ALTHOUGH it is unclear whether the poor sleep of the chronic alcoholic is a cause or an effect, there is general agreement that sleep problems, including insomnia and night terrors, are frequent complaints of the alcoholic. New techniques for the scientific study of sleep now permit research on the effects of alcohol on sleep disturbances.
Yules et al1 and Knowles et al2 reported that alcohol ingestion before bedtime by nonalcoholic young men led to a disruption of the sleep patterns. The primary effect was a reduction in the amount of rapid-eyemovement sleep (stage REM). Greenberg and Pearlman3 also found that as alcohol intake increased from 30 cc to 150 cc every four hours there was increased suppression of stage REM and that withdrawal consistently led to an increase in REM sleep. They also found that just before the onset of delirium tremens 100% of the sleep
Johnson LC, Burdick JA, Smith J. Sleep During Alcohol Intake and Withdrawal in the Chronic Alcoholic. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1970;22(5):406-418. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1970.01740290022004