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Alcoholism’s sleep impacts continue into sobriety - study

02-10-2009

New research published this week in the journal Sleep has shown that the negative effects of alcoholism on sleep quality can continue even after long periods of abstinence, underlining the long-term detrimental impacts of the condition.

The study, carried out at the University of Melbourne in Australia, involved 42 alcoholic patients and 42 healthy participants and compared their sleep patterns, looking at occurrences of NREM (non rapid eye movement) and REM stage sleep to determine overall sleep quality. It was found that long-term alcoholics who had not drank for up to 719 days found it harder to achieve slow-wave sleep on the levels of healthy participants. Also, the alcoholic patients experienced more regular occurrences of stage 1 NREM sleep, highlighting a consistently poor quality sleep.

The researchers coupled the cumulative effects of such poor quality sleep on wellbeing with the established ‘decline’ suffered by alcoholic patients.

“Previously the REM changes in the acute detox period were assumed to be related to a rebound of the REM suppression effects of alcohol,” said Ian Colrain PhD, researcher and director of the SRI International Human Sleep Research Program. “The persistence indicates that there is some possibly permanent structural/functional change in REM regulation mechanisms produced by long-term alcohol abuse.”

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