Sunday, 17 April 2016

Alcohol and Sleep

Often I find the self help mantras of successful women rather dispiriting and... exhausting.

The Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother? Oh come on. Just getting my smalls to brush their teeth and do their homework is achievement enough.

Lean In? Give me a break, Sheryl Sandberg! I'm worried that if I lean in further I'll fall flat on my face - rather like I did during an over-enthusiastic jive move at a wedding with Mr SM in the late nineties.

That's why I'm so grateful for Arianna Huffington's latest war cry: She says, and has done the requisite TED talk and written the book, that we all need more sleep.

Hurrah for sleep!

It was a personal experience that got Arianna all fired up about snoozing. She'd taken her daughter round a tour of colleges for a few days, spending the nights catching up on work, then, the day she got back to work, found herself on the floor surrounded by blood.

She'd collapsed with exhaustion and banged her head en route, breaking her cheekbone and cutting her forehead. (Arianna, it seems, never does anything by halves).

So, Arianna's now urging women round the world to, literally, sleep their way to the top.

This is all extremely relevant for us, because heavy drinkers sleep really, really badly.

(For more on this, see my post Sleep, Glorious Sleep).

We might get to sleep (aka passing out) pretty easily, but we tend to wake in the early hours needing to wee, then toss and turn for hours, sweating booze and berating ourselves. Sound familiar?

And, even when we are asleep, the quality of that sleep is pretty rotten, as our bodies are working overtime processing all that alcohol.

The impact of this lack of sleep, as Arianna points out, isn't just that we feel a little bit tired. Oh no. It affects our relationships, our careers, our creativity and our health.

Lack of sleep is directly correlated to an increased incidence of breast and colon cancer, and of heart problems. In the days after the clocks spring forward an hour in March, there is an increase in heart attacks, and of road accidents.

Researchers from the University of California found that couples who regularly get a full night's sleep are more likely to have happy, successful relationships.

Sleep deprivation was deemed to be 'a significant factor' in the Exxon Valdez wreck, the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle and the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

Now, we may not be in charge of a space programme; you may be 'only' a housewife, like me. But you know how lack of sleep makes you unproductive, irritable and more likely to make mistakes.

Of all the benefits being sober brings, for me, getting lots of (great quality) sleep has been one of the best.

It's made me healthier, happier, more creative and has even made me look better (no more eye bags and dull, tired skin).

BUT, be warned, when you first quit you may find getting to sleep tricky. Don't worry. That'll pass. (Magnesium supplements may help).

You'll also find that, for the first few weeks, you are more tired than you can imagine. A bit like that early pregnancy tiredness, but even more so.

That's your body saying oh thank heavens for that! I'm totally exhausted dealing with all that constant poison. Just give me a while to readjust and I'll - finally - be back on form.

If you can, take a tip from Arianna, and have a nap mid afternoon, just until you get your energy levels back.

So, get as much sleep as you can. Not just for you, but for the people around you.

Arianna tells a story about sitting next to a chap at dinner who was boasting about only having had four hours sleep the previous night. Arianna desperately wanted to reply 'if you'd had five, this dinner would have been a lot more enjoyable.'

Have a great day, peeps, I'm off for a snooze.

SM zzzzzz


  1. Sleep! It's one of the greatest gifts in sobriety! It helps us recover and heal.
    For me this was a huge issue while drinking. At first I used wine to help me fall asleep. But like you stated above it was an endless cycle of the 3 AM wake up and the horrible anxiety to fall back asleep. Torture is the only way to describe my nights back then.
    This is why I am so grateful for an uninterrupted restful nights sleep. A gift of sobriety!
    Thank you for this topic SM! Most of us can relate I'm sure of it!

  2. Yes hurrah for sleep! I have always been militant about sleep. Which made me 3 year heavy drinking spell that much more personally painful. And in direct conflict with my values. Day 6 was the first evening that I fell asleep while reading (sober is the new black) in bed. So happy to return to that as it means my sleep is on the mend. Nothing better than a good night of sleep for mood, health, relationship, family, everything.

  3. I love sleep. I love my pillow. I love afternoon naps. And I realize now how sleep deprived I was....finally a self help book that doesn't require us to get up a 5.00am and do "the 25 things you need to do it you don't want to be a miserable failure as a mother and a career woman" Good on Arianna!

  4. Sleep is awesome - and great for you too!

  5. I've never been a great sleeper unfortunately. At the moment I wake up a lot at night. I think it's due to my sore hip. I need to start going to bed early though, as I'm always tired these days. It's so frustrating as I'm sober and should feel refreshed! A x

  6. Few things feel as good as solid, restful sleep! My nighttime rest is pretty decent. Thank goodness. But, 3.5 months in...and I'm back to being exhausted and unmotivated, with naps more days than not. What gives?? Or am I just a useless sloth???

    1. It comes and goes and can be very hormonal. I'm nearly a year in and have felt wrecked and tearful for about a week. Am hoping it's hormonal or paws!

  7. Ohhhh I so needed to read this post today. The last few days I've had a little glass of wine in the evening and guess what - I've slept so badly. The wine coupled with peri-menopausal symptoms of hot sweats has resulted in really disturbed nights. Back to the Becks Blue tonight.....

    1. One of the main reasons for me knocking my wine habit on the head was to try to deal with my awful perimenopausal symptoms - mainly bad headaches, night sweats and grinding fatigue. I do feel better and mostly, my symptoms have improved but I still sleep really badly in the week before my period. Such is life!

    2. Walking on Sunshine I believe many of us started picking up that first drink during perimenapuase. Wine was my way of relieving sleepless nights. Unfortunelty it turned into addiction. Little did I know how a few "innocent" glasses would turn into nightly drinking. I had to deal with all kinds of other issues at the same time. It was the perfect storm. Now, however, I utilize the tools from AA and have turned my life around with a new sense of hope.

    3. Thank you jenflowers! From what I've read, alcohol raises estrogen levels so the body can crave it during the menopause years and it can create problems for people who never previously drank. I have always been a party animal! But I want to feel as well as possible and that means being sober. Day 37 and counting!

  8. Ah sleep. It is amazing how well I sleep now but I still feel I could sleep more. My little one woke at 5 yest and couldn't get her back to sleep so we got up at 6. I was wrecked all day and couldn't wait to get to bed last night. Sleep begets sleep as they say and I now am so used to a good sleep that I really need it. When I was drinking I survived on a few hours a night. No wonder I felt so rough!