Insomnia and alcohol withdrawal often go hand in hand. This common and troubling symptom is often enough to lead people to relapse during this first stage of recovery, but it can be treated with the help of medical detox professionals. You don’t need to suffer through restless nights to achieve abstinence – let the team at Kinkaid Private Care help you through this difficult phase in recovery and overcome insomnia and alcohol withdrawal.
Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Insomnia?
Is insomnia a side effect of giving up alcohol? Understanding why insomnia and alcohol withdrawal are connected requires a basic understanding of how alcohol affects your brain and body. Alcohol produces its intoxicating effects by depressing the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. This can result in several effects:
- Slower breathing
- Reduced anxiety
- Lower heart rate
- Pain relief
These effects often lead people to use alcohol as a sleep aid, as the short-term effects can promote relaxation and help you fall asleep quicker.
However, as you begin to consume alcohol more often, your body begins to compensate in the other direction. Your central nervous system becomes more excitable, counteracting the effects of alcohol. This shift in the central nervous system is largely responsible for the development of tolerance and is the main driver of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Insomnia and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
When a heavy drinker suddenly stops, their central nervous system becomes dangerously overactive. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are essentially the opposite effects of alcohol itself, and you may experience symptoms such as:
- Elevated heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle aches and cramps
In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can also result in life-threatening seizures and hallucinations. For this reason, medical intervention is strongly encouraged when you are attempting to stop drinking. Targeted medication can not only ease withdrawal and make you feel more comfortable but also prevent life-threatening consequences.
Prevalence of Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia
Alcohol withdrawal insomnia is extremely common in people recovering from an alcohol use disorder. Roughly half of all people going through withdrawal will experience this symptom, though some people are at greater risk than others.
As the severity of alcohol use disorder increases, so does the risk of insomnia. In addition, alcohol users who smoke, have co-occurring depression or anxiety, or who specifically use alcohol as a sleep aid are much more likely to experience this troubling symptom.
The Importance of Quality Sleep During Detox
While alcohol withdrawal insomnia is a troubling symptom on its own, the true danger lies in the ripple effect that poor quality sleep can have during detox. Just a few nights of poor sleep can lead to increased irritability, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, all of which are directly associated with relapse. Indeed, alcohol withdrawal insomnia is a frequently reported reason that people return to drinking, emphasizing the importance of treating insomnia during detox.
Treating Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia
With at-home medical detox services, alcohol withdrawal insomnia can be overcome. Several treatment options can help to make your detox safe, comfortable, and restorative.
The Medical Taper
A medical taper is the primary method of treating an alcohol use disorder. It can help to treat insomnia, prevent seizures, and eliminate many uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Essentially, the medical taper is a method of calming the central nervous system during alcohol withdrawal. Using specialized medications, usually benzodiazepines or other anticonvulsants, a central nervous system that is overactive from prolonged alcohol use can slowly be brought back to normal levels.
For most people, the medical taper is enough to help them achieve high-quality sleep during detox. But if insomnia persists, there are further options that can treat this troubling symptom.
Specific Sleep Medications
Targeted sleeping medication can be provided if insomnia continues to be a troubling symptom. These medicines are in addition to a medical taper and can assist in helping you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling better. The specific medications used to sleep will vary for each patient, but you should talk to your provider if you feel like your insomnia has not been resolved by the medical taper alone.
Certain behavioral practices can aid in treating insomnia during detox as well. These include:
- Setting a certain time to go to sleep each night
- Avoiding stimulating activities in the hour before bed, such as television or social media
- Not drinking caffeine in the evening
- Avoiding napping during the day
- Make sure your bedroom is dark and comfortable
Collectively, these practices are known as “sleep hygiene.” When used in combination with medical treatment of your alcohol withdrawal insomnia, they can help to ensure that you get high-quality rest each night during detox.
How Long Does Insomnia Last After Quitting Drinking?
For most people, insomnia and alcohol withdrawal will end after about a week. However, some people may continue to experience insomnia related to their alcohol use disorder for weeks or months. These people can benefit from continuing with sleep medication or seeking cognitive-behavioral therapies for insomnia, which have been shown to be effective at improving sleep quality in recovery.
People experiencing insomnia long after the acute withdrawal phase may be experiencing post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This syndrome has been tied to long-term brain alterations caused by alcohol use disorder and can persist for several months. Given enough time to abstain, the brain will recover from this syndrome, but seeking counseling services can be beneficial during this time.
In-Home Alcohol Detox with Kinkaid Private Care
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be severe and should not be attempted alone. But that doesn’t mean you need to go to a hospital or detox facility; Kinkaid Private Care can bring medical and mental health professionals to you, allowing you to safely detox from alcohol use from the comfort of your own home.
Contact our team by calling us directly at 866-337-4596, or by filling out our confidential contact form below. Our clinician-led team has decades of experience helping people overcome substance use disorders and can help you through this first stage of recovery. Overcoming alcoholism is possible, and the team at Kinkaid Private Care can show you the way.
Jennifer is a healthcare executive, and the founder of Kinkaid Private Care, a private health management company specializing in assisting patients in their homes with complex medical diagnoses. Jennifer is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience working in some of the most highly regarded hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange County. Over the years she has developed an extraordinary network of highly qualified nurses with various specialties. This network allows her to provide the best medical experience and match specialized nursing care to the specific needs of her clients.