Sleep and insomnia is a topic we see brought up in our communities often. Many of us are looking for the restful sleep that an alcohol-free night can bring us, however it can take a while for your body to get into the flow after removing alcohol from your life.
While quitting alcohol is undoubtedly a good change, dealing with the transition can be challenging. Sleep can be impacted during this process as your body cleanses. It can appear during the early stages of abstinence and can even impact those who have not developed a severe alcohol dependency. Treating insomnia is important for physical and mental health and this article contains five useful techniques that can help you manage your sleep.
The Relationship Between Alcohol and Insomnia
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, meaning it can inhibit some of CNS functions, such as reaction time and thought processing. Unfortunately, herein lies the main problem with those who drink too much, too often as many people drink in the evening to cope with stress and to fall asleep quickly. The thing is, although alcohol beverages can promote sleepiness, they also decrease the restorative qualities of sleep.
The main symptoms of insomnia are the following:
- excessive sleepiness during the day;
- frequent awakenings at night;
- anxious thoughts during the night;
- inability to fall asleep after you woke up.
Want to know the worst part?
Studies found that taking moderate to high doses of alcohol prior to sleep may reduce the percentage of the REM phase and hence the amount of deep sleep in the second half of the night.
Here’s why it can be detrimental:
- late-night insomnia results in excessive sleepiness during the day;
- a person tries to support their alertness by taking high doses of caffeine;
- caffeine overload contributes to insomnia and requires higher amounts of alcohol to fall asleep.
Another factor is the psychological relationship with alcohol. The atmosphere at the bar, such as when you hang out with your friends, is perceived as a relaxing experience, and this association often becomes cemented in the brain.
When you remove shots and cocktails out of your life, you may initially feel less able to relax. Thus, the symptoms of insomnia can worsen and make you go without sleep for days, which isn’t great for your physical and mental health.
5 Techniques That Help You Manage Insomnia
So, sleepless nights during the cleansing stage can be rough.
Fortunately, you can ease the symptoms of insomnia with these five effective steps:
#1 Maintain a Sleep Schedule
Build a routine, of course without alcohol. Following a sleep schedule is one of these routines. It helps the brain reorganise and shift the wrecked circadian rhythms back to proper functioning.
Also, a consistent sleep schedule improves the overall quality of sleep and makes it more therapeutic, thereby reducing the symptoms of insomnia.
#2 Limit Caffeine
Of course, coffee can be helpful in the morning after a sleepless night. But the thing is, many people switch to caffeinated beverages to compensate for alcohol cravings, which results in progressing symptoms of insomnia.
Moreover, a cup of Americano can do a disservice to you and increase your desire to drink. Studies found that caffeine affects the same neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for building dependence mechanisms, particularly acetylcholine and dopamine.
Thus, drinking coffee may leave you with the feeling of dissatisfaction and provoke a desire to replenish with another cup. To avoid this, it’s better to cut down caffeine entirely or at least switch to 1 cup in the morning.
#3 Find a Hobby
One of the best ways of managing stress is to find the activity that brings you joy.
Hobbies can help you cope with anxiety and increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain. These hormones are parts of the reward system that activates every time you accomplish something — even if it’s laundry chores or doing dishes — and triggers the feeling of satisfaction, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
Physical activity is also a great way to cope with stress. You can combine several types of exercises per week or choose the one to your liking:
- gym training increases the levels of endorphins, our natural painkillers, which also provide the feeling of calm and safety;
- long walks or cycling are the easiest way to wind down before sleep without boosting alertness;
- yoga and pilates calm both body and mind.
Note that your training session should be at least 2-3 hours before bedtime so that you could relax properly.
#5 Go Exploring
Hiking, bouldering, rafting, and other active sports kill two birds with one stone:
- they give you a ton of impressions and excitement;
- they put you in the alcohol-free environment;
- they allow you to manage your adrenaline and dopamine levels in a healthy way.
As you can see, all these techniques have one thing in common: they allow your brain to relax by constructing healthy habits and activities. Being alcohol-free can still be fun, explore your options and enjoy your new life!