Long-Term Alcoholism Greatly Impacts Quality of Sleep

Posted on October 17th, 2009
Posted in Alcoholism

Sleep is an important part of everyday health and a lack of sleep can lead to a variety of problems. According to a recent study, alcoholism over the long-term affects sleep even after long periods of abstinence. The impact is similar in both men and women.

Science Daily recently reported on this study which showed that long-term alcoholics who had abstained from drinking for up to 719 days had lower wave sleep compared to those in the control group. Alcoholics also had significantly more stage one non-rapid eye movement than the controls.

Authors of the study indicated that having less deep, slow wave sleep and more light, stage one sleep is reflective of poorer sleep quality. This poor sleep quality could act as an exacerbating factor in an alcoholics’ cognitive decline.

Principal investigator Ian Colrain, PhD, director of the SRI International Human Sleep Research Program and a professional fellow in psychology at the University of Melbourne in Australia, indicated he was surprised that a significant percentage of REM sleep persisted in alcoholics who had remained abstinent for extended periods.

"Previously the REM changes in the acute detox period were assumed to be related to a rebound of the REM suppression effects of alcohol," said Colrain, in Science Daily.. "The persistence indicates that there is some possibly permanent structural/functional change in REM regulation mechanisms produced by long-term alcohol abuse."

The study was conducted on 42 alcoholics and 42 controls and included sleep architecture and electroencephalogram (EEG) spectral power measures. Results indicate that perceived sleep – as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) – was significantly worse in alcoholics than in controls. In addition, higher lifetime consumption predicted less sleep satisfaction.
 

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