If you’ve just stopped drinking, one of the things that could drive you back to the bottle faster than Boris Johnson gets stuck on a zip-wire is the lack of sleep. You remember sleep, right?
It’s widely known that sleep difficulties are common in people recovering from alcohol dependence. But even a more modest alcohol habit can seriously mess with your ability to get the shut-eye you need.
The truth about sleep and alcohol
Sleep researchers suggest about 20 percent of adult Americans drink to help them nod off. You probably think having a nightcap helps you sleep better too.
And in a way you’d be right. Alcohol does help you feel nice and relaxed and sleepy.
But later during the night it disrupts your sleep, making you feel tired and grouchy the next day. And in the long term, say experts, drinking can cause insomnia.
So if you’ve been drinking for years to help you sleep then suddenly stop, no wonder your ability to drop off is knocked sideways.
But stick at your booze break and you’ll eventually be rewarded with better nights – and much better mornings. Yes you’ll toss and turn for a while, but sleep will get easier and more restful the longer you stay alcohol free. One night at a time.
Strategies for better sleep
So what can you do in the meantime? Well for starters you may be drinking more coffee than usual to compensate for the lack of alcohol. But that’s not a good idea if you want to get a proper night’s sleep.
If you can’t face the idea of giving up caffeine altogether, try not to have any coffee, tea, cola or chocolate any later than mid-afternoon (you may find you have to stop earlier depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine).
Don’t eat too much – or too little
Another thing to avoid is eating a big or spicy meal late in the evening. That said, it’s also not a good idea to go to bed hungry. Either way your digestion will keep you awake and you won’t get that elusive eight hours.
A light snack before bed may be the way to go. Try having some fruit with natural yoghurt or a glass of milk with a touch of honey to boost your levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps calm your brain.
Being active during the day can also help you sleep better. But avoid anything too strenuous too close to bedtime (you’ll feel wide awake for hours if you don’t).
All the other stuff you probably already know, such as keeping to a regular bedtime and waking up time, making your bedroom a sleep-promoting environment (no TV, no smartphone, no laptop), not taking naps in the daytime and so on.
Legs up the what?
But you might not have heard of legs up the wall. No, thought not.
Recommended by yoga teachers it’s really easy to do, you don’t have to be super bendy, and it can help get you nice and relaxed, especially if your heart is racing a bit.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start sitting as close as you can facing a wall, then lie back and extend your legs straight up the wall. Get your bottom as close to the wall as you can – try wriggling forwards a bit to get into the right position (the backs of your thighs should be touching the wall).
- Stretch your arms out on either side, relax and breathe. You could also put a cushion under your bottom if that’s more comfortable. Stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes and you should feel super chilled and ready for sleep in no time.
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An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.