobriety, medical detox is available. Here at Coastal Detox, we offer soothing and holistic therapies combined with medication-assisted treatment to provide you with a safe and comfortable detox process.
If you are ready to take the first step to recovery, contact us today. We can walk you through the detox process and create a plan that works best with your needs. Don’t wait another day, when you can start detoxing as soon as possible.