Quit Alcohol Sleep | 5 Tips How to Sleep When You Stop Alcohol | SDA33

This week’s edition of Stop Drinking Alcohol is all about sleep, or the lack of it when quitting drinking.

Q & A

5 Tips on How to Go To Sleep When You Stop Drinking - Stop Drinking Alcohol Week 33

I can relate to getting up early in the morning for work. I was up at 5am for most of my working life. As far as the self-medication goes, I think we can all relate to that – to one extent or another. When I quit drinking, I probably went for over a month with difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep.

Having said that, I never got a good night’s sleep before I quit drinking. I could ‘fall asleep’ quickly enough, sometimes it felt like before my head hit the pillow, but I’d always wake up after a couple of hours.

Depending on how much I’d had to drink, I would either be wide awake and tossing and turning, or wide awake with my heart pounding in my ears, my head aching, my throat feeling like a desert, and I’d be tossing and turning and unable to get back asleep.

I much prefer where I am now.

I still have a restless night now and then. The reasons are nothing to do with alcohol though. Maybe I’ve drank too much coffee during the day. Perhaps I’m a little anxious about something, slightly stressed because a plan didn’t come to fruition, or a hundred other normal things that have kept us humans awake since year dot.

But I don’t have those lovely hangovers to look forward to, nor do I wake up in the middle of the night fearing that I’m gonna have a heart attack or a stroke or some other god awful self-caused death.

You have to put up with the sleepless nights for a while… that’s just it!

How long will the sleeplessness last? Who knows! Everyone’s different. It’s going to depend on many factors, all of them individual to you.

You just have to accept it and do what you can put yourself in the mood for sleep. Your body is not used to falling asleep on its own, without being boinked to sleep by booze.

Give it time!

The human body has remarkable powers to heal itself, both mentally and physically. If it takes you a month or even two to get through the night, isn’t it worth it to know that you’ll now be free!
How to Fall Asleep

5 Tips on How to Go To Sleep When You Stop Drinking

First of all, you must accept your sleeplessness. It’s probably going to happen. If it doesn’t, then good for you.

If you try to fight it, you’ll more than likely make it worse….

 

Tip #1: Prepare yourself for sleep.

I’ve always had difficulty sleeping with any sound in the room so I use earplugs whenever I go to bed. I also find that a dark room helps me sleep much better. We have blinds in our home so the room is always pitch-black. I thought it would be difficult to know when to get up in the morning because the blinds block out all the morning light as well as the streetlamps below our balcony, but my biological clock still wakes me up at 6am almost every morning.

Try using a sleep mask if you can’t achieve complete darkness from curtains or blinds, they’re cheap enough on Amazon or eBay. I used one on my holidays a couple of years ago. Once I got used to the feeling of something on my face, I slept like a baby.

A comfortable temperature is also very helpful when getting yourself in the proper state for sleep. Open a window if it’s too stuffy, or throw an extra blanket if it’s too chilly. Just experiment to see what works best for you. Take a soothing bath before you go to bed and use a couple of drops of lavender oil both in the bathwater and on your pillow.

 

 

Tip #2: Take relaxing breaths.

This is one of the things I learned to do when I started Kundalini Yoga classes. Lie in a comfortable position and just breathe long, deep, and slow breathes. Listen to your breathing and calm yourself as much as you can. This is always the first thing I try once I get into bed and find I can’t drop off. Normally I am asleep very quickly.

 

 

Tip #3: Clench and Relax.

The clench and relax technique is a shortened version of a method of relaxation used in psychotherapy. The idea is to clench and relax all your individual muscles until you no more tension.

Lie down and use the breathing technique to begin the relaxation process. Then, stretch your toes forwards and hold the stretch for 4 to 5 seconds and relax. Now stretch them backwards and hold 4 to 5 seconds. Move up to your ankle, stretching each joint first forwards, holding 4 to 5 seconds and repeat stretching backwards. Gradually move up through your body stretching and clenching each muscle for 4 or 5 seconds before releasing.

This is always the second technique I use. It’s a bad night when I get past my lower body.

 

 

Tip #4: Stop telling yourself you’re going to be awake all night.

The brain listens to what you tell it and tries as much as it can to comply with your commands. If you tell yourself that you’re going to be awake all night, you mind will oblige for as long as it can, until you fall asleep through exhaustion at least. Simply repeating to yourself “fall asleep, fall asleep, fall asleep” over and over will at least bore you to sleep.

Also, your brain can’t understand negatives. So, telling yourself “Don’t stay awake” over and over is interpreted by your brain as the command to “stay awake”. Why? Because your brain must first of all think about what it is you are telling it not to think about in order to make sure that it’s not thinking about it.

For example, if I say to you “Don’t think about standing in a pool of paint”, your brain just can’t help thinking about it. The process will go something like this… “What am I not supposed to be thinking of… [pictures standing in a pool of paint]… ah right, I won’t think about that then”. Your mind will then frequently return to thinking about what it’s not supposed to be thinking about just to make sure it’s not thinking about it. Make sense?

If you feel like saying a negative, say “Don’t fall asleep, don’t fall asleep” over and over. Your brain will only hear ‘fall asleep’. I know it sounds daft but, daft or not, it’s true and it works.

 

Tip #5: Establish a routine you do only at bedtime.

What you’re aiming for here is a bedtime ritual that you repeat every night until it becomes part of your routine. Your mind will associate this with sleep and you’ll be off to nod at the closing of an eye (or both eyes!).

My ritual is science fiction reading. I’ve done this since I was a young boy, so it’s well ingrained into my mind. This almost always puts me into the relaxed state my body needs for sleep.

I even used to ‘read’ when I was drinking. That was more comedy than sci-fi though. I either couldn’t focus on the words or they would seem to swim all over the page.

If you don’t read, try listening to one of your favourite artists. Or you could try listening to white noise, you know – that background hiss you get from a radio that’s not tuned into any station. Just download it from iTunes, or record some of your own.

The idea is to stop your brain from keeping you awake with all the chatter. Soothe it into a peaceful slumber. Goodnight!

 

Try Not To Focus On Negatives

Remember not to focus too much on the negative aspects of quitting. You will experience some difficulty in quitting, that’s for sure, but the difficulty of those few weeks after you quit is nothing in comparison to the bright horizon that you’re moving into. For most people, alcohol is the one thing that’s holding them back from actualizing the person they should be.

Bon Voyage!

 

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For an extra couple of tips, sign up for our weekly newsletter at the top of the sidebar. It’s free! Just fill in your email address and first name…

So, that’s Stop Drinking Alcohol Week 33.
Thanks for visiting the site.
Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!
Kev

 

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Stop Drinking Alcohol Week 30
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Stop Drinking Alcohol Week 32

About The Author

Kevin O'Hara

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43 Comments

  • Joyce

    Reply Reply January 27, 2014

    I have used all you mentioned & it does work. I have a relaxation CD I use when my mind won’t shout down, normally from stress. Five minutes in I’m relaxed & shut it off. One other thing I’ve found is to take some melatonin 15 minutes before bed. It helps your body to regulate your sleep/wake patterns. Not for the long term, just the first month. Very important is sleeping in complete darkness as any light will stop melatonin production in your body. I have an alarm clock with no light unless you push a button to see it. No more glancing at the time to stress you out! Joyce x

    • Kevin O'Hara

      Reply Reply January 28, 2014

      Thanks for the suggestions, Joyce!

  • Dan

    Reply Reply September 7, 2014

    I quit for 7 months. I could not sleep. I would get 2 maybe 3 hours of broken sleep a night for 7 months. It was unbearable. I would be tired all day but force myself not to nap so I would hopefully be tired enough to sleep at night. Never worked. It was hell. When I drink before bed I sleep like a baby and wake up feeling great and refreshed. But I know it’s killing me so I want to stop.

    • Andre

      Reply Reply December 25, 2015

      Yep this same thing happens with me bud. It’s bloody annoying I can tell ya. I shud never have started drinking ever to be honest :/

      All the best anyway bud 🙂

    • Je

      Reply Reply January 16, 2017

      I’m the same, I have more energy for work, gym and my dog when I have a few snifters the night before and a good night sleep. Trying to sleep listening to documentaries at he moment 😊 Fingers crossed

  • William P. Mitchell

    Reply Reply September 22, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. Great tips! Your blog will help me a lot.

  • JH

    Reply Reply January 5, 2015

    Thanks for the info. I quit recently and the sleepless nights were getting me down, your post was very encouraging.

  • The Boon to My Katie

    Reply Reply January 22, 2015

    Please send me your newsletter.

  • s lalitkumar singh

    Reply Reply February 21, 2015

    Sir i have a habit of drinking habit last ten year I am forty plus I want to leave alcohol I have two small baby but I could sleep in night properly sir advice me how to sleep on night pleas thanks

    • Kevin O'Hara

      Reply Reply February 26, 2015

      Hi, sometimes there is no guarantee that you’re going to sleep, not in the beginning of your quit at least. Unfortunately, it takes time for you body to become accustomed to no more alcohol. It will recover. Your body needs rest and once it’s not getting the false sleep through alcohol, you’ll start falling asleep and staying asleep naturally. You never get a good nights sleep with alcohol anyway because alcohol prevents you from going into the rapid eye movement stage. This is one of the most important for your health. Take comfort in the fact that although you’ll suffer a little in the short term, in the long term you will be far better off.
      Take care
      Kev

      • Adam

        Reply Reply April 24, 2015

        It’s after 3am and I cannot sleep. I’m 62 and have been drinking since my teen years except for when I did a 8.5 year prison bit. I drank last night but less than normal. I fell asleep for about an hour. I went for a 2 mile walk and took a pill that is supposed to help but I just can’t get comfortable enough to go to sleep. Thanks for your insight. I quit once before when my Dad died. Just quit cold turkey and did not have all these problems. Unfortunately, I relapsed. Your words are encouraging. Lucky there’s no more booze in the house and the bars are closed. I’ll be dropping in again for some encouragement.

  • Jeffrey

    Reply Reply June 13, 2015

    Good luck to you all.Relapse is regrettably common.Beating yourself up over it still won’t make you sleepy.Hang in there,keep trying and believe SLEEP WILL HAPPEN.

  • Pamela Jessett

    Reply Reply January 10, 2016

    I have tried over the last 10 years to cut down or give up as alcohol is affecting my moods. I am an emotional and sensitive person and it just makes me over react to situations and I loose perspective. It affects my confidence when I drink as it is something I know I shouldn’t do

  • Adam

    Reply Reply January 21, 2016

    Thank you so much for the blog. I have been drinking for 14 years and this past year I’ve been trying to quit because its effecting a lot of my relationships. The biggest issue I have noticed is trying to fall asleep on days I don’t drink. I will continue to follow up on your blog and work on my own battles with alcoholism. Thank you so much once again. Hopefully your blog will help me change my life.

    • Ryan

      Reply Reply February 4, 2016

      Damn man. 14 years sounds way rough. I’m on my second day of not drinking over the past year. The sleep sucks–which is why I’m here. Gl to you.

  • bablu

    Reply Reply March 23, 2016

    I want 2 quit alcohol so sir plz help me I can’t sleep without alcohol I am 34 year old

    • Tom

      Reply Reply June 8, 2016

      I’m on my second day and feel like shit and can’t sleep and trowing up…. only 27 and being drinking heavy since 15 …. wish I would never started … kinda curious to know how you doing so far

      • Kevin O'Hara

        Reply Reply June 8, 2016

        Have you drank heavily every day, Tom?

  • Ann

    Reply Reply March 26, 2016

    Hello thank you for your suggestions I’m going to try them I really want to stop drinking. I need to sleep I hate feeling like I can’t stop because I want to fall asleep.

    • Kevin O'Hara

      Reply Reply March 30, 2016

      Good for you Ann 🙂

  • Donna

    Reply Reply April 3, 2016

    I can only suggest counseling. The reasons you can’t sleep are the reasons you started drinking in the first place, although they may not have involved sleep at that time. People drink to block thoughts and feelings out and unless you learn how to express them and deal with them they will invade your mind, consciously or subconsciously, and forever be there to interfere with your growth, peace and success in life. Addiction is a symptom of a greater problem and until that problem is dealt with you will always be shortcoming your life and struggling. I wish you all peace, calm and self acceptance.

  • Jane

    Reply Reply July 9, 2016

    I have been drinking for twenty years just to get to sleep . It used to work well – but now is no Li get working . I want to stop drinking before bed . I have tried sleeping g tablets but end up just taking both .

  • Akhilesh

    Reply Reply August 6, 2016

    Just to quit from alcohol I have started tablet cloze 2 and remain away from alcohol but there is no sleep as I do not want to consume the tablet now I am suffering from hyper Uric acid,hypothyroidism & increased creatinine what should I do to have a sound sleep without alcohol or tablet after eight months of quiting from alcohol even a single drop

  • Phil

    Reply Reply September 8, 2016

    I have been drinking beer or cider heavily for 20 years or so, at the moment it is 2.44am and I have done multiple home detoxes the last a week the worst. I wouldn’t recommend it without seeing your doctor. I cannot sleep either, sore eyes and a headache which ironically look like I have had a drink! But I will beat this.. I realise how stupid I have been but it is hard for folk like us. I look at the pluses and used to drink pints of the strong stuff, then high strength cider before ending up on 4% canned lager. So I am pleased about that, my bloods are ok as are my organs so far so I send everyone wishes and Richard is right, I look forward to the future. At 42 things can only go up good luck everyone and oh a banana or Almond milk works for me, I know I will be out for the count by 4am.

  • Valerie

    Reply Reply September 14, 2016

    Kevin thank you for spending time of your life helping other by providing valuable information. I will support you and donate monthly. Would I be getting weekly newsletter? I would like to read or watch some of your videos to learn how to continue with sobriety.

    • Kevin O'Hara

      Reply Reply September 14, 2016

      Thanks Valerie…the newsletter is sent out every day at the moment…and most of the videos are free – apart from the courses…

  • Mayank Shukla

    Reply Reply September 16, 2016

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the detailed blog. I am habitual drinker and wants to quit (partially). Is it possible. Can I be a social drinker. Is it possible or I need to completely quit drinking.

    I am not sure as how life would be if I completely stop drinking. What’s your say on this.

    Also I tried to quit drinking for a week and I don’t face much issues while sleeping. With drinks it takes 15 min for me to go to sleep and without drinks, it takes an hour (manageable). Do you think that it would be simpler for me to quit it. I go to gym and do heavy workout. I think this helps me to sleep without drinks. But love you man….inspirational blog…

    • Kevin O'Hara

      Reply Reply September 18, 2016

      I’ve tried to moderate and be a social drinker lots of times, all failed. Alcohol is a drug, acts just like a drug, so ask yourself if you would be a social heroin user, cocaine user?

  • Vinícius Machado Miguel

    Reply Reply September 16, 2016

    Thanks, I’ve just relapsed yesterday and the day before. I must admit that I’m kind of scared of sleeping. Spend yours in bad, in the darkness give time to do some “bad vibe thinking”.

    I was two weeks clean but I got in an argument with my girlfriend and… you know how those things work. But before that, 6PM after done with my college routine I could not think about anything but booze.

    I’ll try those tips, this is the hardest part for me.

  • Melissa

    Reply Reply September 17, 2016

    I’m trying to stop drinking. I thought it would be easy but it’s not.. I’m going to try and get throw this weekend with a drink.. I hope I can. I can’t sleep at night with out a drink but I’m going to try this tips. Thank you

  • Judy

    Reply Reply September 28, 2016

    It has been 2 months since my mom stopped drinking and the sleepless nights have been since she stop. The really sad part of this is i just educated myself on this. She has been in and out of hospitals due to dehydration and kidney failure but thank God bounce back. I tell her not to fight it but she fights it. Accident prone yes she falls alot at night time due to her walking the floors.please how can I help her as I am losing sleep over this too.

  • Ryan Booth

    Reply Reply November 23, 2016

    Hi I am 35 bin drinking for last ten years every night I just stopped 3 week ago I still drink Friday night as a treat but iam not sleeping I get to sleep about 9am and up at tea do u no off any help

  • Matt

    Reply Reply January 1, 2017

    Lying in bed now after a particularly heavy Christmas. I was really scared today. Never had the shakes before when I have not had a drink. Have been drinking heavily for the last twenty plus years. How I have managed to hold down a job is hard to know. Really want to quit. Not need. Want.i have to keep telling myself that. I don’t just need to I want to
    I am going to do it this year. Thank you for your website and the advice and support you are offering.

  • Steve

    Reply Reply January 2, 2017

    Hi I’ve been drinking every night for 43 years I had major heart surgery 2 years ago and an now type 2 diabetes. Have tried to stop drinking every night a few times before I don’t want to stop totally because I like the social side of it. I want to drink just when I go out at weekends rather than in the house every night. I dread the thought of not sleeping

  • Johnny

    Reply Reply January 3, 2017

    I’ve been a heavy drinker since I was seventeen, I’m now forty two years of age. I use to not have a problem skipping a night here or there but now here I am, 3:30 AM, writing this response to whomever decides to read it. infeel like my heart is about to jump out of my chest. When I do drift off dreams are so odd and almost nightmarish I lie awake and think about their significance they hold, if any. I’ve known for some time there may be problems with sleeping but I had no grasp on the anxiety that came with it. It’s insane. God, if you’re listening please guide me. I don’t know if I can do this on my own.

    • Jen

      Reply Reply January 16, 2017

      Let’s do it together Johnny, I feel your pain. Been drinking since I was 16… larger only but was putting away 8 tins a night, it wasn’t effecting my work and iv always worked out and held down a relationship but I k ow it’s not good for me. 37 now. This will be night 2 since early November that I haven’t had one and I’m doing loads to help sleep at night, iv cut out as many carbs as I could and trying a high protein diet, I crave something sweet tho but had porridge amd a pint of water and that helped. Going to turn on a documentary on utube as that helps me drop off sober. Hope u can do it x bend my ear if u like

  • Dave

    Reply Reply January 30, 2017

    Thank you for your ideas on achieving a restful sleep Kevin, I will try some of the methods you have mentioned. I am 37 and I have been drinking since I was 15. I have stopped drinking for 3 weeks now and I have been having some trouble sleeping. Mainly I can sleep but its usually from 9pm to 3.30am. I also dream a lot, not bad dreams just dreams. I never used to dream before and it’s taking some getting use to. One of the things I think I will try is exercising a little bit every day and setting myself achievable little goals through the day. For anyone who is trying to stop, I wish you well; it’s a long road but take each day at a time. Rome was not made in a day and recovery is the same. Your body needs to relearn to be normal. Normal is good but be prepared for a flood of emotions which I think also effects your sleep, I have began writing a journal to deal with some of my unresolved issues. I hope some of these ideas help everyone through recovery and to restful nights.

  • Deadboy tuesday

    Reply Reply February 11, 2017

    I’m 43 days sober this second after 9 heavy years in this time of sobriety my accomplishments total 0 I can’t do anything at night but lay down and realise I’m nothing much.
    It brought happiness but it took health. I ask myself repeatedly and so very often wouldn’t it be better if I were inebriated…for what has this clarity brought ?? That has also produced zero in all manners nothing has changed just my mood is worse off just very very sad now…i’ll pen you my turning point friends despite our paths never crossing, all it and by it i mean sobriety has done is take what little joy remained I must be a born masochist for either way I receive no pleasure. I apologise for writing and the wasting of time but I have no one to speak with

  • Doug

    Reply Reply March 22, 2017

    If you have a newsletter that could help me eliminate alcohol, I would appreciate it.

  • Joseph Domino

    Reply Reply March 24, 2017

    I’ve stopped drinking for two days. Both nights, about 3 hours choppy sleep each. Valium, ambien, little to no effect. Sorry, but the advice sounds like something I heard an M.D. say at a sleep seminar many years back: “If you are thinking of problems that are keeping you awake at night, you must not think of those problems.” That’s a punch-line from a stand-up routine. I’m retired thankfully. This morning, every morning I have to drive my disabled son to work. It is dangerous for me to be behind the wheel. I want to go back to PT work in the Fall. I can’t with nights like this. How long will this go on? I can’t walk a straight line. It is worse than a hangover. I quit drinking to lose weight and it’s getting too expensive.

  • fred

    Reply Reply May 4, 2017

    I have been drinking for the last 30 years and I think your comments are going to help me quit this habit to the extent that I have lost appetite for food. thanks.

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