What Sleep Problems Mean for a Recovering Alcoholic

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

A dependence on alcohol is difficult to face. It’s hard to acknowledge and even more challenging to break. And once you’ve managed to put alcoholism behind you, even the smallest slip-up can set you back by months. That being said, thousands of alcoholics successfully conquer their demons every year. The key is knowing what can trigger the problem.

 A new study has uncovered something that can make the process of recovery much harder than it needs to be. Researchers have found that alcoholics who have sleep problems, or believe they have sleep problems, face a much rougher ride when it comes to kicking their addiction.

 Many studies have found that up to 75% of alcoholics in the early stages of recovery complain of insomnia. This new study shows that sleep problems can predict the possibility of a relapse. Overall, the participants thought they were having more trouble sleeping than they actually were — which is a common occurrence among all people, actually. But when one is a recovering alcoholic, having these false perceptions about sleep is more likely to cause a relapse than having actual insomnia is.

 Say that someone who remembers tossing and turning after taking a while to fall asleep thinks he/she has slept for maybe three hours. But, in reality, he/she actually got six hours of sleep. People who experienced the greatest disconnects such as this were most likely to relapse. The researchers discovered this finding after studying 18 alcoholics who had recently stopped drinking in a sleep clinic over two nights. The researchers asked the participants about what they thought happened during the night.

 The findings mean that recovering alcoholics have misconceptions about sleep for some reason — even the reverse of what was mentioned above: many think that they are sleeping through the night when, in fact, their brain is activated and waking up. In any event, poor sleep can lead to moodiness during the day, which can contribute to a more difficult recovery. All alcoholics and any therapists helping them should be aware of this fact.

 For recovering alcoholics, one good step would be to discuss sleep quality with a doctor or therapist, as it can be one great step in getting over the hump of beating the disease. Also, taking measures to improve sleep might be warranted, such as a cup of valerian root tea before bed, not eating heavy foods past 7 p.m., establishing a routine schedule of waking and sleeping, and other tips on helping the body fall asleep and stay asleep.