Insomnia and Alcohol Withdrawal

insomnia and alcohol withdrawal

Is Insomnia a Side Effect of Alcoholism?

Insomnia and alcohol withdrawal are often linked. Learn about insomnia and other alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol detox can cause a medley of withdrawal symptoms, with insomnia being one of them. In fact, about 65% of people in alcohol detox list having sleep-related issues as a major complaint.

This should come as no surprise. Many people in detox had used alcohol as a means to fall asleep, and often for a very long time. Combined with the other detox symptoms, as the body adjusts to the absence of alcohol, having insomnia is no surprise.

Finding ways to improve sleep quality without the need for alcohol helps reduce the risk of relapse. Keep reading to learn more about alcohol detox and insomnia, and how to manage sleep problems going forward.

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Drinking Cold Turkey

Before we discuss the detox process, it is good to know why you should not attempt detox on your own. You may truly desire sobriety and decide one day to just stop drinking. Even though this might be a good thought, if you have an entrenched alcohol use disorder (AUD) it is unsafe.

Alcohol detox can be really hard, with sudden, unpredictable symptoms that may pose severe health hazards. Seizures, hallucinations, and the DTs are just some of the health risks that may surface. These symptoms are hard to manage alone. With this in mind, experts recommend that an alcohol withdrawal should take place within a detox setting.

Going through detox can be rife with discomfort, including being unable to sleep. These symptoms can cause someone to just give up on the detox. When being cared for by an expert detox team, your symptoms will be managed and controlled to a large extent.

Insomnia and Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone is in the grip of AUD, his or her brain has stopped the normal production of dopamine. When you decide to get sober and therefore stop drinking, the brain will start a cascade of reactions. This period of purging the body of alcohol and the symptoms that result is called withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms will vary from mild to severe. The severity depends on many factors but mostly is based on the duration of the AUD. The level of alcohol consumption over a prolonged time period affects the detox timeline and symptoms.

Common alcohol detox symptoms might include:

  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Anxiety

Timeline of Detox and Withdrawal

Alcohol detox unfolds in a fairly typical way and passes through three distinct stages. Again, days 3-4 can be highly unpredictable, which is why supervised detox is the safest method. Withdrawal symptoms begin to appear within 6-8 hours of the last alcoholic drink.

The timeline for alcohol withdrawal is:

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Stage 1: Starts within hours of the last drink and involves nausea, vomiting, chills, anxiety, shaking, and insomnia.

Stage 2: Days 1-3 you have confusion, increased blood pressure, fever, increased heart rate, more extreme tremors, sweating, insomnia.

Note that on day 3 you may suddenly have severe symptoms emerge. These might include hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and seizures. Acute symptoms in this stage may be the DTs, which is a health emergency.

Stage 3: Days 5-7 will see most symptoms begin to resolve. Some symptoms, such as irritability, cravings, insomnia, and anxiety, may persist up to several weeks.

Alcoholism Treatment

  • Psychotherapy. Therapy helps you not only discuss underlying issues but can also help you change your behaviors using CBT.
  • Group therapy. Small group meetings to share your feelings and your story with others in recovery offer a source of peer support.
  • Family-based therapy. Family sessions help family members to process their feelings and fears about the impact of a loved one’s AUD.
  • Relapse prevention planning. These sessions help you to define your triggers and stressors so you are prepared to manage them.
  • 12-Step. 12-step meetings provide group support and opportunities for making new friends.
  • Wellness. Nutrition and exercise are included in the program to help you create new healthy new habits that promote wellbeing.

Holistic Methods for Aiding Sleep

Many people in recovery have dealt with insomnia for a long time. They may have used alcohol as a means of falling asleep, but now in recovery can no longer do that. To resist the urge to return to drinking you must find healthy ways to improve sleep quality. Try these tips:

Holistic actions:

  • Guided imagery. Smartphone apps, like Pzizz and Relax Now, offer guided imagery tracts. The narrator provides verbal cues and sound effects to conjure up a calming scene in your mind. While you listen, use slow, quiet breathing to help bring about a sense of calm.
  • Aromatherapy. Essential oils, such as lavender, rose, and ylang ylang, can help you relax. Add some drops to a warm bath, use in a diffuser before bedtime, or place some drops on your pillow.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. When you relax the muscles it can help you get to sleep. Focus on each group of muscles, one group at a time, from the feet up. Tense the muscle as you inhale. Hold the breath for a count of 5, and then exhale as you release the tension in the muscle.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that guides your thoughts towards the present moment. This trains your mind to avoid stressful thoughts and to focus instead on the sights and sounds around you.

New bedtime habits:

  • Stick to a daily sleep schedule.
  • Avoid heavy meals at night.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
  • Take a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Turn off smartphones and laptops an hour before bed and read instead.


There are several herbal supplements that may help promote better sleep quality. These include:

  • Melatonin
  • Valerian root.
  • L-theanine
  • GABA
  • Ashwagandha
  • Chamomile tea.

Insomnia and alcohol withdrawal is a common problem during detox. If you are seeking help for alcohol detox and withdrawal, detox can help.

Capo by the Sea Offers Detox and Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Capo by the Sea is a luxury rehab that provides the most effective addiction treatment available. With on-site detox services, our expert team can guide you or a loved one safely through alcohol detox. Call us today at (888) 529-2114.