Does alcohol detox cause fatigue?

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Does alcohol detox cause fatigue? 

Yes, detoxing from alcohol can cause fatigue. The reason you feel exhausted when you detox is that the process can disrupt your sleeping patterns. Our bodies carry a certain amount of toxins and contaminants at the best of time, so a detox will increase the workload for your body, hence you feel tired and fatigued.

So a common symptom of alcohol detox is fatigue. It is a symptom one of the early signs of alcohol withdrawal. If you were a heavy drinker before the detox, you were likely used to passing out and waking up the next day. Maybe you did not feel like the alcohol use affected your sleep pattern. However, once you stop drinking, you feel exhausted most of the time and you are likely to get headaches too. 

Alcohol detox triggers withdrawal symptoms such as: 

  • Insomnia 
  • Vomiting or nausea 
  • Headaches 
  • Mood changes 
  • Sweating 
  • Tremors 
  • Fatigue 

The symptoms vary from one person to another because addiction affects each person differently. Some may not experience fatigue as a symptom when they stop drinking.

Others may experience extreme fatigue/drowsiness during the day. The national institute of health states that lassitude may be due to the effects of alcohol on the body [1]. 

Alcohol/ethanol is a central nervous system depressant. It suppresses the functioning of the primary inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain.

Also, as a depressant, it slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure and respiratory rate. At the same time, alcohol abuse harms other parts of the body, such as the liver, the digestive system, and immune response. 

If the person was engaging in heavy drinking, the withdrawal symptoms are likely to be severe. People who engage in binge drinking or drink for a long period of time are likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms include seizures, hallucinations, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. One uncommon yet dangerous symptom of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens.

If untreated, 6% of patients with alcohol dependence will develop dangerous symptoms of withdrawal, and nearly 10% of them will get delirium tremens [2].  

It's essential to seek help immediately if you experience withdrawal symptoms, as some of these symptoms can be life threatening. 

Related: Alcohol Detox & Withdrawal Symptoms

How detox adds to fatigue 

Detoxification is the most uncomfortable phase of treatment because of how withdrawal symptoms that occur after your last drink.

This process adds to fatigue because the body may be experiencing low energy levels. Most chronic alcoholics have poor diets. Therefore, when they go for detox, the body has insufficient energy resulting in fatigue. 

Another cause of fatigue caused by dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it accelerates water loss through urine.

If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, you are likely to be dehydrated. This dehydration makes you feel tired. 

Alcohol abuse also leads to liver damage. This condition is one of the long-term consequences of drinking.

When your liver is damaged, it becomes harder for your body to feel energetic, and tiredness sets in. Sleep issues also becomes an issue. 

When you drink too much, you are likely the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is how your body knows when to take a nap and when to wake up.

Experts state that you develop a well-working circadian rhythm by having regular hours of sleeping and waking up. But a drink disrupts that rhythm.

During early sobriety, you will feel the effects of a disrupted circadian rhythm. You may be fighting fatigue during the day and sleeplessness at night.  

Alcohol is not the only culprit when it comes to weariness and sleeping problems. There are several studies that show substance use promotes circadian disruption [3].

Any person that abuses drugs (alcohol, cannabis, psychostimulants, hallucinogens, opioids) disrupts parts of the brain related to drug seeking, drug reward, relapse.

When that person goes for detoxification, the brain tries to restore its equilibrium which adds to the exhaustion.  

Stress is another factor that may contribute to weariness. The detoxification process can be a stressful and uncomfortable time. You may have to deal with other withdrawal symptoms that set in when you quit drinking.

You may also have to deal with other daily struggles. Most people end up abusing alcohol because a drink helps them cope with the issues they face in life. However, alcoholism is a poor way to manage stress.  

In a study conducted by the national library of medicine, the researchers observed that stress affects the circadian rhythm. The interaction between stress and the circadian genes increases the risk of addiction [4].

The study shows that sensitivity to drug response is regulated by the circadian and stress response systems.

Therefore, any disruption in either of the two systems can significantly affect the rewarding effects of substance abuse.  

How long after stopping drinking will I stop feeling tired? 

It may take about three to twelve months after treatment before you stop feeling tired. During the detox process, your body and your brain try to readjust to life before alcohol use.

The severity of the physical symptoms and the psychological symptoms depends on several factors, such as the severity and duration of alcohol use.

People who are mild drinkers may feel slightly tired when they stop drinking. But the symptom may not persist for weeks.

However, those struggling with chronic alcohol addiction may struggle with the feeling of tiredness for months after treatment.  

Many people feel tired after drinking. This feeling is because of the calming and relaxing effect of taking a drink. A night of over-indulging may result in you fighting weariness the next day.

Drinking lowers your Rapid Eye Movement (REM), leading to poor quality sleep. When you wake up, you'll feel drained of energy and will struggle to concentrate. 

When you choose recovery, the body experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms as it works to get rid of the toxins. Most recovering alcoholics report having trouble sleeping [5].

This symptom is expected in early recovery and may persist for three months. In cases of chronic alcohol addiction, the feeling of exhaustion may last up to a year. 

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What does it mean when an alcoholic sleeps a lot? 

When an alcoholic sleeps a lot, it may mean several things. First, it may mean that heavy alcohol use has affected their sleep pattern.

In a study by Annie Britton, Linda Ng Fat & Aidan Neligan, the researchers observed that men who drank 21 units of alcohol per week experienced sleep problems.

Those who maintained the drinking for three decades had poor sleep-disorders as they reported waking several times at night and feeling exhausted during the day [5]. 

There are short term and long-term effects of alcohol on naps. In the short term, drinking alcohol can make one slumber a lot. Since ethanol is a sedative, it can induce feelings of drowsiness and relaxation [5].

However, when taken in excess, drinking can lead to symptoms of insomnia and daytime sleeping. 

The association between alcohol and slumber has been studied for a long time. However, this association remains unknown. Most studies show that those who take large amounts of alcohol before going to bed are likely to experience delayed sleep onset.

This means that they'll take more time to fall asleep. During the night, the liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol, which leads to a decrease in the alcohol level. This process will lead to poor sleep quality and night-time disturbances. 

Alcohol leads to an imbalance in the sleeping pattern. Therefore, during the day, the individual is likely to feel fatigued and sleepy.

Alcohol consumption also leads to obstructive sleep apnoea. Individuals who suffer from this condition are likely to doze during the day or frequently complain of feeling exhausted. 

Alcohol consumption and sleep apnoea put the individual at risk of injury or fatigue-related car accidents. 


Managing fatigue after quitting alcohol 

Not everyone experiences fatigue when they go for addiction treatment. But for those who do, there are ways to fight fatigue. You can try out the options below: 

1). Hydrate.  

It is important to Hydrate when you stop drinking. Water plus other healthy fluids will help your body remove toxins and improve how you feel.

During the early stages of detoxification, you may experience symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and sweating. These symptoms further dehydrate the body. 

2).  A healthy diet.  

You can improve your lack of energy during detox by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. People struggling with alcohol addiction often don't eat well.

Furthermore, the body may fail to absorb nutrients and vitamins because of alcohol. In turn, the alcoholic feels fatigue. The best way to help the body is by taking up a healthy, balanced diet.

A diet rich in complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins will not only boost your energy but also help you manage other physical symptoms of addiction. 

3).  Light exercise. 

 Light exercises such as walking, or biking will help you feel more energetic. Such exercises boost your blood flow and help improve your physical and mental health.

You can also try moderate physical activity to increase your energy and boost your stamina. 

4). Vitamins.  

Your treatment provider is likely to recommend that you boost your vitamin intake. That's because vitamin supplements that contain iron, calcium, and other minerals can help you fight fatigue.

Alcohol addiction results in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. According to the national library of medicine, alcoholics suffer from a deficiency of b vitamins, leading to low energy and other severe physical consequences [6]. 

When you go for the rehab treatment, you are likely to be prescribed daily thiamine plus other medications to help you suppress and control the alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

5).  Seek help from a doctor. 

 Fatigue is but one of the withdrawal effects that most people experience after their last drink. Drug or alcohol detoxification also results in psychological effects that may make resting difficult.

The alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be so uncomfortable that most people end up relapsing. If you notice at any point during detoxification that your symptoms keep getting worse, you should consult your health care provider immediately. 

People who try cold turkey are at risk of getting severe symptoms such as:

  • Delirium tremens 
  • Difficulty in making decisions 
  • Light headedness or dizziness which is a sign of low blood pressure. 

You should speak to your doctor if you need assistance in managing the psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal e.g., depression, anxiety. These symptoms can also contribute to fatigue. 

6).  Look for healthy ways to manage stress. 

It is common to feel stressed during the early days of quitting alcohol. But you need to manage this issue as it robs your body of the energy it needs to repair.

You should relax and take a break whenever you feel like you are low in energy. You can try listening to your favourite music, engaging in a hobby you like, or practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga. 

7).  Get support.  

Several studies show poor mental health contributes to heavy alcohol use. Mental issues such as anxiety and depression lead to the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism.

When the alcoholic gets therapy, they can work through the underlying factors contributing to the addiction.

Therapy approaches such as group therapy and family therapy can contribute to the well-being of the individual. This, in turn, boosts their mental health and promotes relaxation. 

Conclusion 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually occur within a few hours after your last drink.

The individual experiences mild symptoms which may progress to severe symptoms that may appear about 48 to 72 hours after your last drink.  

People have different experiences when it comes to withdrawal. Still, anyone who stops drinking may experience fatigue, insomnia, mood changes, rapid heart rate, and others. 

Seeking recovery is the best thing that you can do for your life. But if you want a chance at achieving long-term recovery, it would be better if you sought help from an addiction treatment facility.

Most rehab centres have a variety of treatment options that can help you safely detoxify. Working with a certified addictions specialist will help you come up with a treatment plan.

This treatment plan will effectively improve your chances of managing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. 

Addiction treatment will impart you with coping skills that will help you maintain sobriety.

If you feel excessive fatigue that makes it difficult for you to perform your daily duties, you should reach out to a health care practitioner immediately. 

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