Saturday, June 02, 2007

Treatment of Alcohol-related sleep disorders

The following is from an article I wrote for Medlink Neurology on "Sleep disorders associated with alcohol use and abuse." It is copyrighted by Medlink Neurology:

For the sleep disorders occurring during alcohol intake, cessation of alcohol use is often the only necessary treatment. Treatment of the sleep apnea exacerbated by alcohol requires avoidance of alcohol intake at least for 4 hours to 6 hours before going to bed. If the apnea does not resolve with alcohol cessation, then standard treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, such as nasal continuous positive airway pressure, are required. The hypersomnia that can occur with alcohol use is usually eliminated after 1 day or 2 days without alcohol, but insomnia may actually worsen for the first 2 weeks to 7 weeks off alcohol. It is important not to restart the alcohol even at a low dose to ameliorate this problem; similarly, use of hypnotics is contraindicated because of the cross-tolerance with alcohol and the potential for both abuse and dependence. Sedating antihistamines or low doses of sedating antidepressants can be used for temporary relief when insomnia episodes are particularly severe. Patients should be reassured that in most cases the insomnia gradually gets better.
Behavioral treatments for insomnia with good sleep hygiene, relaxation training, desensitization, or sleep restriction should be used during the withdrawal period. If evidence develops for depression then a sedating antidepressant (eg, amitriptyline or mirtazapine) may be helpful for both sleep and depression.
As mentioned above, sleep abnormalities in alcoholics can persist for several years after alcohol cessation; this sleep disturbance may contribute to relapse of alcoholism. Various medications and psychotherapy techniques have been used to treat this sleep disturbance. Gabapentin, at doses of 300 mg to 1800 mg at bedtime, is useful in treating insomnia in abstinent alcohol-dependent outpatients and appears to be more effective than trazodone (Karam-Hage and Brower 2003). Although quetiapine is of potential benefit for this condition (Monnelly et al 2004; Sattar et al 2004), the risk of tardive dyskinesia and metabolic abnormalities associated with the use of atypical antipsychotics suggests that they should be used cautiously, if at all, for insomnia. Cognitive-behavioral treatments, including stimulus control, sleep restriction, and cognitive restructuring, have been shown to improve subjective sleep quality in recovering alcoholics (Currie et al 2004).
The melatonin receptor agonist Ramelteon (Rozerem-Takeda) is an option for treating insomnia in recovering alcoholics, though controlled trials are lacking. Ramelteon is not a controlled substance, and has essentially no abuse liability (Anonymous 2005; Griffiths and Johnson 2005). It is approved for the treatment of insomnia characterized by difficulty with sleep onset (Laustsen and Andersen 2006). The standard dose is 8 mg, taken within 30 minutes of going to bed. It is metabolized by cytochrome p450 enzyme 1A2 but does not appear to inhibit or induce this enzyme (Laustsen and Andersen 2006). It should not be used in combination with fluvoxamine, a strong 1A2 inhibitor (Takeda Pharmaceuticals 2005).
Acamprosate (Campral- Forest Pharmaceuticals) is a glutamate modulator that is FDA-approved for the maintenance of abstinence from alcohol in patients with alcohol dependence who are abstinent at treatment initiation (Forest Pharmaceuticals 2005). A recent parallel double-blind placebo-controlled study found that acamprosate improved sleep quality during early abstinence (Staner et al 2006).

disclaimer: this is not the final edited version that will appear in Medlink Neurology. I encourage you to check out the website for Medlink Neurology for the full version of this article as well as numerous other articles about sleep (a few written by me).


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Do you know if alchoholics treated with Ibogaine present sleep disorders? I've heard it stops cravings and delirium tremens, but I've not heard of reduction in sleep issues.

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If you are suffering from sleep problems such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, you need to consider this problem seriously and adopt specific measures at the earliest to get back your sleep. Regular exercising is one of the options to ensure sound sleep at night. Altogether, if you are unable to get adequate sleep during night, you can undertake certain initiatives to overcome your sleep problems such as fixing your sleeping as well as waking schedule and abstaining from alcohol, nicotine, tea, coffee et al before hitting the bed.

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