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Insomnia and Alcohol Withdrawal: How to Manage Sleep Disturbances in Early Sobriety

Insomnia and Alcohol Withdrawal: How to Manage Sleep Disturbances in Early Sobriety

What To Know

  • Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the history of an individual's drinking habits, but insomnia is often a common one during the early stages of alcohol withdrawal.
  •  We also tend to have less GABA, the neurotransmitter involved in promoting calm and relaxation, making it quite difficult to get our body's into a restful state during the early stages of sobriety.

During early sobriety, we can experience many withdrawal symptoms that can be often uncomfortable, one of them during alcohol withdrawal is insomnia.

Maintaining our sleep during this critical time is often vital towards sustaining our sobriety, and overall looking after our wellbeing.

In this article, we’ll discuss why we experience insomnia and some simple tactics we can use to bring our sleep routine back to balance.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal and Insomnia

Withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the history of an individual’s drinking habits, but insomnia is often a common one during the early stages of alcohol withdrawal.

Most of the time, insomnia is a side effect of the body adjusting to the absence of alcohol, and most neurotransmitters are coming back into balance.

Generally, depending on how many day-long benders you had previously before you quit, will often determine how long it could take for your body to re-calibrate.

This often isn’t the only symptom – Learn more on the Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) in Extended Abstinence Individuals.

Common Contributors to Insomnia in Early Sobriety

Diagnosing insomnia alone can be difficult, as often at times, there are many contributing factors that lead to sleep disturbances.

That being said, from my experience with alcohol addiction, below are some common contributors to your insomnia in early sobriety:

Neurotransmitter Balance

One of the most common reasons for insomnia, when we quit alcohol, is our body’s attempt to re-calibrate our neurotransmitters. This is because after we stop drinking, we experience higher levels of glutamate, which puts our body in a more alert state (Sachdeva et al., 2015).

 We also tend to have less GABA, the neurotransmitter involved in promoting calm and relaxation, making it quite difficult to get our body’s into a restful state during the early stages of sobriety.

This is usually due to The Seesaw Effect of Glutamate and GABA during alcohol withdrawal – More on this here.

Stress & Worry

Stress, especially when we’ve just quit alcohol, can sometimes be more heightened than usual, which impacts our sleep.

Going through early sobriety is often a massive lifestyle shift, and this can bring up feelings of anxiety, and worry, which ultimately results in stress.

This stress drives up our cortisol, a hormone involved in keeping us awake and alert, and this may contribute to insomnia (Dressle et al., 2022).

Learn more on Alcohol Addiction and Stress: The Impacts On Early Sobriety

Daily Routine

When we are struggling with alcohol addiction, our daily routine, particularly our sleep pattern, is often disrupted.

This is commonly referred to as sleep hygiene, and individuals who are trying to overcome alcohol addiction may need to allocate time and effort towards improving this aspect of their daily routine.

Studies even show that establishing a healthy daily routine may help the body better regulate the biological clock, leading to improvements in sleep (Moss et al., 2014).

Quick Tips for Managing Insomnia During Early Sobriety

Based on these contributors we just spoke about, here are some strategies you can use to manage insomnia and sleep disturbances during early sobriety.

These strategies are designed to help you get into a better sleep routine, and to promote the better release of sleep-related hormones and neurotransmitters.

Establish a Sleep Routine: Develop a sleep routine and stick to it every day, including weekends. This routine could include going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and limiting electronic use before bedtime.

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure that the bedroom is comfortable, cool, and dark, and that the bed is comfortable and supportive.

Practice Relaxation Techniques: Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation to help calm the mind from worry and anxiety, and promote better sleep. 

Avoid Stimulants: Avoid consuming caffeine and other stimulants, particularly in the afternoon and evening, as they can interfere with sleep.

Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help promote better sleep. However, it is important to avoid exercising close to bedtime, as it can have a stimulating effect.

Supplement: Using supplements such as GABA or other sleep supplements to support a healthy sleep routine can also be beneficial in getting on top of insomnia.

The Takeaway

Insomnia is common during early alcohol withdrawal, caused by the body adjusting to the absence of alcohol. Common contributors include neurotransmitter imbalance, stress, and disrupted daily routines. 

Strategies to manage insomnia during early sobriety include establishing a sleep routine, creating a comfortable sleep environment, practising relaxation techniques, avoiding stimulants, and exercising regularly. These habits promote better sleep and improve overall well-being during the recovery process.

If you have any feedback regarding this article, reach out. Help Clarity reach more people and quit addiction by following us on Instagram, it’s also the perfect place to message us and ask questions!

References

  • Dressle, R. J., Feige, B., Spiegelhalder, K., Schmucker, C., Benz, F., Mey, N. C., & Riemann, D. (2022). HPA axis activity in patients with chronic insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control studies. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 101588. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2022.101588
  • Moss, T. G., Carney, C. E., Haynes, P., & Harris, A. L. (2014). Is daily routine important for sleep? An investigation of social rhythms in a clinical insomnia population. Chronobiology International, 32(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.3109/07420528.2014.956361
  • Sachdeva, A., Choudhary, M., & Chandra, M. (2015). Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazepines and Beyond. JOURNAL of CLINICAL and DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.7860/jcdr/2015/13407.6538

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