Alcohol can affect not only your waking hours but also when you try to sleep.

Once it has you, there is no real escape from addiction, and private drug and alcohol rehab might be the only option.

To stop alcohol from affecting how much sleep you get and the quality of it, you may need to undergo detox at alcohol rehab. But before that, you may want to know more about alcohol and sleep. How badly does it affect you at night, and what you can do to improve it before taking further action.

How Alcohol Affects Sleep Quality

There are four stages of sleep. 

The first three stages are classed as non-rapid eye movement, and the fourth is REM.

Alcohol can become a real problem when we’re going through the sleep cycle, as it has the ability to speed up the amount of time it takes to fall into a deep sleep. However, as the alcohol wears off, you spend more time in light sleep. This may lead you to wake up more during the night, disrupting the natural cycle that you need to feel rested.

Alcohol greatly affects REM sleep, which is responsible for your brain processing and storing information for long-term memory. Alcohol delays the onset of REM sleep, so you have less of it, ultimately affecting your mental well-being.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation and Alcohol

a woman struggling to sleep in bed after alcohol

Alcohol Consumption and lack of Sleep can Affect Mental Health

Lack of sleep will make you more irritable, so you probably notice that you typically have a bad day if you’ve had a rough night’s sleep the night before.

Being in a constant state of tiredness means that these feelings will build up, and you could slip into a depression. Poor sleep can also compound anxiety and stress issues, as you don’t get enough sleep to recover from your day. 

It may even progress to the need for a range of therapies to improve your mental health.

Alcohol Induced Sleep Disruption can Impact the Immune System

Another reason why a lack of sleep and alcohol work hand in hand is that when you are asleep, your body produces antibodies and cytokines that protect you and fight infection.

If you don’t get enough sleep, then your body can’t produce these vital substances that will help prevent illnesses going forward.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Sleep Duration

A woman with a hangover turning her alarm off

You may initially think that the impact of alcohol on sleep patterns is positive, since alcohol is a depressant and initially it will make you drowsier and ready to sleep.

However, while alcohol can help you initially get into a deep sleep quickly, it will still seriously mess with the quality of your sleep and ultimately reduce the time spent actually resting.

There are also some other habits that are a result of alcohol and restless sleep. For instance, drinking alcohol to excess can cause you to wake up and need to go to the toilet, while as well as that, you can expect to sweat more leading to dehydration.

In turn, you are likely to get up to quench your thirst throughout the night, thus, it’s pretty clear as to why these frequent interruptions are not ideal when it comes to being well-rested.

If you feel that you need alcohol to sleep, then you might feel the urge to drink regularly. If you succumb to this habit, daily drinking will increase your tolerance. This means that you need more to get the same effects. If this continues, then there is the danger of slipping into alcohol addiction.

Then, of course, alcoholism ultimately presents many issues down the line that will negatively affect your sleep as well as many other complications that come with addiction.

Drinking Alcohol and Sleep Disorders

Man with a glass of alcohol yawning

Alcohol use and sleep disorders also have the potential to aggravate existing problems you may have. Find out here what to be weary about when considering alcohol consumption and sleep problems.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is when your air passage narrows, interrupting your breathing cycle. 

This will cause you to wake up but it often happens so quickly that you don’t notice. Alcohol relaxes the muscles of your throat and makes your sleep apnea and snoring worse. It also increases the time between when you stop breathing and waking up to start once more.

Alcohol and Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder in which you cannot sleep. 

Initially, alcohol makes you sleep but you could wake up often and be unable to get your head down again. The lack of quality sleep will disrupt your internal clock, cause you stress, and lead you to drink more caffeine during the day. This can create a cycle that leads to you sleeping less and less, despite drinking more.


Alcohol increases slow-wave sleep which happens earlier on during the sleep cycle. It is also when a lot of sleepwalking occurs. Alcohol could aggravate an already existing condition – however, there is no concrete proof to say that drinking alcohol would cause sleepwalking if you didn’t already suffer from it.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Alcohol does not cause RLS but it can make it worse if you already have it. 

As alcohol affects the quality of your sleep it will worsen RLS symptoms which often occur at night. Plus, since alcohol addiction can contribute to stress and anxiety, you can expect to feel heightened RLS symptoms throughout the night if you’re waking up.

Strategies for Improving Alcohol and lack of Sleep

woman passed out holding a glass of wine

Drinking is something that many people do socially, so while the odd bad nights sleep is common, it is the consistency that makes for a dangerous habit. However, if you’re finding yourself wanting to improve your sleep after drinking here are some tips.

#1 Stop Drinking

This is the obvious one, but not over-drinking. 

Give your body time between your last drink and going to bed for the alcohol to metabolise. If you give yourself four hours that should be enough time and will help your sleep cycle move naturally and not get disrupted. 

This should help you sleep better and you might even leave yourself hangover-free.

#2 Ensure you Eat Prior

Having a decent meal before you start drinking is helpful. 

A balanced meal will help the alcohol go into your bloodstream more gradually without overworking your body. It will stop you from being too drunk as well and lessen the risk of alcohol poisoning.

#3 Drink Plenty Water

Drinking alcohol leaves you dehydrated and causes headaches and vomiting.

Water prevents these things. Drinking water before, in between and after alcoholic drinks will keep you suitably hydrated and limit the immediate effects of alcohol.

man sleeping peacefully in dark bedroom

Create the Perfect Environment

After drinking a person can pass out with their clothes still on and without getting under the sheets. To improve your sleep quality, make sure your environment is conducive to sleeping. 

You may have just spent the evening somewhere loud and bright so make sure your bedroom is dark and peaceful. Your central nervous system is sensitive to lights and sounds as it sheds the influence of alcohol.

Find Out More

If you are tired of sleepless nights caused by alcohol then contact Ocean Recovery today. We can offer you support and get the admissions process started immediately, if you want to enter treatment.

Call 0800 880 7596 today for more information. 

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: February 24, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.