Not only can alcohol disturb our sleep cycle and disrupt sleep, but it can affect sleep disorders. If you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor to determine if quitting alcohol can help alleviate symptoms.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. People with insomnia find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep and often feel tired throughout the day.
Common insomnia symptoms are:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Regularly lying awake at night
- Waking during the night
- Waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep
- Waking up tired
- Daytime tiredness
- Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Irritability and mood swings
Causes of insomnia include stress, anxiety, blue light from screens, caffeine, poor sleeping habits, pain, medications, and mental illness. It is common to experience a bout of short-term insomnia at some point in your life, which usually resolves within a few days. But if you struggle with long periods of insomnia, talk to a medical professional for advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Unfortunately, alcohol can induce insomnia. Many people with an alcohol addiction report also experiencing insomnia. This is because alcohol disturbs our natural sleep cycles. Another theory is that alcohol reduces the amount of melatonin released in the brain. Melatonin is a hormone that helps the brain prepare for sleep.
A common sleep disorder affected by alcohol is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing stops and starts during sleep. Common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Breathing that stops and starts
- Making gasping or choking noises in your sleep.
- Loud snoring
- Waking up during the night
You might not realize you have sleep apnea until someone else, such as a family member or doctor, notices these symptoms while you sleep. Until a diagnosis is made, you might only experience tiredness, mood swings, or headaches when you wake up.
It is important to look into this if you don’t seem to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning, especially if you drink alcohol.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This occurs when tissues in the mouth and throat relax, narrowing or closing the airway.
While alcohol doesn’t cause sleep apnea, it can put you at a higher risk of developing OSA and worsen existing symptoms. As alcohol is a depressant, it relaxes the muscles, including those in the mouth and throat, exacerbating the effect of OSA.
Alcohol is also a sedative, which reduces your body’s ability to arouse when feeling the effects of OSA, meaning it takes longer to wake up after a period of no breathing. In addition to a bad night’s sleep, it will aggravate the side effects of OSA.
Your doctor might recommend that you stop drinking alcohol to ease the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.