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Friday, October 3, 2014

Alcohol Related Brain Changes Causes Sleep Disturbances

Early recovery from substance use disorders can be challenging; after relying on one substance or another for an extended period of time many feel like a fish out of water. Anxiety and depression are just two of the myriad of issues that alcoholics and addicts are faced with when the substances leave the body. Everyone’s brain is different and how one’s brain has been affected by prolonged use will vary. One of the biggest problems that people in early recovery deal with is sleep disorders.

Many recovering from alcoholism struggle with sleep in early recovery, some even have difficulty with sleeping long after they sober up. After years of drowning the brain in alcohol, the effects can be extensive and often times alter how the brain functions. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine have found that chronic alcohol use over a long period of time can disrupt cells in an area of the brain stem involved in regulating many aspects of sleep, Boston Magazine reports.

"Sleep-wake disturbances can last for months, or even years, after someone stops drinking, which indicates that chronic alcohol abuse could cause long-term negative effects on sleep," said Subimal Datta, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) who served as the article's senior author.

The disruption in the normal sleep cycle from prolonged drinking is the result of the activity of chemicals in the brain that excite neurons increasing, while at the same time decreasing the activity of a chemical that inhibits activity of these neurons, leading to over-activity of brain chemicals.

“Identifying the specific mechanisms that lead to change in brain activity will allow us to develop targeted medications, which could help treat people suffering from sleep issues related to alcohol use disorders,” Datta said in a news release.

The researchers write in Behavioral Brain Research.

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