A study published today in the journal Sleep shows that alcoholics may continue to have sleep problems long after they quit drinking.
The study involved 42 alcoholics with a mean age of 49 years. They had been sober for varying periods of time. Some had abstained from drinking for a few weeks; others had not had a drink in almost two years. Their sleep was compared with 42 controls.
Results show that the percentage of deep, slow wave sleep was lower in alcoholics than in controls. Alcoholics also had more light, stage 1 non-rapid eye movement sleep.
The authors report that these results are reflective of poorer sleep quality. They also suggest that these sleep problems could play a role in alcoholics’ cognitive decline.
The study also found that estimated lifetime alcohol consumption was related to subjective sleep quality; higher lifetime consumption predicted less sleep satisfaction.
Men estimated that they had consumed almost twice as much alcohol as women. But the pattern of alcoholism-related sleep changes was similar in both male and female participants.
The authors report that long-term alcohol abuse causes structural damage to the brain. Sleep measures may reflect these changes in brain structure.
The NIAAA reports that heavy drinking increases your risk of sleep disorders; it also puts you at risk for liver disease, heart disease, depression, stroke and several types of cancer.
In August the Sleep Education Blog reported that drinking alcohol has a negative effect on sleep; decades of research shows that alcohol disrupts your natural sleep cycle.
Insomnia due to drug or substance can result from alcohol use or withdrawal.