What If I Can’t Sleep Without Alcohol?

How Does Alcohol Impact Sleep?

It’s 3:30 AM on a Wednesday and you cant sleep without alcohol. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down the responses in the body. 

It not only changes the way your body feels, but it also slows down brain function which can lead to you feeling very sleepy throughout the day. In total, alcohol is a sedative that helps people fall asleep and stay asleep. 

However, when taken in excess amounts for long periods of time it can have negative effects on sleep-wake cycles known as circadian rhythms. Instead of drinking coffee or another caffeinated drink when you feel tired during the day, many turn to a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage in order to relax and be able to wind down from their busy days.

Alcohol is toxic to cells found in the central nervous system such as nerve cells and neurons which control all major bodily functions such as:

  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Sleep

Furthermore, heavy or long-term drinking can lead to inflammation in the brain which increases the risk of developing dementia within an individual’s lifetime.

Alcohol is known to cause disruptions to people’s circadian rhythms because it impairs your ability to wake up during certain hours via its inhibition of GABA receptors found in the hypothalamus region of the brain. It also inhibits histamine receptors; these are two types of neurotransmitters that play a vital role in maintaining our body’s normal reactions to stimuli such as staying awake for several consecutive hours. 

What Are Some Causes of Insomnia?

The causes of insomnia are varied. Some people have difficulty falling asleep because of:

  • Certain habits, I.E. Caffeine
  • Medications or other substances they are taking
  • Sleep environment
  • Stressors in their lives
  • Underlying mental or physical conditions or disorders, etc.
  • Alcohol can be a cause of insomnia for some people

The reasons for this are complex. However, it is known that alcohol use causes changes to occur in the body’s central nervous system which makes muscles more relaxed and somewhat paralyzes them. This affects your breathing patterns while you’re sleeping which decreases the amount of oxygen reaching the brain triggering rebound effects that cause arousal throughout the night long after you’ve stopped drinking alcohol. 

Withdrawal from alcohol also causes trouble sleeping since withdrawal reduces total sleep through a healthy cycle. To counteract these changes in the sleep cycle, people with alcohol use disorders will often drink before they go to bed to try and get some of the positive effects of alcohol back. However, this is a temporary fix that will only make things worse over time without solving the underlying problem. 

Unfortunately, these sleep disturbances are one of many symptoms accompanying alcoholism withdrawal. It’s important that you get help for your addiction if you’re having trouble maintaining healthy sleeping patterns. There are several treatment options available whether it be medication or therapy which can help you quit drinking altogether while also getting adequate rest every night. Additionally, trying activating substances like melatonin can promote better sleep cycles by helping our bodies realize when it’s time to start.

How Do Some Individuals Who Suffer from Alcohol Dependence or Abuse Struggle to Sleep without Drinking Alcohol?

Some individuals who suffer from alcohol dependence or abuse struggle to sleep when they do not drink alcohol. 25.8% of people aged 18 years and older report binge drinking in the past 30 days. Every day, 261 Americans die as a result of excessive alcohol use. 

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down activity in the central nervous system, at the same time increasing the effects of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that act as neurotransmitters in the brain and can bring about feelings of well-being and happiness. Alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism for stress or other emotion-related issues.

Alcohol itself does not cause a lack of sleep; rather it disrupts REM cycles, which are needed for healthy restful sleep. Chronic drinkers take nearly twice as long to fall asleep after initially lying down as non-alcoholic people because their bodies attempt to metabolize the toxic substance still present in their systems.

What’s the Difference Between Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Addiction?

The difference between alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction is the way the body and brain react to the consumption of alcohol. People who are physically dependent on alcohol will experience physical withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking abruptly, whereas people with alcohol addiction may not experience physical withdrawal symptoms but will be driven by a strong desire or impulse to drink. Alcohol addicts also tend to require more and more alcohol over time to achieve the same effect.

Most American adults consume alcohol at least once in their lifetime. Among them, 6.7% will develop an alcohol use disorder. Men are 3 times as likely as women to die as a consequence of alcohol abuse. Between 80% and 90% of 21st birthday, celebrants consume alcohol. Males are consistently twice as likely to report excessive alcohol use than females.

Alcoholism is an addiction: alcoholism has been shown to cause sleep disorders, poor sleep quality, and insomnia. Even after achieving sobriety, almost half of recovering substance abusers continue experiencing chronic insomnia, which can lead some recovering addicts back into their addictions just so they can get enough rest at night.


Detoxification is the process of removing toxic substances from the body. During detoxification, various withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia can afflict alcoholics. For this reason, some recovering addicts may depend on prescription drugs that help induce sleep; however, it is better to risk these unpleasant withdrawal effects than to relapse back into addiction.

If you are currently struggling with alcoholism and subsequently having trouble sleeping at night, there are many options for you before turning to potentially addictive medications or supplements. Eliminating caffeine consumption after lunchtime will make it easier for you to achieve restful sleep; since caffeine has a six-hour half-life, if you drink coffee in the mid-afternoon then it will be affecting your ability to fall asleep at night even twelve hours later. 

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-Assisted Treatment is the process of using medications, such as anti-depressants, to help people with alcoholism fight through the withdrawal process. This can be an effective way of helping someone transition from alcohol abuse into a sober lifestyle but is not a long-term solution. 

The medication will offer relief from some short-term effects of detoxification but it won’t make the underlying causes go away. Instead, over time a person may become dependent on these drugs and even need to start taking larger doses in order for them to have any effect at all. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is the process of housing someone in an institution that specializes in addiction recovery while they undergo detoxification. This is often considered to be a preferable option for individuals who are struggling with severe cases of alcoholism because it allows them to go through treatment without worrying about anything else. While this might sound like the perfect solution, there are several disadvantages associated with this type of rehabilitation center. 

The primary advantages of this method are that people are able to receive around-the-clock care and can rest assured knowing that they won’t have access to alcohol while they’re under the supervision of medical professionals. There are also some downsides to consider before deciding whether or not an inpatient program is the best choice for those with mild to moderate cases of substance use disorders.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a suitable option for most people who are currently in the early stages of alcoholism. Outpatient treatment involves attending counseling sessions during the day at a community center or other facility, rather than staying overnight at an inpatient facility. 

Outpatient treatment is usually sufficient for someone whose addiction is relatively mild but may not be effective for people with severe alcohol addiction. 

Rehabilitation facilities offer specialized programs that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs and circumstances. Facilities will often employ a range of different approaches and treatments including:

  • Behavioral therapy: psychotherapy and counseling designed to change harmful patterns of behavior and teach healthier ways of thinking instead
  • Group therapy: art or music therapy can help patients relax and feel more comfortable opening up about their problems

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)

Intensive outpatient treatment programs are designed for people who are battling substance abuse, but who may not need the constant supervision and structure of an inpatient treatment center. IOPs offer intensive, around-the-clock care to help patients recover from their addiction while continuing with daily responsibilities such as work and family life.

  • Individual therapy: It’s important that patients receive one on one treatment so that they can get the most out of their sessions.
  • Group therapy: These support groups help patients connect with others who have similar concerns.
  • Behavioral therapies: Patients learn healthier ways to cope with stress.

Sober Living

Sober living is a form of halfway house that allows people who have completed rehab to live in a supportive and drug-free community while they continue working on their recovery. 

Sober living communities can provide valuable social support, help recovering addicts overcome the temptation to relapse, and offer a greater degree of freedom than traditional forms of addiction treatment.

Rehabilitation facilities employ professional staff members such as doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, and nurses. These professionals work together in a multi-disciplinary team to treat patients holistically through a wide range of different treatments. 

Support Groups

Support groups are used to encourage sobriety within a group setting. In programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous [AA], individuals come together for the purpose of supporting each other in achieving sobriety from alcohol and drugs.

During recovery, support groups help in reinforcing a patient’s ability to remain in a sober, drug-free environment by encouraging them to participate in activities that do not involve the use of substances. These types of events may take place during treatment or aftercare. Spontaneous weekend visits to amusement parks, family activities, and sporting events are examples of these types of outings.

What Are Some Tricks to Get Better Sleep Without Alcohol?

The tricks to getting better sleep without alcohol include:

  • Using a sleep journal to record feelings of anxiety and any possible factors that may be leading to poor sleep, such as pain or alcohol use
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine with the help of relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and yoga
  • Set an alarm clock to create regular sleeping patterns 
  • Eat light at night and avoid large meals before bedtime
  • Herbal solutions: many herbal treatments are being developed as alternatives to prescription sleeping pills. In one study, researchers found that passionflower was just as effective as oxazepam.

Enter a New Beginning of Health at North Jersey Rehabs

Drinking to fall asleep may seem like a harmless habit but in the long run, this can lead to more problems than solutions. Consider alternatives to get a good night’s rest because your health should always be a priority. Alcohol dependence can lead you towards a downward spiral. North Jersey Rehabs works with your needs to balance the stresses and coping behaviors you’ve developed. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, contact one of our facilities today.


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