For practically anyone going through detox and the early stages of rehabilitation, the agony of withdrawal is primarily due to the body adjusting to not receiving the abused substance.
Substance abuse causes the body chemistry to drastically change, oftentimes leading to serious complications. These changes will gradually get worse the longer the person continues to abuse substances.
The detox phase puts a particular emphasis on getting the body to re-adjust back to normal once the substance has been flushed out of the system. Part of this phase is also devoted to dealing with the effects of the re-adjustment, such as the lack of proper sleep brought about by alcohol withdrawal insomnia.
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What Is Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia?
The relationship between alcohol use, or overuse, and sleep is a complicated one. Many use a small amount of alcohol as a nightcap, supposedly to help them ease into sleep.
This is because of the sedative effect of alcohol on the body. This happens because alcohol enhances the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the main inhibitory transmitter of the body. GABA can slow brain activity and instill a feeling of being tired and sleepy.
Depending on the person, prolonged use of alcohol often leads to building a tolerance for it, meaning the quantity needed to make a person sleepy could increase over time. If a person continues in this manner, it inevitably leads to alcohol abuse.
Upon withdrawal, however, the body has become so accustomed to the use of alcohol that not taking it will not bring on any kind of sleepiness. This issue is so prevalent that there is an estimated 72% of people who experience alcohol withdrawal insomnia once they do their detox.
Most of those who suffer from it say that they either find it immensely hard to fall asleep or their total sleep time is significantly reduced. Others complain that they do fall asleep, but wake up every so often, with going back to sleep becoming increasingly difficult each time.
Sleep Quality During Treatment
Regardless of the condition, sleep is important. While there has been no direct correlation between sleep deprivation and death, not having enough sleep increases the chance of developing a disease that will cause death.
The effects of insomnia will manifest quite quickly unless proper sleep is achieved. It usually begins with quirks and changes in a person’s behavior and general demeanor:
- General feeling of frustration
- Easily irritated and angered
- Growing feelings of anxiety and nervousness
Prolonged insomnia will aggravate these conditions to include more severe symptoms:
- Sociopathic behavior and aggression
Taken in the context of a person trying to recover from alcohol abuse and withdrawal, sleep provides relief from whatever pains and agony, whether real or imagined, comes with the detox phase.
A person typically goes through a difficult time in detox alone without having to consider the experience of the rehabilitation phase itself, and going through it with insomnia will make it all feel much worse.
To make things worse, sleep disruption, whether it is insomnia after quitting drinking or not, is not something that just goes away. Steps often need to be taken to actually induce sleep once more, and in the case of someone recovering from alcohol abuse, taking other substances just to sleep is not advised.
Does Insomnia Increase the Chances of a Relapse?
The sad fact about withdrawal and recovery from substance abuse is that sleep is among the last things to return to normal. More often than not, a person’s ability to sleep is dependent on the substance being taken. In the case of sedatives and depressants, without them, a person becomes unable to rest or fall asleep. In the case of stimulants, the urge to sleep is frequently suppressed to the point that it does not come naturally anymore.
This inability to get any decent sleep is a huge danger in that it greatly increases the chance of a relapse. Intense sensations and emotions such as hunger, anger, loneliness, and fatigue directly hamper recovery because they increase the stress that the patient is going through.
In the case of insomnia, it removes the one chance at peace a person could get while recovering. Sleep gives a feeling of wellness that is crucial to the recovery phase. If the person does not receive any reprieve from the stress they feel during withdrawal and rehab, then the notion that they would be better off without it is sure to stay in their mind.
How To Deal With Insomnia During Detox
Treatment facilities take into consideration the fact that sleeplessness is sure to be a major issue during or right after detox. Therapists will often advise a patient to follow a few steps to ensure they do get enough sleep during treatment.
Build (or rebuild) sleeping patterns with a schedule
The body has something called the Circadian rhythm. It has to do with how the body naturally responds to changes that happen within a 24-hour cycle, such as the shift between day and night. This includes the sleep response associated with nighttime.
Trying to re-establish the proper schedule for sleep could help in dealing with insomnia. Familiarity is something the body reacts well to, and getting used to following a schedule is a good way to establish familiarity relevant to sleep.
Create a routine for sleep
Part of familiarizing the body with sleep is creating a pattern that the body recognizes as the cue to get ready to sleep. If taking alcohol just before sleeping was once part of that routine, replace it with something else, such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, or something else that the body would associate with sleep.
As there is already a pre-existing condition that affects sleep, try not to include anything in the routine that would stir a person to become more alert and awake, such as exciting TV shows and video games.
Create a sleep-friendly atmosphere
Bright lights and flashing colors have been clinically proven to stimulate the brain. This is why watching TV, playing games, or using devices that emit bright light is not advised just before bed.
This also includes music and reading materials to a certain extent. Loud and fast music often serves to stimulate the brain as well, and reading a mystery or horror-themed book could also induce the brain to think more and be awake instead of getting ready to sleep.
Be aware of what you take in just before bed
Some people smoke or even drink something like tea or coffee just before sleeping as they feel it helps them rest. Based on the chemical composition of these things, however, nicotine and caffeine are known stimulants, which actually help prevent sleep. Coffee and tea are also diuretics, which could make a person wake up in the middle of the night just to urinate. Certain foods, such as spicy foods, are also known to keep people awake.
Conversely, it is also not advised for a person to go to bed on an empty stomach, as they are almost certain to be woken up by the sensation of hunger.
Do not oversleep during the day
As tempting as it is to sleep longer during the day, this will definitely affect a person’s ability to sleep at night. Unless a person is really inclined to long hours of sleep, regardless of how much they already had, long naps during the day could take time off from a full sleep at night.
Sleeping long hours during the day also disrupts the effort to familiarize the body with sleep at night. Unless the intent is really to establish daytime as when more sleep should be had, try to limit naps and sleeping during the day to a minimum.
Engage in a manageable exercise regimen
If anything else, there is easily an astounding amount of scientific data to support the benefits of getting into regular exercise. This includes the benefit of good sleep.
Physical exercise, particularly that of the cardiovascular variety, has been proven to produce deep restorative sleep. This helps boost the body’s immune system, improve general health, and helps in dealing with stress and anxiety.
Do not fret over trying to sleep
Fretting over not feeling the urge to sleep during the time that one should be asleep will not help at all. Moreover, constant glancing at the clock or worrying about not falling asleep will only trigger an anxiety attack.
As much as possible, refrain from glancing at any timekeeping device while trying to sleep. It might even be better if any clocks are not immediately visible from the bed so as to prevent constant glancing in that direction. Should sleep prove to be elusive, do not make it worse by getting anxious.
Let Intrepid Detox Help You
Do not let the fear of failure or difficulty hinder your journey to recovery. We know how difficult it is, because we have helped many through it, and we can help you through it as well. Let us help you find your true recovery now.