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Insomnia and Alcohol: How Sleep Disorders are worsened by Drinking

Insomnia and Alcohol: How Sleep Disorders are worsened by Drinking

It’s common for people to abuse alcohol as a way to help themselves go to sleep. After a night of drinking, it might feel like as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’re sound asleep.

However, if you think that just because you are unconscious you’re getting a good night’s rest, you’re sorely mistaken.

How Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Drinking alcohol before bed has been shown to create serious problems with almost every aspect of sleep quality. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that alcohol hurts your ability to wake up feeling refreshed and well rested.

Alcohol Interferes with Your Circadian Rhythm

While it’s true that after a night of bar-hopping, you will fall asleep fairly quickly, you are way more likely to wake up at some point in the night.

One of the reasons why drinkers wake up in the middle of the night is due to alcohol’s effect on your circadian rhythm. After drinking, your body increases its production of the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine.

When adenosine levels are high enough, you can pass out at the drop of a hat. However, once you stop drinking, adenosine levels plummet so low that you’ll wake up well before your brain and body are ready.

Alcohol Blocks REM Sleep

Drinking alcohol before bed also impairs your brain’s ability to enter into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The REM stage of sleep is widely considered to be the most important stage of sleep. If you don’t enter the REM stage, it won’t matter if you get a full eight hours of sleep: You’ll still wake up feeling unfocused and groggy.

Alcohol Leads to Late-Night Bathroom Trips

Alcohol acts as a strong diuretic, which means more trips to the bathroom. If you drink alcohol too close to your bedtime, you’ll likely wake up in the middle of the night with a full bladder.

Interrupting your sleep to go to the bathroom throws the natural sleep cycle out of whack. And good luck falling back asleep once your hangover sets in.

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Sleep

Chronic alcohol use can negatively affect your sleep even after getting sober. After you make the decision to give up booze, your body is likely to go into a state of withdrawal. Because withdrawal produces a number of unpleasant side effects, many recovering alcoholics experience insomnia from alcohol withdrawal.

When an alcoholic goes into withdrawal, he or she experiences a number of changes in quality of sleep, including:

  • Frequently interrupted sleep
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Sleeping for longer than normally required
  • Entering into REM sleep more frequently, but for shorter durations

It may take a year or longer for recovering alcoholics to re-establish healthy sleeping patterns. This is because years of alcohol abuse have resulted in serious changes in brain structure.

Alcohol, Sleep Problems and Relapse

Withdrawing from alcohol and insomnia go hand in hand. A common cause of alcohol relapse is an inability to manage the sleep issues associated with one’s newfound sobriety. Too many alcoholics think that they need to drink in order to fall asleep. When they try to get sober and start dealing with issues like insomnia, they use that to justify drinking alcohol as a sleep aid.

Obviously, this logic is ridiculous. In all likelihood, they weren’t actually sleeping well when they drank, it just appeared that way. Drinking alcohol while in withdrawal will quickly make the unpleasant symptoms of alcohol detox go away, so of course they’ll have an easier time falling asleep. This relief is only temporary, however. They will quickly run into the same problems with sleep that they had before.

The reason many alcoholics claim to drink just to sleep better is simple: They’re in denial. After all, telling your friends and family that you get buzzed every night because it helps you sleep sounds a lot better than telling them it’s because you have a serious chemical dependency.

Once you accept the fact your alcoholism is about much more than just helping you sleep, you can then start addressing the true sources of your drinking problem.

The Link Between Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Although it’s estimated that roughly 20 percent of Americans suffer from at least one form of sleep apnea, only 10 percent have received a formal diagnosis. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by a person’s airway becoming blocked to such an extent that he or she cannot breathe normally. If the airway remains blocked for too long, the individual will wake up, at least momentarily, to correct the problem.

Research has shown that sleep apnea caused by alcohol consumption is incredibly common in moderate and heavy drinkers. One study found that men who regularly consumed more than one alcoholic drink per day were more likely to display the signs of sleep apnea than men who don’t drink at all. Each additional daily drink raised the odds of showing signs of sleep apnea by 25 percent.

Sleep Apnea from Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is especially dangerous because a person can experience sleep apnea while being too intoxicated to wake up in time to correct their breathing. In extreme cases, alcohol-induced sleep apnea can cause a person’s blood oxygen levels to drop drastically, a condition known as oxygen desaturation. It can also increase the levels of carbon monoxide in the body to potentially fatal levels.

Whether drinking causes a person to develop sleep apnea or makes one’s existing sleep apnea worse, it’s important to realize that alcohol’s effect on sleep is potentially deadly.

Quit Drinking and Sleep Better!

What’s your take on alcohol and sleep health? Is alcohol really helping your insomnia if you have to drink every night just to fall asleep?
Do you think that those using alcohol as a sleep aid are in denial about their addiction, or do you think that, for some people, drinking every night is the right choice?

Join the conversation now by answering these questions in the comment section below or by clicking over to our forum to let us know what you think!

See Our Alcohol Addiction Fact Sheet

How Beer Fits into Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Beer And Alcoholism True Stories Of Alcoholics - Fight Addiction Now

The most common type of alcoholism is not a sensational, docudrama-worthy lifestyle. It is the average beer-drinking Joe who dulls his psychological pain one can at a time, functioning but eroding.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the cases of severe alcohol abuse and alcoholism do not involve hard liquor or spirits of high alcohol content. Instead, it’s beer. In fact, alcohol abuse is more common with beer than with any other form of alcohol.

True Stories of Alcoholics

Older than the year on his birth certificate, alcohol had robbed the gray-haired man of time. Before he slept in the alley, he had a job, a family, a life. His penchant for mixed drinks graduated to straight liquor right out of the bottle. Now with sallow cheeks and a few missing teeth, the gray-haired man doesn’t think about that life or life at all. All he thinks about is getting more sauce.

Is that the picture you have of an alcoholic? It is the way many people view alcoholism. But this gray-haired man is one of the least common types of alcoholics.

The alcohol in hard liquor is no more intoxicating than that of wine or beer. A standard size drink contains half an ounce of ethanol no matter the type of liquor.

Why Beer Is the Most Abused Drink

Dating back to ancient Egyptian times, beer has been brewed and shared throughout civilizations. It’s an inexpensive form of alcohol and promoted everywhere from sports stadiums to tourist activities. Brewery tours, beer festivals, restaurants, gas stations and poker nights all tout the stout.

Beer Has Fewer Side Effects than Other Beverages

The alternatives – wine and hard liquor – have harsh side effects such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritation to the gums, stomach, intestines, liver and throat

Comparably, beer has relatively mild side effects. When an alcoholic wants to keep the alcohol levels in their body comfortable, the side effects from wine and hard liquor can be a nuisance. For heavy drinkers, this can be especially disconcerting.

Beer Is Easy to Drink

The carbonation in beer is appealing in the way people enjoy soda. Drinking beer can be a pleasurable experience. It goes down easier with fewer irritants and settles the stomach from the negative repercussions of alcohol. The pleasurable feelings and enjoyable taste of the average ale or lager makes drinking for long periods easy to most.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2013 showed the flavor of beer alone increased the production of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain. The taste of beer significantly increased the all-male study participants’ desire to drink.

Beer Is Habit Forming and Contains a Lot of Liquid

Contrasted with wine and shots, beer contains more liquid and can be consumed for lengthy periods without getting as drunk as fast. We’ve all seen people who can sit around and nurse can after can slowly and maintain whatever level of intoxication they desire. Beer is the closest beverage you can find to straight water and alcohol.

Compared to 1.5 ounces of vodka or 5 ounces of Merlot, the equivalent serving size of 12 ounces of a lager dilutes the same amount of alcohol content. For someone with a dependence on alcohol, beer feels weaker and makes it easier to control intoxication levels, maintaining an equilibrium of drunkenness when necessary.

However, beer affects the neurotransmitters in your brain, hence why you lose your balance, slur words and have impaired judgment.

Like other alcoholic beverages, a pilsner or ale would be poisonous to the body if the liver didn’t break it down to useable substances. The liver contains an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, which does this job. Women are reputed to have less of this enzyme. Additionally, women have less muscle tissue than men. Therefore, they get drunk faster on less alcohol than it takes for men.

Sipping Away to Insobriety

Drinking And Driving United States Statistic - Fight Addiction NowAlcohol abuse is more common with beer than any other beverage. This process usually starts off innocently enough. Beer can be brewed in different ways, but on average it is comprised of 95 percent water and an alcohol content of 5 percent.

Because beer has a relatively mild ratio of alcohol to water and is easily consumable, it is easy to fall into a habit of frequently drinking your favorite brew. Even before the dependency on alcohol develops, the taste of beer can influence people to keep a can or bottle around to sip on all evening.

According to happiness guru Gretchen Rubin, a bad habit can develop in as short as two occurrences, while good habits can take daily effort for 66 days. So, very quickly can people develop a beer habit and spend their evenings nursing the bottle.

As is the way with addictive substances, a tolerance ensues and the individual is drinking more and more to achieve their first feelings of pleasure. Dependency is not far behind.

And when left unchecked, addiction and loss of sobriety become a way of life.

Recovery from Beer Addiction

Through many addiction recovery stories, we have learned that the psychological addiction to beer often lingers long after the chemical dependency is halted. Recovering alcoholics don’t usually have a hard time in sobriety going without shots of hard liquor or mixed drinks. Even cravings for the taste of wine are not as significant as those for beer, recovering addicts say.

In contrast, those who become addicted to beer struggle longer with significant psychological withdrawal. For people addicted to drinking beer, the habit has become second nature like drinking water.

Alcoholics learn in rehab to replace their former alcohol habit with drinking Gatorade or mineral water. However, for former beer drinkers, replacing that beer they always had in hand is much harder to do. The need to have something to drink always at one’s side is a much stronger urge.

Avoiding Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium

An addiction to beer can sneak up on you. Additionally, many people view beer as something different from alcohol, causing heavy beer drinkers to insist they are addicted to beer and not alcohol.

However, addiction to beer is just as dangerous as other types of alcohol addiction. In some ways, it can be more dangerous because of its subtle nature and attributed societal paradigms. Heavy beer drinkers can suffer from alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD), a condition causing severe side effects when beer use is abruptly stopped.

To avoid the serious symptoms of AWD, hospitals and surgeons often administer beer to their patients before the patient undergoes surgery or other medical procedures. Many hospitals keep beer on hand to stabilize the alcoholic patient and to prevent tremors and stave off major withdrawal symptoms of AWD.

Doctors sometimes choose to administer beer for the same reasons those dependent on alcohol drink it:

  • It’s easy to monitor and control the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Beer is best for setting tapering schedules.
  • It does not cause many of the negative side effects of other alcohols.
  • It is as close to water plus alcohol as can be found in a drink.

Although it is dangerous for heavy drinkers to do on their own, there are many ways to taper off alcohol addiction using beer. Medical supervision is recommended since alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal.

Connect with Our Online Community

Do you have addiction stories to share about beer and dependence? How have you or a family member broken the habit? Want to read or share true stories of drug addicts or alcoholics? We invite you to head over to our forum to discuss these and similar topics now.

See Our Alcohol Addiction Fact Sheet

Statistics on Alcohol Use, Alcoholism and Alcohol-Related Health Issues

Statistics Alcohol Use Alcoholism and Alcohol Related Health Issues - Fight Addiction Now

Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed and dangerous substances in the United States. One of the most important facets of fighting alcoholism and alcohol-related health issues is identifying those most at risk and encouraging them to seek treatment sooner rather than later.

Alcohol-fueled deaths in America are one unfortunate result of a culture built around drinking, one which extends through all demographics. Additionally, alcohol-related health issues are the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Understanding the Culture Behind Excessive Drinking

Unlike most other dangerous and addictive substances that are causing problems in the U.S., alcohol is legal to purchase, own and consume for adults of age 21 or older. Every state has unique laws when it comes to the purchase, transportation and distribution of alcohol.  All states have unique issues when it comes to alcohol, based on the demographics, industries and cultural scenes in each respective state.

For example, states with many colleges and universities often contend with “college town” problems like underage drinking, loud college parties and drunk driving. States with large manufacturing and industrial markets may see a prevalence of alcohol-related illnesses in workers who get in the habit of “unwinding” by drinking after a hard day’s work.

How Prevalent Is Alcohol Use?

Statistics of Men Vs Women Alcohol Poisoning Deaths - Fight Addiction Now

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 86 percent of respondents over the age of 18 reported drinking at some point in their lifetime.

More than 70 percent reported drinking within the past year, and 56 reported some amount of drinking within the past month.

This indicates that more than half of all American adults consume alcohol at least once per month, but the reality is that most consume alcohol far more than that.

The survey also reported that nearly 27 percent of all respondents over the age of 18 engaged in binge drinking within the past month, which generally refers to consuming five or more drinks in a single drinking session. Only 7 percent reported heavy alcohol use within the past month, but the term “heavy alcohol use” likely means different things to different people.

How Does the U.S. Compare at the Global Level?

Compared to alcohol-influenced deaths in other countries, the United States has one of the highest alcohol-related death rates in the world: The U.S. ranks 39th out of 172 countries for alcohol deaths per 100,000 residents.

Many factors influence this ranking, including society’s perceptions of alcohol, the glorification of alcohol in media and advertising, and social norms that dictate alcohol as a “social lubricant,” allowing people to more easily relax and socialize during their leisure time. The U.S. also has many thriving high-stress industries such as finance, technology, marketing, sales, education and others that often lead employees in these fields to seek stress relief in unhealthy ways.

Drug and alcohol abuse is very common in the tech industry, where professionals work long hours and face stiff competition while facing an enormous demand to innovate and stay ahead of competitors.

Alcohol Statistics by State

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly release reports covering alcohol statistics by state. While mostly rural states report some of the highest alcohol-related death rates, it’s important to bear in mind that these states have lower populations than others.

Therefore, fewer deaths in a low population state can equate to a higher death rate compared to many deaths in a high population state. People living in rural areas may also face additional difficulty with alcohol-related illnesses and addiction due to a lack of access to reliable treatment programs.

Deaths Per State

The states with the highest alcohol-related death rates from cirrhosis and liver disease in 2015 include:

  • New Mexico: 566 deaths (24.8 deaths per 100,000 residents)
  • Wyoming: 118 deaths (18.9 per 100,000 residents)
  • South Dakota: 139 deaths (16.1 rate)
  • Montana: 179 deaths (15.7 rate)
  • Alaska: 114 deaths (15.4 rate)

California (5,425), Texas (3,844) and Florida (3,084) reported the highest numbers of alcohol-related deaths in 2015, but these states are also some of the most densely populated in the country, so they only showed up in the middle of the rankings.

Which Behaviors Lead to Alcohol-Related Deaths?

“Alcohol-related deaths” is a blanket term that covers any type of death influenced by or expedited by alcohol. This can include:

  • Fatal alcohol poisoning from excessive drinking
  • Motor vehicle deaths from drunk driving
  • Fatal long-term health complications such as liver disease

The rates of these kinds of deaths coincide with alcohol consumption rates.

For example, states with high drinking rates often report high drunk driving accident and death rates as well as a higher number of deaths caused by alcohol-related illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver disease.

North Dakota appears toward the middle of the rankings for cirrhosis and liver disease-related deaths, but it has the highest drunk driving death rate at about 11.3 per 100,000, according to 2012 data from the CDC. Montana ranks fourth in the country for cirrhosis and liver disease-related deaths, while it comes in second for drunk driving-related deaths at 9.4 per 100,000.

Join the Fight Against Alcohol-Related Deaths

These alcohol statistics paint a picture of a country that may not fully recognize the dangers of alcohol. One of the most effective weapons in the fight against alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths is advocacy, and you may wonder what you can do at the personal level to curb these unfortunate alcohol statistics.

Fight Addiction Now is a grassroots community of individuals who understands the importance of education and advocacy in American communities. We invite anyone to share their insight, stories and advice to the other members of the Fight Addiction Now community to spread the word to Americans who have witnessed the tragic effects of alcoholism and alcohol-related health issues.

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