Alcoholism And Sleep Disorders
Researchers finding a connection between alcoholism and sleep are trying to educate the public with their findings. Many people hold on to the belief that alcohol use helps to induce sleep and may have a few drinks in the evening to promote restful sleep. Unfortunately, the correlation between alcoholism and sleep disorders is evident through recent studies. Good sleeping habits are vital for good physical and mental health, and alcohol plays no part in contributing to those habits.
The Myth Alcohol Improves Sleep
It is a proven myth that alcohol improves sleep quality. Tolerance builds with repeated alcohol consumption, and what might help to feel sleepy today will not work in a week. Using alcohol to get to sleep also increases the risk of alcoholism and sleep disorders. In fact, with long-term consumption of alcohol, sleep quality deteriorates.
Sleep quality during the second half of the night is deeply affected. Other problems involving alcoholism and sleep include a worsening of sleep-disordered breathing. Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea worsen difficulties in breathing clearly. Sleep apnea can increase the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, or sudden death if left untreated.
Alcoholism and Insomnia
Research suggests alcohol harms sleep and that the amount of consumption is a crucial factor. Once a tolerance for alcohol occurs, lower consumption or sudden cessation can lead to insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. The National Institute on Health’s study showed that 18% of those with alcoholism and sleep disorders, including insomnia, disrupted sleeping, and disturbed sleep, compared to 10% not using alcohol. This study also showed that among the alcoholics who were admitted to the hospital, 36 to 72% had a diagnosis of insomnia.
Does Alcoholism Cause Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects an estimated 15% of men and 5% of women who have a BMI over 28. The characteristic of obstructive sleep apnea is breathing patterns that continually stop and start during sleep, collapsing the airway and blocking airflow to the lungs. Those studying alcoholism and sleep disorders report that increased amounts of alcohol consumption intensify obstructive sleep apnea, not necessarily cause it. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common for older adults and smokers experiencing coronary artery disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Understanding Healthy Sleep Cycles
There are two types of sleep involving health sleep. The two types are rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep, which has three stages. REM sleep occurs initially and occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Non-REM sleep is a pattern of wakefulness to sleep, light sleep, and deep sleep. Typically, people cycle through REM and non-REM sleep throughout the night.
Alcohol Abuse and Disturbed Sleep
Disrupted or disturbed sleep involves brain cells in the forebrain that promote a state of wakefulness. Alcohol inhibits neurotransmitters responsible for activating these brain cells, disturbing the whole sleep-wake cycle. Disrupted sleep and poor sleep quality can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity. Sleep loss can negatively affect cognitive function, attention and focus, and the quality of life.
Researchers studying alcoholism and sleep disorders find that the use of alcohol decreases REM sleep. Long-term alcohol use can cause these issues to continue for months or years as drinking continues. It is interesting to know that even small amounts of alcohol use can hurt sleep quality. For those trying to quit using alcohol or participating in a professional detox program, withdrawal can also affect sleep cycles and the ability to sleep during detox.
GABA, Alcoholism, and Sleep
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that lessens a nerve cell’s ability to receive, create, or send chemical messages to other nerve cells. The National Institute on Health reports that GABA connects with sleep, muscle relaxation, and sedation. GABA does not work alone; acetylcholine, histamine, adrenaline, cortisol, and serotonin neurotransmitters are accomplices to sleep and wakefulness. Norepinephrine and orexin are neurotransmitters that keep some parts of the brain active during wakefulness.
Alcoholism and sleep problems are present because alcohol consumption interferes with GABA performance as usual. When this happens, there are common sleep disruptions. Alcohol can also reduce rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, which inhibits dreaming and the sleep cycle from continuing. Brain chemistry is responsible for healthy sleep cycles, and when alcohol consumption occurs, there is a disruption of regular activity.
Alcoholism and Drowsiness
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that has a sedating effect, which can make people feel sleepy at times. Many people who experience insomnia initially believe that because of this, alcohol use could help to manage the inability to sleep. Unfortunately, that sense of drowsiness does not last long. Tolerance builds with long-term alcohol consumption, which affects the sedative effect of alcohol.
Alcoholism, Depression, and Sleep
People who may experience a dual diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder and depression may experience difficulties with sleep. Alcoholism and sleep disorders, such as insomnia, can have a direct effect on those with depression. Poor quality sleep or lack of the required amount of sleep can further affect levels of depression. The use of alcohol has a direct link to brain chemistry and neurotransmitters, which are also responsible for the intensity of depression.
Insomnia is a withdrawal symptom found during detox from alcohol. Fortunately, professional treatment centers with qualified detox programs are aware and can medically manage withdrawal symptoms. The brain adjusts to alcohol consumption and begins to expect alcohol to function. Alcohol has a direct connection to brain chemistry, and when there is a sudden end to consumption, adverse symptoms occur.
It is imperative to attend a medically monitored detox program that offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The use of medication can lessen the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. Medical monitoring can manage the extreme withdrawal symptoms and how the body and brain react to detoxification from alcohol. Sleep disruptions can continue after detox until brain chemistry readjusts to life without alcohol.
Understand the Connection between Alcoholism and Sleep Disruptions in Georgia
Alcoholism affects all aspects of life, including the quality of sleep and the adverse connection to sleep disorders. The Retreat of Atlanta in Georgia understands how alcohol affects brain chemistry and knows what to expect during detox from alcohol. Medical and mental health professionals are committed to medically managing alcohol detox and treating uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like insomnia. Contact the center for a personal assessment to begin the recovery process.