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9 Things to Do If You Can't Sleep Without Alcohol

Young man sitting at a bar with a glass of whiskey

It is normal for us to feel the urge to unwind and relax after a long, busy day. While the temptation to routinely consume alcohol to relieve stress is common, doing so can be detrimental to your overall health. 

In fact, having a drink before bed might actually have a negative impact on the quantity and quality of your sleep. If you can’t sleep without alcohol, I’m here to help you make impactful and positive changes in your life. 

Developing new ways to fall asleep without alcohol will result in healthier habits, better relationships, and an overall higher quality of life. In this article, I will share the negative effects of consuming alcohol before bed and alternatives to alcohol for sleep so you can transform your relationship with alcohol once and for all. 

Why Do You Need Alcohol to Sleep?

The first step in weaning off using alcohol to sleep is figuring out why you depend on it. Do you find it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep? Is stress keeping you up at night? Does anxiety play a part in your sleep problems? 

Regardless of the cause, figuring out the root of the issue will help you develop other methods to fall asleep. 

How Does Alcohol Impact Sleep?

While alcohol does initially make you feel sleepy, it significantly impacts the quality of your sleep, and not in a good way. 

Alcohol slows brain activity because it is a central nervous system depressant, which prevents restful sleep. Alcohol also causes the body to become dehydrated and prevents REM sleep, the most important stage of the sleep cycle. Lack of REM sleep affects memory formation and leaves you feeling drowsy and exhausted the following morning.

Additionally, consuming alcohol right before bed increases your chance of waking up to use the restroom at night and experiencing parasomniac behaviors such as sleepwalking.  

Overall, it's crucial to refrain from drinking alcohol right before bed so you can wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day. 

What to Do If you Can’t Sleep Without Alcohol 

The good news for individuals who want to quit drinking is that there are a number of alcohol-free methods to help you fall asleep. 

1. Exercise 

Being active or exercising before bed can promote sleep by increasing your level of fatigue. Exercise can increase endorphins, the brain chemicals that improve mood and relaxation. 

Exercise can also cause a rise in core body temperature, which tells the body it's time to get moving. If you're having trouble sleeping without alcohol, exercise more than two hours before bedtime. 

2. A Quiet Environment 

Can’t sleep without alcohol? Make sure you are in a quiet environment so your body and mind can relax. Now, this doesn’t mean it has to be dead silent. You can try playing calming music or sounds to unwind.  

3. Keep Busy

Most of my clients would agree — keeping busy is crucial. Fill your day with enough activities to keep you busy. Go on frequent walks, run errands, and chat with your family and friends, leaving the night solely for sleeping.

The desire for alcohol is frequently the result of boredom, therefore if the mind is engaged in something else, you’re less likely to reach for that bottle. 

4. Drink Up

And no, this doesn't mean alcohol! For some addicts, the problem may be their urge to constantly sip on something. It can be quite beneficial to replace alcohol with warm milk or tea. Decaffeinated tea, such as chamomile tea, has a relaxing effect and can help you unwind at night. 

5. Take a Shower or Bath

Taking a nice, hot bath or shower is a fantastic alternative for alcohol for sleep. The application of hot water to the skin helps open pores and facilitates blood flow and muscular relaxation. Instead of pouring yourself a drink, treat yourself to a self-care night and a great night of sleep. 

6. Follow a Set Routine 

The key to getting better sleep is to establish a consistent bedtime routine. You might want to try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Your body will rapidly get used to your schedule, and you'll discover that falling asleep and waking up will be a lot easier.

7. Find Other Ways to Relax

There are so many other ways to relax than consuming alcohol. Find an activity that puts your mind at ease, such as yoga, cooking, watching tv, reading, or listening to music. These calming activities that you love will help you resist temptations like drinking alcohol.

8. Avoid Stimulation 

You'll be more likely to fall asleep fast if you avoid stimulation before bed. Stay away from caffeine, other medication, screen time, sugary foods, stressful activities, and of course, alcohol. Focus on relaxing your body and getting quality sleep. 

9. Get Support 

Asking for help demonstrates strength, self-assurance, and resourcefulness. This isn’t a journey you have to do alone, and as someone who has overcome addiction themselves and been a part of thousands of people's sobriety journeys, I know what it takes to help you beat your alcohol addiction. 

You CAN Do It

If you’ve reached a point where you can’t sleep without alcohol, it’s important to take the necessary steps now. Take my online course to get sober and stay sober so you live a happy, healthy life. With a 30-minute web class, you'll learn the techniques to take control of your drinking and transform your lifestyle. 

Learn how to get control of your drinking with our FREE webinar on quitting drinking.

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Author of Sober In Seven and wellness and sobriety coach in the UK, here to use my own experience of overcoming alcohol addiction to support you on your journey to a better healthier life.

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