The Connection Between Alcoholism and Insomnia

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On the surface, alcoholism and insomnia may seem like two unrelated conditions. But did you know that they are more correlated than you think? In fact, one exists because of the other, and vice versa. 

So how does this happen? Read on to learn more about the correlation between alcohol and sleep disorders, particularly, insomnia.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even in the most conducive setting.

Recent studies by the National Sleep Foundation have also shown that insomnia happens when your brain is unable to stop being awake. Your brain has a “sleep” and “wake” cycle which functions non-simultaneously (i.e. when one is turned on, the other is turned off).

Insomnia happens when the “wake” cycle does not turn off, even when the rest of the body has started signaling it to shut off.

People with insomnia usually experience the following symptoms

  • Dissatisfaction with their sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased performance in work or school

Depending on the type of insomnia you have, the condition may last a few days to a couple of months.

How Serious is Insomnia?

About 30% of the adult US population suffers from insomnia, with 10% of them suffering from chronic insomnia. About 70-90% of insomnia sufferers have a higher risk of medical disorders, such as hypoxemia, GSD, and pain conditions, per the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

But insomnia is more than just a health issue. It can also affect our economy. A 2016 study found that lack of sleep in the U.S. workforce can cost around USD411 billion in losses. It’s also causing a 1.2 million loss in workdays per year.

This is because of the negative impact sleep deprivation has on a person. Less than 6 hours of sleep can lead to a lack of concentration and focus, memory lapses, and a higher risk of workplace injuries.  

In addition, an individual who sleeps less than 6 hours a day has a 10% higher mortality rate than those who get 7-9 hours of sleep.

So What Causes Insomnia?

There are many factors that may trigger insomnia, regardless if you have an existing condition or not. Here are the usual suspects:

Medical Causes

Certain medical conditions can make it difficult for someone to sleep due to the discomfort they bring. Here are some of the medical causes that lead to insomnia: 

  • Sinus allergies
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s Disease
  • Underlying conditions, such as Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders

The medications you take to treat these conditions, too, can also affect your sleep.


An unhealthy lifestyle, too, can trigger insomnia without any existing or underlying psychiatric conditions. If you already have any existing conditions that cause insomnia, it might exacerbate the condition. 

  • Working in the evenings, especially in front of the computer
  • Napping in the afternoon
  • Sleeping in because you slept late, which confuses your circadian rhythm
  • You work at odd hours, which, too can confuse your body clock
  • Constantly shifting work schedules

Food, Drinks, and Substances

What you put in your body can also cause insomnia. Hence, if you have difficulty sleeping at night, you might want to recall what you have been eating. 

  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Heavy meals
  • Alcohol

If Alcohol is a Sedative, Why Does it Cause Insomnia?

20% of Americans use alcohol to fall asleep. But while this may seem like a good idea for most people, it’s actually counter-intuitive. 

Emerging studies suggest that drinking before sleeping can impair our body’s sleep homeostasis, which is our body’s sleep-regulating mechanism. Alcohol boosts extracellular levels of adenosine, which then induces sleep by blocking the wake-promoting cells of the basal forebrain. 

This means that while you do fall asleep faster with your nightcap, you also wake up sooner than you can get high-quality REM sleep. This explains why you still feel exhausted and unfocused after waking up.  

Another reason why drinking right before sleeping can cause insomnia is that it’s a diuretic. You’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night to empty your bladder, thus interrupting your sleep.

How are Insomnia AND Alcoholism Treated?

Insomnia as a Co-occurring Condition

Those who suffer from insomnia are at a high risk of substance abuse with alcohol as the most likely poison of choice. In a study made by the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center (ADRC), about 80% of their test subjects abused alcohol to induce sleep.

However, this misleading effect could lead to dependency on alcohol, which could, later on, exacerbate existing insomnia symptoms. This then leads to a vicious cycle: the more the body develops a tolerance to alcohol to induce sleep, the more alcohol you’ll need to drink to fall asleep. 

It’s not surprising that this would then lead to addiction to alcohol.

Treating Alcohol and Insomnia as Co-occurring Conditions

As with any other co-occurring conditions, alcohol, and insomnia needs an integrated treatment program using a multidisciplinary approach. Specialists will also need to look into insomnia as a symptom for another more serious condition before proceeding with the program to ensure that any medication required to treat both won’t exacerbate any other co-morbidities. 

Once that has been established and medically assisted detox has been provided, the patient will undergo therapy to help them understand the motivation for their addiction and find healthier ways to cope with those motivations. 

Facilities that cater to co-occurring conditions are rare though as most facilities only employ traditional treatment options that treat only one condition. As a matter of fact, out of 8 million Americans suffering from dual diagnosis, only 7.4% receive appropriate treatment. 

Here at Restore Health and Wellness Center, we have a multidisciplinary team that can help you with dual diagnosis to curb any opportunity for relapse in your entire recovery journey.

If you’d like to know how we can, give us a call at (888) 979 4570 or visit our website:

You can also visit our alcohol rehab center in Calabasas, CA at 6918 Owensmouth Ave Canoga Park, CA 91303. 24/7 Admissions (818) 722-9019. On-Site Contact (818) 806-3914.



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