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Feeling Tired After Quitting Drinking: Why It Happens

The Truth About Exhaustion after Quitting Alcohol

You may have been used to drinking in excess, passing out, and then waking up in the morning.

Even if you didn’t feel that your drinking interfered with your sleep, your alcoholism likely harmed your sleep patterns and overall sleep health. After finishing an alcohol detox program, some people find that they’re having trouble with sleep and feeling tired after quitting drinking. So, what’s causing this post-alcohol fatigue, and what can be done about it? 

Does Alcohol Help You Sleep? 

Since we’re in the realm of sleep and alcohol, we also wanted to clarify whether alcohol promotes a goodnight’s sleep or not. Since alcohol is a CNS depressant, it can lead to sedative side effects when consumed, such as drowsiness, relaxation, and sleepiness. However, consuming alcohol in excess or for long periods can have a negative impact on your sleep schedule.  

The relationship between alcohol and sleep has been studied since the 1930s, but much is still unknown. Research has shown sleepers who drink large amounts of alcohol before going to bed are more likely to experience a delayed onset of sleep, meaning they take longer to fall asleep.1 As liver enzymes metabolize alcohol during the night, these individuals are also likely to wake up or experience sleep disruptions.  

Additionally, alcohol has also been linked to sleep apnea. This is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which the person’s breathing stops and starts. While age and obesity are common risk factors, alcohol can lead to weight gain and cause other side effects that could contribute to sleep apnea. So, to be clear, no, alcohol does not help you sleep. 

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal Fatigue? 

When you’re addicted to alcohol, your body relies on it to feel normal. Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, which means it targets your central nervous system and slows down functions like heart rate, respiratory rate, brain activity, and blood pressure. This is why people often feel side effects like calmness, relaxation, or sleepiness when they drink.  

In cases when the person abuses alcohol or consumes it heavily for long periods, they may develop alcohol dependence. This is when the body becomes accustomed to operating with the substance in its system. Alcohol dependence is also marked by severe withdrawal symptoms, which take place when the individual cuts back or suddenly quits drinking.  

Depending on the severity of the person’s drinking and the state of their overall health, unmanaged alcohol withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening. In addition, one might experience symptoms like shaking hands, anxiety, sweating, headache, insomnia, and extreme fatigue when detoxing from alcohol. Extreme fatigue after drinking alcohol is also referred to as alcohol withdrawal fatigue, which can occur as the body adjusts to functioning without the substance.   

What Causes Exhaustion After Quitting Alcohol? 

If you’ve been feeling tired after quitting drinking, you’re likely dealing with sleep issues that are the main culprit of your exhaustion. Experiencing sleep problems after quitting alcohol is more common than you may think, and several factors can cause them.  

Common causes of post-alcohol fatigue syndrome and the effects of alcohol on sleep include:1 

  • Disruptions to your circadian rhythm from heavy alcohol consumption 
  • Liver damage, which influences energy levels 
  • Dehydration 

Each factor has a different influence on sleep as well as on exhaustion after quitting alcohol. Heavy, chronic drinking can cause disruptions to your body’s natural wake and sleep cycles (circadian rhythm) which can result in sleep problems after quitting alcohol. Alcohol can also impact other functions throughout the body, causing a domino effect and ultimately impacting your ability to sleep soundly. 

Additionally, any level of alcohol use can lead to dehydration, which in turn causes blood pressure to drop and circulation to slow down. This means less oxygen and blood flow are reaching the brain, which can cause fatigue. If you’ve ever experienced low blood pressure or know someone who has, fatigue can be a slightly frustrating symptom and even a potentially dangerous one in certain situations, such as when you’re driving. 

Furthermore, while there are many illnesses related to alcoholismliver damage is one of the most common long-term effects of chronic alcohol consumption. Patients who are struggling with liver cirrhosis, which is liver damage typically caused by chronic alcohol consumption, are more likely to experience sleep problems. Liver damage is associated with difficulties in sleep-wake cycles, but it’s not all bad news. The good news is that sleep problems related to liver damage can resolve within three months after a person quits drinking. 

Fighting Exhaustion After Quitting Alcohol 

People recovering from alcohol abuse may sleep a lot in the early stages of sobriety, especially during the day. A pattern of heavy alcohol use often correlates with daytime sleepiness as the body adjusts to less alcohol.  

Drinking is also linked to higher rates of sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. People who suffer from these disorders also tend to experience daytime sleepiness as well. They may take short cat naps throughout the day or frequently complain of feeling tired. 

 So, how can these factors associated with recovery from alcohol and exhaustion be addressed? Generally, many of these problems resolve themselves within a few months of sobriety. But additional steps can be taken to properly cope with and mitigate sleep problems after quitting alcohol.  

Newly sober people can get more restful sleep and avoid severe alcohol detox exhaustion by: 

  • Staying hydrated by drinking water, herbal teas, and sports drinks. However, keep in mind that soda and black tea can be dehydrating, and energy drinks and juice can have too much sugar. 
  • Eating healthier foods and incorporating vitamins and protein into your diet.  
  • Sticking to a routine, especially a nighttime routine. This includes waking up and going to bed at the same time every night to reset your circadian rhythm. 
  • Exercising regularly, such as walking or biking. 

But how long does post-alcohol fatigue last? The duration of exhaustion after quitting alcohol depends on the severity of the person’s drinking and whether they’ve implemented the tips we listed above. The more of a healthy routine you try to develop, the quicker you’ll be able to stop feeling tired after quitting drinking and feel like yourself again. 

The Timeline of Quitting Alcohol

An individual's journey to sobriety contains a timeline of stages that they normally go through. Immediately following quitting, withdrawal symptoms may start, peaking between 24 and 48 hours later. Tremors, anxiety, nausea, and insomnia are a few of these signs and symptoms. The acute withdrawal phase normally passes after a week, but some people may continue to struggle with cravings and mood fluctuations for weeks or months.

Positive changes start to show up in the weeks and months after quitting drinking. As the body heals, physical health gets better, and mental clarity improves relationships and productivity. This phase calls for the development of a support system, counseling, and the adoption of good coping mechanisms. Keep in mind that rehabilitation is a continuous process, and everyone's time frame may differ. It is also advised that a person does not attempt to induce the detox process by themselves or that they attempt to do so cold turkey.

The Dangers of Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey

Going cold turkey when quitting drinking may seem like an enticing option because it is quick and decisive. But it's important to be aware of the risks involved in doing so suddenly without the right help and counseling from a doctor. While some people may be able to effectively stop drinking on their own, it's crucial to understand that, for some people, alcohol withdrawal can be a dangerous and even fatal illness.

One of the biggest risks of stopping alcohol cold turkey is the possibility of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, and its abrupt withdrawal can have a variety of adverse physical and psychological repercussions. Tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, a faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, seizures, and even delirium tremens (DTs), a severe and potentially lethal type of withdrawal, can be among these symptoms. The degree of an individual's alcohol dependence, general health, and prior withdrawal experiences can all affect the severity and length of these symptoms.

Lack of expert support and supervision is another serious risk of quitting drinking abruptly. Without medical care, people can have trouble controlling their withdrawal symptoms, which could cause complications and relapse. Furthermore, sudden alcohol withdrawal without a thorough treatment strategy and a strong support system raises the risk of psychological anguish and feelings of isolation, which can further impede the healing process. To ensure a safe and effective transition to a sober lifestyle, many of our professional addiction treatment facilities can offer essential services, such as medical detoxification, counseling, and continuing support.

Finding Alcohol Help Near Me 

Long-term alcohol abuse can affect more than just your quality of sleep. It can impact your health in other ways - your career, your relationships, and more. If you or someone you care about is battling alcohol abuse, don’t wait to get help.  

Call our team at Banyan Treatment Centers at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatmentmedically monitored detox, rehab, and tips for staying energized in recovery.


  1. NIAAA - Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use 

 Related Reading:  

How to Deal With Insomnia After Quitting Alcohol 

How Does Alcohol Affect Sleep Apnea? 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.