Person in bed, experiencing nightmares and alcohol abuse symptoms

Nightmares and Alcohol

If you have tried using alcohol to help you fall asleep, you may have noticed that it results in frequent wakeups and grogginess instead of setting you up for a deep slumber. And to make it worse, you may also have upsetting dreams known as alcohol nightmares. If your alcohol consumption may be causing bad dreams, but you cannot cut back, you need the help of Promises Brazos Valley’s alcohol rehab. To learn more, reach out online or call 979.426.0086.  

What Are Alcohol Nightmares?  

Alcohol nightmares refer to vivid and disturbing dreams that occur after consuming alcohol. Intense emotions, terrifying scenarios, and a sense of great fear or unease can characterize these nightmares. You may be more susceptible to alcohol nightmares if you drink excessively or binge drink.  

Heavy drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men. Binge drinking consists of consuming four or more drinks within two to three hours for women and five or more for men.  

How Nightmares and Alcohol Are Related  

Drinking alcohol before bed may seem like a great way to relax and settle your mind for a good night’s sleep. However, alcohol can disrupt the natural sleep cycle, making you susceptible to troubling dreams known as alcohol nightmares.   

So, how do nightmares and alcohol go together? The answer lies in how alcohol affects REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is one of the critical stages of sleep characterized by the rapid movement of the eyes and increased brain activity that lead to dreams and nightmares. This stage is vital for:   

  • Cognitive and emotional processing  
  • Consolidation of memories  
  • Overall brain health  

Unfortunately, alcohol can disrupt the standard patterns of REM sleep, causing you to spend less time in this crucial phase. This makes you more likely to experience vivid dreams and nightmares that make you anxious or agitated. And without adequate REM sleep, you may also feel groggy and irritable. 

Alcohol consumption may also lead to nightmares due to higher anxiety or stress levels. Individuals who drink heavily tend toward emotional dysregulation that can carry over into the dream phase, making you more likely to have bad rather than pleasant dreams.  

Tips for Managing Alcohol Nightmares  

If you are struggling with nightmares that may be linked to your alcohol consumption, there are several ways to reduce the occurrence of these unsettling dreams.  

Practice Moderate Drinking  

While abstaining from alcohol is the most effective way to prevent alcohol nightmares, you can still reduce the chances of bad dreams by limiting your consumption. Moderate drinking is considered up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.  

Cut Back on Alcohol Before Bed  

Giving yourself a few hours without alcohol before sleep may help prevent or reduce the intensity of alcohol-related nightmares.   

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene  

Developing a healthy bedtime routine can soothe your central nervous system and put you in a calmer state of mind before you sleep. This makes it less likely that negative emotions will weave into your dreams. A few ways to improve your sleep hygiene are:  

  • Establishing a consistent sleep schedule – Go to bed and wake up at similar times each day.  
  • Avoiding stimulating activities before bed – End screen time at least one hour before bed.  
  • Having a calming beverage in the evenings – Swap out alcohol for chamomile or lavender tea.  
  • Engaging in relaxing activities – Listen to soothing music, read a book, or do yoga.  

Developing a consistent evening routine has a calming effect that can help keep alcohol nightmares at bay.  

Learn How to Manage Nightmares and Alcohol Addiction at Promises Brazos Valley  

While alcohol may seem like a helpful sleep aid, it can wreak havoc on the quality of your sleep and cause nightmares. If you struggle to reduce your alcohol intake, Promises Brazos Valley is here to help you regain control. Contact us at 979.426.0086 to enroll in our outpatient alcohol rehab. 

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