Alcohol Dependency Insomnia – From The Sleep Doctor

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The following is his “Sleep Disorder Of The Month” and we feel this is important to forward here as alcohol is the #1 used sleep aid in America.

The essential feature of this sleep disorder is that there is some type of sleep disruption caused by the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is the most common sedative used as a sleep aid. In many cases, people who use alcohol to help induce sleep will find that their sleep is lighter and disrupted, additionally there have even been cases where they may have problems falling asleep (but this is rare).

Over time alcohol loses its effectiveness as a sleep aid as your body becomes tolerant of the substance. In many cases, the user will increase the amount of alcohol hoping to get the same initial effect. This will work for a short period of time but then the same results will occur. Once an individual then decides to withdraw the alcohol before bed, there is often a withdrawal period where there can be a rebound insomnia, worsening sleep disturbance, and heightened anxiety.

Since alcohol suppresses REM sleep (the mentally restorative part of sleep), there is often a “REM rebound” and people report vivid dreaming which can often be quite scary. For people who have used alcohol for extended periods of time for sleep, they may experience light fragmented sleep for an extended period of time (3 months or more) after complete abstinence. Alcohol dependent sleep disorders are often found in an older population and seem to comprise about 3.5% of people presented to sleep clinics.

Treatment for this disorder involves discontinuation of alcohol, over an extended period of time to avoid rebound effects, improvement in sleep hygiene, and when needed, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia may be warranted.

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