Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely challenging. After quitting drinking, a person with mild withdrawal symptoms can include headaches and nausea. More serious effects include seizures and hallucinations. One of the more common and most difficult symptoms and one that causes many alcoholics to relapse is insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by poor sleep quality, prolonged wakefulness, and difficulty falling asleep.

The Link Between Alcoholism and Insomnia

According to one study, 58 percent of alcoholic men experienced insomnia during their first six days of alcohol withdrawal. There is a strong link between alcoholism and insomnia, for several reasons.

First, most alcoholics have sleep problems that originate before their alcohol dependency. More than half of alcoholics report having insomnia issues that predate their drinking, compared to 15 percent of the general adult population.

Sleep problems can also occur with other types of substance dependency, including opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine.

Additionally, many heavy drinkers use alcohol to help them sleep, even though the opposite is true. Alcohol disrupts deep sleep, increases the time it takes to fall asleep, and disrupts total sleep time. What’s more, the negative effects of alcohol on sleep can last even after quitting drinking, so relapse during this time can be especially tempting.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia

Withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia, will usually set in within eight hours of the last drink, peaking within 24 – 72 hours. Unfortunately, insomnia after quitting drinking can last several weeks or even months, so it’s especially important to address the issue head-on.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal insomnia are usually obvious and include:

  • Not being able to fall asleep at night
  • Frequent night wakings
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling constantly tired and waking up still feeling exhausted
  • Nightmares

Lack of sleep from insomnia and alcohol withdrawal can exacerbate other symptoms too, so it’s very important to get to the root of the problem. As the body gets used to life without a substance, users frequently experience mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, that can make it difficult to sleep.

How to Cope with Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia

If possible, before seeking treatment, an alcoholic should try gradually reducing their intake before quitting altogether. Most importantly, don’t quit cold turkey without supervision. Guided detox programs, like the one offered at United Recovery Project, can help ease withdrawal symptoms. Here are some ways to help cope with alcohol withdrawal insomnia:

  • Create a new bedtime routine that doesn’t involve alcohol
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Unwind with relaxing activities before bed
  • Avoid stressful situations (to the best of your ability)
  • Consider safe, natural substitutes such as magnesium. Consult your doctor before taking any medicines.
  • Start practicing mindful meditation and/or yoga
  • Make sure you’re getting proper vitamins and minerals, such as Omega 3s and Vitamin D.
  • Exercise regularly, at least four to six hours before bed
  • Take a hot bath before bed
  • Make sure your bedroom is cool and ventilated properly

Experiencing insomnia during alcohol withdrawals can be scary, so it’s very important to have a support system and treatment plan in place while getting clean.

There are many treatment options available, including inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, group therapy, and medication. Treating addiction and insomnia simultaneously is the key to a successful recovery and a full, healthy life. The experienced counselors at United Recovery Project can help, so if you or a loved one is battling alcohol abuse or addiction, please reach out.