While it has not been proven that alcohol directly causes narcolepsy, heavy drinking can lead to symptoms of this condition. Alcohol is often touted as a socially acceptable way to relax the body and mind. Unfortunately, once the relaxing effects fade, alcohol can disrupt a person’s normal sleep patterns. This can lead to extreme fatigue and episodes of narcolepsy.
People who suffer from narcoleptic symptoms may suddenly fall asleep when they are working, driving, or eating. Narcolepsy can have a negative impact on a person’s work and social life.
While some people may find alcohol relaxing, heavy drinking has an opposite effect on the body.
The Link Between Drinking And Narcolepsy
After a night of heavy drinking, people may expect to wake up tired. While some may blame this on an alcohol hangover, this depressant drug may actually be interfering with their ability to enter a state of deep sleep.
Alcohol may cause people to wake up repeatedly during the night, which can prevent a person from reaching the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. Without REM sleep, the body never fully relaxes. REM sleep occurs about 60 to 90 minutes into a normal sleep cycle and is responsible for providing the body with adequate rest.
Narcolepsy can be hereditary, but can also be caused by issues with the central nervous system. Because long-term alcohol abuse causes widespread damage to the body, this drug may also contribute to rates of narcolepsy. Symptoms of alcohol-induced narcolepsy include:
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- uneven, interrupted sleep
- frequent waking during the night
- falling asleep while eating, driving, or at work
- sudden limp or weak muscles (cataplexy)
- vivid images or hallucinations
- sleep paralysis just before falling asleep or directly after waking up
Individualized Treatment For Alcohol Abuse
We can help you explore treatment options, find the right rehab center, and design a plan that meets your needs.
How Does Alcohol Cause Narcolepsy?
Although alcohol is a depressant that slows down the systems of the body, it can actually have a negative effect on sleep cycles. Alcohol can cause the body and mind to feel wired, which prevents people from getting the deep, REM sleep they need to feel rested.
When people are chronically tired, they may develop symptoms of narcolepsy. The urge to sleep becomes uncontrollable, and people may fall asleep while at their desk or in a meeting. These episodes of sleep may last anywhere from several minutes to several hours.
It can be painful and frustrating to have a sleep disorder. Some people may drink alcohol as a way to self-medicate. They may initially drink to induce a feeling of relaxation, but over time, this habit can develop into alcohol abuse.
People who increase their alcohol intake to address a sleep issue can become dependent on the substance. When a person is dependent on alcohol, their body requires the substance to perform everyday functions, including sleep.
If a person stops drinking suddenly, they may experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms, including seizures. The best way to address co-occurring narcolepsy and alcohol abuse is with the help of a formal treatment center.
Co-Occurring Treatment For Narcolepsy And Alcohol Addiction
While alcohol has not been confirmed as a direct cause of narcolepsy, heavy drinking can lead to symptoms of this condition. For those who already struggle with narcolepsy, alcohol can worsen symptoms like fatigue, frequent sleep interruptions, and sleep paralysis.
Additionally, people who suffer from narcolepsy may use other substances in an attempt to fix their issues with sleep. This could result in a dependence on benzodiazepines or other sedatives, which are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
When a person struggles with narcolepsy and alcohol abuse, it’s important to seek treatment for both issues. Addiction treatment centers often provide comprehensive care models, which address the patient’s full spectrum of physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Vertava Health offer specialized treatment for alcohol addiction and health conditions such as narcolepsy. At our rehab centers, patients are assessed by compassionate treatment teams and provided with customized therapies to meet their unique needs.
Getting Help With Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can affect people very differently. While some may respond well to a simple change in lifestyle, others require more intensive treatment. When a person struggles with substance abuse and a co-occurring physical health condition, treatment can be more challenging.
More than 15 million American adults struggle with alcohol addiction, and many more have sleep disorders like narcolepsy. If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse and disturbed sleep, consider seeking help at an inpatient rehab center.
Vertava Health’ alcohol rehab programs provide treatment to people from all walks of life. Our rehab centers combine traditional therapies like group counseling with medication-assisted treatment, relaxation therapies, and motivational interviewing. Many public and private insurance companies can help offset the cost of treatment.
Sleep is essential to personal wellness. In an inpatient rehab center, patients who have suffered from sleep disorders as a result of alcohol abuse are given new techniques to rest their body and mind. This supervised and supportive environment can help to restore a sense of rest and well-being.
To learn more about narcolepsy and alcohol, or to explore treatment options near you, reach out to one of our specialists today.