Trusted Content

Insomnia From Alcohol Withdrawal

Brittany Thompson, MSMFT

Medically reviewed by

Brittany Thompson, MSMFT

March 5, 2019

Alcohol withdrawal can be extensive and uncomfortable and plagued with many symptoms including insomnia. Individuals going through alcohol withdrawal should seek professional treatment to ensure a safe detoxification process.

As the National Center For Biotechnology Information (NCBI) explains, “sleep disturbances are extremely common in the early stages of alcohol withdrawal and may persist for several months despite continued abstinence.” In other words, yes your withdrawal could be causing insomnia, and persistence is key to continued recovery.

With lack of sleep and increased anxiety due to lack of sleep, it could be easy to fall into the pull of addiction again. But with perseverance, applied principles, techniques, and skills learned during treatment, and strong network support, you can beat the withdrawal phase. After that, you can begin working toward a successful recovery and fulfilling life.

Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Insomnia?

For some, it may be hard to distinguish between what comes first: insomnia or alcohol addiction. That is, “alcohol is used by more than one in ten individuals as a hypnotic agent to self-medicate sleep problems,” according to the NCBI. Some people begin drinking to help with their insomnia, develop addiction, and later undergo withdrawal which triggers insomnia.

It’s not a simple process, and can be a vicious cycle. Though insomnia doesn’t happen to everyone who undergoes withdrawal from alcohol, many people will experience some level of sleep disturbance while in recovery from alcohol addiction.

Different studies of people in treatment for alcohol addiction suggest different rates of people experiencing sleep disturbances, but rates range anywhere from 58 percent to 91 percent. Clearly, withdrawal from alcohol can cause sleep troubles and is one of the many motivating reasons for you to overcome alcoholism for good.

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Can Sleep Disturbances Affect Recovery?

Left untreated, sleep disturbances like insomnia can affect the outcome of your recovery. Several studies conducted on patients post-treatment showed incidents of sleep troubles related to relapse.

In one study, only the people who relapsed instead of abstained from alcohol reported trouble falling asleep at night. In another, only patients who reported sleep troubles were found more likely to relapse in the first four weeks after treatment.

When taken together, all the studies regarding people who’ve completed treatment for alcohol addiction and who experience sleep disturbances point to one conclusion proposed by the NCBI. That is, targeting insomnia, and properly treating patients for it during recovery, may improve treatment outcomes.

What Are The Other Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is the process that happens when someone who drinks on a regular basis and has formed a dependence on alcohol quits drinking or doesn’t have access to alcohol. It’s characterized by a number of uncomfortable symptoms, and with time can be detrimental, even dangerous, to your health. It is estimated that nearly 88,000 thousand people die from alcohol every year from alcohol related dealths.

Alcohol withdrawal typically happens within eight hours after the last drink, but may happen sooner or later than this and can continue for weeks after stopping drinking. In addition to insomnia and sleep disturbances, other symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol include:

  • Anxiety
  • Being “jumpy”
  • Delirium/confusion
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Moodiness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Nightmares
  • Paleness to skin
  • Pupil dilation
  • Profuse sweating/clammy skin
  • Tremors

Withdrawal from alcohol can reach a dangerous point, called delirium tremens. This is why alcohol withdrawal should always be medically supervised. Delirium tremens is characterized by agitation, fever, hallucinations, severe confusion, and seizures.

How Can Withdrawal Be Treated?

Perhaps you’re wondering why people begin drinking in the first place if the risk that comes with it is the addiction. The New York Office Of Alcoholism And Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) explains that “alcohol’s subtle ability to sedate is reinforcing for some insomniacs.” It’s this positive reinforcement that leads to addiction

In trying to deal with and manage insomnia, people may begin drinking. Once forming a dependence, these people may realize they have a problem but be unable to quit. When they do try to quit, they may experience insomnia (and a host of other withdrawal symptoms) that keep them going back to drinking.

So, how do you treat a cycle such as this? When addiction is first identified, it’s important to have a full assessment of all the symptoms and issues you’re experiencing to ensure a comprehensive approach to recovery.

Some rehab centers provide a full clinical assessment before treatment begins to ensure all aspects of your health are addressed. At, we can connect you with renowned rehab centers who will not only perform a full initial assessment but will build a custom plan to treat your individual needs

Where Can I Find Help In Treatment?

There are many ways to target and treat insomnia before it affects your addiction recovery. The New York OASAS lists just a few that have proven effective: acupuncture, yoga, tea, and herbal remedies, and meditation.

Many of these methods are available at our rehab centers. Something else you’ll find when you work with our facilities is peace and tranquility in healing. This is an important aspect of healing you can’t find just anywhere, but that’s detrimental to effective treatment outcomes.

Getting away for rehab means you’ll be away from your normal environment that may trigger alcohol abuse. Surrounded by the serene settings of nature, and comforted in luxury, you’ll be able to channel all your energy into healing.  

We can connect you to all the resources you need to not only find the right treatment but succeed in it. Addiction recovery isn’t just about reaching your goals. It’s the way you reach your goals—with a strong support network, excellent quality of care, and research-based treatment modalities—that gives you the best chance at managing addiction in the long run.

Get Help Today

If you struggle with insomnia from alcohol withdrawal and are worried about relapsing, we can help. If you’re frightened to go into an alcohol treatment facility because your insomnia will return during the detoxification phase, we can help quell those fears. Contact us today to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment.

National Center For Biotechnology Information - Treatment Options For Sleep Disturbances During Alcohol Recovery

New York Office Of Alcoholism And Substance Abuse Services - Insomnia And Alcohol And Substance Abuse

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Alcohol Withdrawal

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