Alcoholism May Alter Sleep Long-Term
Study: Alcoholism May Leave Lasting Effect on Sleep Patterns, Even After Sobriety
Oct. 1, 2009 -- Even if they quit drinking, alcoholics still have
differences in their sleep when compared with other people, a new study
The study, published in the Oct. 1 edition of the journal Sleep,
included 42 alcoholics who had quit drinking and 42 people with no history of
alcoholism. The alcoholics had been sober for anywhere from 30 days to more
than two years.
All participants spent a night at a sleep lab, hooked up to monitors that
showed their brain activity.
Compared with people with no history of alcoholism, the alcoholics had less
slow-wave sleep and spent more of their sleep time in the early stage of sleep
and in REM sleep. Those patterns were the same for male and female
The REM findings surprised the researchers, who included Ian Colrain, PhD,
of SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park,
Colrain and colleagues note that increased REM sleep might be expected in
people who had recently quit drinking to make up for the reduction that heavy
drinking takes on REM sleep.
The fact that that difference persisted despite long-term sobriety suggests
that alcoholism might have a lasting effect on sleep, Colrain's team notes.
The study doesn't prove that alcoholism caused those differences in sleep
But "self-reported sleep problems are ubiquitous in those suffering from
alcohol abuse and dependence," Colrain's team writes.