Alcohol Abuse and Insomnia Disorder: Focus on a Group of Night and Day Workers PMC

Regular drinking has also been linked to shorter periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a disrupted circadian rhythm, and snoring. Drinking alcohol before bed can increase the suppression of REM sleep during the first two cycles. Since alcohol is a sedative, sleep onset is often shorter for drinkers and some fall into deep sleep rather quickly. As the night progresses, this can create an imbalance between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep, resulting in less of the latter and more of the former. This imbalance decreases overall sleep quality, which can result in shorter sleep duration and more sleep disruptions.

Dr. Khosla runs a telemedicine outreach program that serves rural areas in North Dakota and has done so for the past decade. She is active within AASM and has served on numerous AASM committees, including the original Telemedicine Task Force. She also served as the inaugural chair of the Clinical and Consumer Sleep Technology Committee and is the current chair of the AASM Public Awareness Advisory Committee. Your health and wellness is unique to you, and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances.

Sedative effects of alcohol

Feige et al. (2007) reported elevated beta activity in REM and gamma activity in
stage 2 NREM sleep, but only in data from the adaptation nights, with no differences for
subsequent placebo nights from their drug study. Irwin et
al. (2002) reported a trend for elevated beta activity in alcoholics across the
entire night at baseline that became a significant difference during a recovery night
following a night of partial sleep deprivation. Colrain et
al. (2009b) did not see any differences between alcoholics and controls in high
frequency EEG activity during sleep. Because these analyses are performed on stable sleep
epochs, results suggest that once sleep is attained, it is not necessarily characterized
by elevated fast frequency activity. By contrast, primary insomniacs have greater beta
power during NREM sleep than normal sleepers, thought to reflect higher levels of cortical
arousal (Riemann et al. 2010). Topographic
differences in EEG spectral power during sleep evaluated in alcoholics compared with
controls revealed that slow frequency activity was maximal over frontal scalp regions in
both alcoholics and control subjects (Colrain, Turlington,
and Baker 2009b).

  • Though alcohol can have a sedative effect, it has also been linked to sleep disorders like insomnia.
  • Identifying people at risk of sleep disturbances as a result of their drinking may have important public health benefits.
  • Another possibility is that alcohol abuse leads to long-lasting
    neurochemical changes in the brain stem.
  • If you’re turning to alcohol to help you sleep, you may be making the quality of your sleep worse.

But its effects can backfire as your body moves through its later sleep stages, making you feel tired and sleep-deprived in the long run. Alcohol intake is able to modulate the same circuits that underlie the adaptive response to stress [70,71]. It has been shown that, after acute exposure to stress or moderate doses of alcohol, dopaminergic and hypothalamic circuits recover their normal basal tone allowing a normal response to novel stimuli [72]. Furthermore, binge drinking is able to generate tolerance to both stress and alcohol intake [71,77,78].

Overview of Alcohol’s Effects on Sleep

Research shows that regular alcohol intake can reduce sleep quality over time, potentially causing issues such as insomnia. If left untreated, chronic sleep apnea can drastically impact your quality of life and lead to serious health concerns, such as weight gain and obesity, hypertension, stroke, memory impairment and heart failure. Alcohol further increases the effects of sleep apnea by relaxing the muscles in the throat, collapsing the upper airway and lowering oxygen levels. This not only worsens pre-existing sleep apnea but may also lead to episodes of sleep apnea in individuals who previously did not experience it. The growing array of non-alcoholic beverages makes imbibing fewer or even no drinks a palatable option in many social settings. This includes no- or low-alcohol wines or beers as well as mocktails made from a variety of ingredients that mimic alcohol’s mouthfeel and flavor.

Substances and Sleep: How Alcohol, Prescription Drugs, and Stimulants Disrupt Your Sleep – National Council on Aging

Substances and Sleep: How Alcohol, Prescription Drugs, and Stimulants Disrupt Your Sleep.

Posted: Tue, 28 Nov 2023 08:00:00 GMT [source]

Experts say that alcohol interferes with a brain signaling chemical, or neurotransmitter, called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which plays a key role in sleep, relaxation, and calming the central nervous system. Alcohol can trigger a similar effect by binding to the proteins in the brain with which GABA typically interacts. If you have comorbid insomnia, a physician may prescribe you medication to treat the coexisting mental or physical health disorder.

Wait Between Drinking and Bedtime

Some products, like the one Nutt helped develop, contain herbs that enhance the GABA system and therefore increase relaxation without putting alcohol into the body. There are many folk remedies for hangover symptoms that include anxiety, including weird ones like drinking pickle juice or downing chicken soup, but none of them has been proven effective in research. Only one, drinking water during and after imbibing, might offer a mild benefit, because it dilutes the concentration of acetaldehyde in your bloodstream. Dysregulation of the GABA-glutamate system is most pronounced alcohol causing insomnia in chronic drinkers because the brain adapts to the frequent, excessive alcohol by eliminating some GABA receptors long-term—hindering the brain’s ability to calm itself without alcohol. When chronic drinkers suddenly stop drinking it can take months to restore this system to proper functioning, Holt says. Anxiety after drinking can be traced to why many people drink in the first place, which is to calm their social anxiety, says Nutt, who coauthored a review of the biochemical contributors to hangovers and also helped develop a new non-alcoholic beverage.

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