Crum et al. (2004) mentioned that the relationship between alcohol use and sleeping disturbance is complex, due to existing evidence that shows the effects of alcohol in individual’s sleeping patterns. Brower mentioned that sleep problems are more prevalent among alcoholics than non-alcoholic individuals. In a statistical point of view, in the general population, insomnia in the last six months affected 18 percent of alcoholic people while only affecting 10 percent of non-alcoholic individuals (Brower, n.d). However, the hazardous effect of alcohol abuse encompasses beyond one type of sleeping disorder. Literature will prove the existing link between alcohol abuse and sleeping disorders. Both sleep disorders and alcohol abuse have psychological implications but their connection is deeper and more scientific because of existing medical pieces of evidence.
Alcohol abuse is considered a serious problem in society due to the diverse ages involved in the unhealthy consumption of the substance. A long standing issue is reports of underage alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, underage drinking is considered as one of the serious public health problems surrounding society. Globally, alcohol is one of the most abused substances and it possesses not only physical health problems but also psychological problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement saying that the alcohol abuse constitutes to approximately 2.5 Million deaths per year.
In the point of view of clinical psychologists, alcohol abuse is characterized as the negative dependence on the substance despite its recurring negative implication in the person’s health. In DSM 5 it is defined as a dangerous pattern of drinking resulting to harmful effects on health, interpersonal relationship and ability to perform daily activities. The harmful effects of alcohol abuse both results to short and long term implications. The short-term effect includes possible danger for instance if the person drives a car under the influence of alcohol. The long-term implication is the effect on the persons’ mental health. Moreover, under DSM 5 a unified disorder called alcohol use disorder can result from the combination between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse disorder include difficulty in managing interpersonal relationship, problems at work, at school and other social institutions. Patients are also recorded to be suffering from insomnia and irritability. The causes of alcohol abuse are difficult to give standard due to the complexity of the cases. Diagnose patients of alcohol abuse disorder come from different socio-economic statuses. The access to alcohol is one of the potential explanations to why people abuse the substance (Geddes, 2005).
Alcohol dependence or alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse. It is the unhealthy consumption of alcohol that greatly affects the physical and mental health of the individual. An alcoholic will continue drinking despite the obvious interference of the substance in the persons’ life. Alcohol abuse is pre-dominant in society because of its easy access. Many people can easily buy the beverages in stores at a cheap price. That is why according to WHO many people are prone to alcohol abuse even young people. The symptoms include: temporary memory loss and episodes of black outs. (2) recurrent fights and arguments with family members, officemates, friends and other people for little or no apparent rational reason. (3) Continuous dependence on alcohol in order to relax and forget. (4) Headache, insomnia, irritability and anxiety. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5)
Sleep is defined as normal and reoccurring stage of consciousness that is essential in human life preservation. Normal sleep is characterized of 4 to 9 hours of a 24 hours with two stages.Lovell mentioned that in a normal adult there are two main stages of sleep that alternate at about 90 minutes of interval- the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-rapid Eye Movement (nonREM). REM is defined as the sleep stage where the body is paralyzed, but the brain remains active. NonREM is characterized as a stage where the body is less active, but movements in the body are observed. Lovell further added that based on statistics 15% percent of people living in developed countries suffer from serious or chronic sleep disorder. Common sleeping disorders include insomnia, hypersomnia and parasomnias.
The quality of sleep is important, the brain is preparing for the following day. It plays a vital role in good health and a person’s well-being. Sleep aids the brain in its proper functioning, it aids in the process of learning and proper emotional responses. The immune system, for instance rely on sleep to function properly, without proper sleep the body’s immune system finds combatting common diseases difficult.
Sleeping disorders are among the most common clinical cases affecting people around the globe. Inadequate quality of sleep can impact an individual’s daily functioning and may lead to more serious psychological and medical problems. Sleep disorders often root from endogenous disturbances in a person’s sleeping mechanism (Roy,2014) At least 10% of the population in the United States is said to be affected by the disorder. The sleep needs of individuals are dependent on factors including the age and health condition of the individual. Many literatures would show that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep deprivation makes the impact of alcohol even worse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, statistically showed that a tired person who drives under the influence of alcohol is more impaired compared to someone who got the right amount of sleep. Driver drowsiness records to 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 deaths per year.
If sleep disorders become worse it affects an individual’s normal functioning such as it arrives with emotional, mental and physical problems. Insomnia is a sleeping disorder defined by people suffering from difficulty in sleeping or staying at sleep. Common causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, chronic stress and discomfort at night. According to DSM 5, insomnia is linked to a number of potential causes including health problems, pain and substance abuse.
Another kind of sleeping disorder is sleep apnea, a condition that affects roughly about 18 million Americans. It is characterized as difficulty in breathing; this sleeping disorder allows the windpipe to collapse when muscles relax during the stages of sleep. The disorder is also linked to the incidence of vehicular accidents due to untreated sleep apnea patients are said to be 2 to 3 times more prone to automotive accidents. Many people are affected by sleep deprivation not only in an individual level but also in a larger scale of problems.
Sleep Disorders and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is claimed to be a sedative or calming substance while it can help individual sleep, the quality of sleep is put into jeopardy. Alcohol prevents individuals from getting deep sleep because it makes people left in the early stage of sleeping (Cleveland Clinic). Ethanol, a substance found in alcoholic drinks is believed to exacerbate sleep problems. Some individuals practice drinking alcohol before they go to sleep due to the calming effect of alcohol. However, it is reported that even moderate alcohol consumption 30 to 60 minutes before sleep may result to sleep disruption. Doghramji (2005) mentioned that 28% of insomniacs attempted to use alcohol to aid them in sleeping. For an average of 3.6 nights per month insomniacs report their alcohol consumption.
Although alcohol may help individual to sleep because alcohol leads to a more rapid induction to sleep, alcohol metabolized rapidly and bloods samples are negligible during the middle portion of the sleep, this often result to withdrawal tendencies. Negative effects may include multiple awakenings and shallow sleep, REM rebound linked to vivid dreams or nightmares, excessive sweating and irritability (Doghramji, 2005). Insomnia, one of the most common types of sleeping disorder risks individuals to the development of alcohol dependence and alcoholism. Alcoholism constitute to reports of poor sleep defined by prolonged time before sleep is achieved, multiple awakening and decrease REM sleep. Even if some research claims that the alcohol is an effective method to aid in sleep, it still possesses threatening affect that may lead to an unhealthy dependence on the substance.
Alcohol’s effect on Sleep patterns
Rosenberg (2011) mentioned that in a study conducted in 2009, 58% of the 2000 respondents did not know that alcohol consumption has a negative and powerful effect on their sleep. Alcohol consumption alters the quality of sleep in individual, despite sleeping at night an individual may not feel replenish and refreshed in the morning. Alcohol disrupts REM. Alcohol also disrupts to the total span of sleep due to many reports of awakening and difficulty going back to sleep. More importantly, alcohol increases the prevalence of pre-existing sleeping problems. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that relates to difficulty in breathing and heavy snoring. Alcohol, consumed in moderate or large amounts, can affect the airway of individuals by narrowing it, and increasing the occurrence of breath holding (Rosenberg, 2011)
Substance Induced Sleep Disorder
Substance induced sleep disorder is defined by the DSM 5 as the presence of prominent evidence of sleep disturbances as a consequence of exposure to medications, drugs and alcohol. It is the psychiatric terms used to refer to drug or alcohol induced insomnia. The negative impact of alcohol or other substances to sleep is primarily due to its direct impact in the nervous system of individuals (Rosenberg, 2011). Mental capacity is affected by both sleeping disorder and alcohol consumption because of their effect in rational and logical thinking of individuals.
Available literature can determine the link between alcohol abuse and sleeping disorders. Alcohol consumption is known for years to be used by individuals who have difficulties sleeping due to its effects; however, if the substance is abused or consumed on a regular basis it leads to serious health problems such as sleep disorders. Substance induced disorders do not only link t sleeping disorders but other mental disorders as well. Both sleeping disorders and alcohol abuse result to serious consequences on their own right. Mann mentioned that the current review of 27 existing literature will prove that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. The more a person consumes alcohol before sleeping, the more is the disruptive effect of the substance to sleep. Alcohol for instance disrupts REM, leaving a person with drowsiness, poor concentration and severe head ache in the morning. It may help a person sleep, but it affects the second half of sleep. It affects REM which is considered as the more mentality replenishing sleep stage. According to Breus, consumption of alcohol before sleep increases the likelihood of sleep walking, sleep talking and difficulty in memory recall. Many medical practitioners are attempting to break the wrong perception on alcohol as a sleeping aid by proposing a number of healthier alternatives such as proper exercise and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, drugs in the evening.
Overall, many profession will agree to the negative linkage between sleep and alcohol consumption, but due to easy access of alcoholic beverages, the demographic of drinkers became wider. Alcohol affects a person’s ability to think logically making a person more prone to over-drinking and become alcohol dependent because of the temporary euphoric feeling it provides people. Sleep is also essential to human survival; according to Maslow’s hierarchy of need sleep is part of the physiological needs of human. Physiological needs are vital for the daily functioning of the individual, without the appropriate amount of sleep; a person’s mental judgment is affected resulting to difficulty in everyday performance. Sleep is necessary for mental functioning because it aids in clearing and repairing the different human systems. Sleep helps in growth and development that is vital for the holistic development of people.
Brower Kirk, Alcohol’s effect on sleep in Alcoholics. Alcohol Research and Health. (n.d)
Crum R et al. Sleep Disturbance and Risk for Alcohol Related Problems.
Doghramji K, The ef.fects of Alcohol on Sleep.(n.d)
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5
Lovell K. Summary: Normal Sleep Patterns and Sleep Disorders.
Rosenberg R. How Alcohol Can Ruin Your Sleep. 01 Aug 2011
Roy H. Sleep Disorders. 3 Feb 2014
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
World Health Organization, Global Status Report on alcohol and health