When people are recovering from alcohol use, one of the components that is less talked about is the problem with insomnia. Many alcoholics cite one of the reasons that they drink is so that they can get to sleep at night. Alcohol often becomes a form of self-medication for pre-existing insomnia.
When some former alcoholics who are newly sober learn that their dependence on alcohol was deeply related to their ability to sleep at night, it can be discouraging and disappointing. So do people with insomnia related to sobriety after alcohol abuse have any options? Yes! Insomnia related to sobriety is one of the humps a recovering alcoholic needs to get over. It may feel like a mountain but it is able to be conquered with the right tools and with some time
How Long Does Insomnia Last After Quitting Alcohol?
When a recovering alcohol-dependent person stops drinking alcohol, the neurochemistry and normal biological functions of the body can be disrupted for a time. The good news is that this is usually only a temporary setback and shouldn’t last for the long term.
Learning how to go to sleep without the use of alcohol can promote feelings of fear and helplessness which may last for a few weeks or even a few months. Some people report insomnia following sobriety even lasting for several years, but this is not typical.
Insomnia at any time in life can be upsetting and even feel devastating. But during recovery from alcohol addiction, it can make a significant impact on the person’s ability to stay away from alcohol and may contribute to relapse. Many clinicians who treat alcohol dependence have a tendency to overlook this aspect of recovery, and treatment for the side effect of insomnia is rarely offered. But there is help and there is hope!
Insomnia and Alcohol Withdrawal
The best way to treat insomnia related to alcohol withdrawal is to practice healthy sleep hygiene and to pay attention to the substances you are putting into your body. Here are some tips for getting better sleep when struggling with insomnia and alcohol withdrawal.
Healthy Sleep Environment
Humans sleep better when a room is cool so keep your thermostat set at between 60 and 67 degrees F for optimal sleeping. Use room darkening curtains or blinds to make sure that you aren’t awakened by light. If your home is in a noisy neighborhood or you have a partner who snores, opt for earplugs, soothing music or a white noise machine that can help drown out the noise.
Sticking to a regular sleeping schedule helps set your circadian rhythms which tell your body that it’s time to sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even if you don’t have to go to work. If your friends are going out in the evenings, politely decline if it will interfere with your normal bedtime routine.
While we all might function well with some coffee in the morning, drinking it any time after lunch could have devastating effects on your ability to sleep at night. Try switching to decaf in the afternoon or exchanging your coffee for a cup of herbal tea.
Turn Off Electronics
Those blue lights shining out from the television, computer, tablet or smartphone get into your brain and make it super-active. Try turning off your devices about 1-2 hours prior to bedtime so that your brain can rest from the lights and prepare well for sleep.
Minimize Sugar Intake
This is a difficult one because food cravings can be monumental when a person stops drinking alcohol. But eating sugar in the evening can very much interfere with sleep, and even possibly create a new addiction to sugar.
Getting into a daily routine of exercise can help in a variety of ways when you’re in the beginning stages of sobriety. From something as small as a brisk walk to joining a gym and working out hard core can not only help your body kick alcohol, but also helps you sleep. Getting exercise during the day reduces depression and anxiety, calms the mind, and wears out the body so that you can reset your sleep schedule and fight back against insomnia.
Of course, anyone who is struggling with an alcohol addiction should seek care from a medical professional as well as the help and support from family, friends, or a community network. Kicking insomnia after kicking alcohol can be a double whammy of taking back control of your life! Your brain is incredible and you have the power to retrain it in order to get you sleeping peacefully again. The basic components of a healthy lifestyle including eating nutritional foods, exercising, and practicing good sleep hygiene will help you get on the road back to restorative sleep patterns.