Alcohol Dependent Sleep Disorder
Many years ago I was told by an elderly doctor that I might want to try a glass of wine before bedtime. He suggested a hearty burgundy. He told me this after my 4th or 5th visit to him for my insomnia. My visits were more obligatory then necessary as I was on the sleeping pill Halcion (triazolam) and had to repeatedly go back for an routine exam to get my prescription refilled. This doctor (a very nice fellow, BTW) also recommended that I go to neurologist as he suggested that my insomnia was one of the worst he had ever seen. I went to a neurologist who put me in a sleep study. I wrote about it in The Sleep Lab from Hell... but I digress.
A month passed and I called once again to set up my obligatory doctor's appointment for my fix of Halcion. Big problem: the old doctor had passed away. A sudden heart attack. This was a turning point for me (and obviously for him, too) as I did not want to find a new old doc to prescribe my powerful sleeping pills. I did not want sleeping pills at all. Like most insomniacs I wanted answers.
Drinking Alcohol to Sleep
When the Halcion ran out I high-tailed it to the local Piggly Wiggly and bought a bottle of hearty burgundy. That night , just a few minutes before bedtime, I drank a glass. It did not work. So, I drank another... and another. Finally results came. I fell asleep. That was the beginning of a process that would lead me into a very dark and negative place. Through the years, when I wasn't on any sleeping pills (which was rare) I would resort to drinking alcohol to get drowsy. It was wine at first but I soon graduated to vodka. During a particularly stressful time in Las Vegas my alcohol intake increased dramatically. So much so that I gained forty pounds in four months. Keep in mind that I was still drinking alcohol to sleep but instead of a few glasses of red wine my intake had increased to pint or more of vodka. There was a period that I was taking the sleeping pill Ambien and drinking vodka. Those were scary times. I did not know it at the time but I was caught up in a syndrome called Alcohol Dependent Sleep Disorder. Basically the vodka took the place of a sleeping pill. I am not saying a glass or two of wine is necessarily a bad thing before bedtime... if you have the willpower. I am saying that if you are a chronic insomniac drinking alcohol will not, over the long run, help your situation. It certainly did not help mine. Just like any drug I needed more and more of it to achieve the desired effect. It is also well known that alcohol is a depressant. Depression adds to insomnia. It is a vicious and unforgiving cycle.
How I beat the dependency on alcohol to fall asleep was surprisingly easy. I reversed the process. Every 4 or 5 days or so I would begin consuming only 75% of my normal alcohol intake before bed. I continued this until I was down to two glasses of wine before bed. Keep in mind that I would never have more then the maximum allowable amount of alcohol (for that night) in my house at bedtime. The entire process took about a month. At that point stopping was relatively easy. I shook off my need sleeping pills years ago, also. I did it using my own research on the sleep process. It was when I realized that the medical community mainly dealt with occasional generic insomnia that I became motivated to strike out on my own for the answers. This site is a result of that research.
I have written extensively over the years about the process of falling asleep and have sorted my journal into four areas of interest.
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