10 Remedies To Use If You Quit Drinking and Can’t Sleep

If you quit drinking and can’t sleep without alcohol I feel your pain. This was once the bane of my existence. Years ago, I would frequently succeed in quitting drinking for one day. Later that night, hours after I went to bed, I would get tired of my brain feeling like it was on fire and head to the kitchen to pour myself a drink so that I could finally fall asleep.

can't sleep without alcohol

The average person’s occasional insomnia is a walk in the park compared to the twitching, spiraling negative thoughts, and intense night sweats alcohol withdrawal can cause.

I know this because I’m now an average person who has occasional insomnia. Fortunately, the remedies I’m about to share with you still work for me to this day.

Note: Withdrawal becomes worse over time because of a phenomenon called kindling. By the end of my drinking career, my alcohol withdrawal symptoms actually got so bad that I had hallucinations – I saw figures in doorways, heard laughing, and had brain zaps. If you’re experiencing symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal, get professional help immediately.

We will now proceed to discuss why it’s so difficult to sleep during alcohol withdrawal, followed by my Top 10 Remedies to resolve insomnia after quitting drinking. I’ll then review some lifestyle strategies that I still use to this day to ensure a great night’s sleep.

Quit Drinking And Can’t Sleep? What Causes This?

A very high percentage of alcoholics experience insomnia during acute withdrawal as well as post-acute withdrawal, which occurs after detox and can last for up to a year.

Why can’t alcoholics sleep after they’ve done the right thing and quit?

Over time, alcohol addiction forces our brains to adjust to the presence of alcohol. Our systems respond by producing less of the following natural chemicals:

  • GABA, the brain’s primary calming neurotransmitter.
  • Serotonin, the brain’s pleasure chemical necessary for confidence and sleep.
  • Melatonin, a hormone synthesized by serotonin that brings on sleep.
  • Dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical necessary for motivation and learning.

Glutamate, a stress chemical that is suppressed during alcohol intoxication, rebounds to unnaturally high levels during withdrawal.

While this is not a comprehensive picture of the chemicals involved in alcohol withdrawal, skewed levels of any of the above are very common after quitting drinking and can cause insomnia.

quit drinking can't sleep

I know from experience that there are supplements and lifestyle strategies that can be of tremendous help in restoring biochemical balance and stopping alcohol withdrawal insomnia.

Once we grasp the importance of biochemical balance, we can see why band-aid approaches to falling asleep RIGHT NOW (e.g., popping an Ambien) aren’t always best.

For example, many alcoholics in post-acute withdrawal have insufficient levels of excitatory neurotransmitters (like dopamine) during the day, which can make it harder to fall asleep at night. This situation could be helped immensely by an herb like mucuna pruriens, or an amino acid like DLPA.

Since insomnia is merely a symptom of biochemical imbalance caused by prolonged drinking and/or withdrawal, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

We will now proceed to the remedies that I found most useful for sleep, specifically during post-acute withdrawal. While I will include some medications, the natural solutions can gently help your body restore its own neurotransmitters and hormones.

Some of these solutions were serendipitous discoveries that I found through a process of trial and error. Others were gathered from a variety of reputable books and studies on the subject of nutritional repair for alcoholism and insomnia.

Remedy #1: Herbs For Sleep

insomnia after quitting drinking

Over the past few years, I’ve tried countless herbs from Amazon and my local health stores to identify ones that actually work for insomnia (as well as anxiety, depression, and performance enhancement).

This is a tricky process, because everyone’s biochemistry is different. Herbs sometimes have different effects on different people.

However, I’m enthusiastic about herbs for insomnia because they’re gentler than medications and they can help nudge your body to repair itself naturally. At the same time, some of these herbs have been clinically proven to work just as well as medications!

Here is my top 10 list of herbs for a person that quit drinking and can’t sleep.

1) Passion flower

Passion flower stimulates GABA receptors more gently than benzodiazepines, and has been clinically shown to help adults fall asleep more quickly. (source)

2) Lemon Balm

Lemon balm contains natural GABA-enhancing compounds that aid in anxiety reduction, leading to better sleep. (source)

3) Chamomile

Chamomile contains dozens of flavanoids including apigenin, a natural GABA-enhancing and antidepressant compound that aids in sleep. (source)

4) Mucuna Pruriens*

Mucuna pruriens contains a natural precursor of dopamine, exerting a dopamine-mediated antidepressant effect. (source)

Taking mucuna pruriens helped me sleep more deeply at night and beat PAWS.

5) Valerian

Valerian contains natural compounds that both enhance GABA and have sedative effects. (source)

6) Schizandra

Schizandra berries contain compounds that have been found to be more effective than diazepam in regulating serotonin and adrenaline for stress, and also effective for insomnia. (source)

7) Clary Sage

Clary sage contains anti-depressant compounds that clinically boost serotonin levels when consumed as aromatherapy. (source)

8) Lavender

Lavender contains anti-anxiety compounds that have been proven to be effective at combating insomnia created by withdrawal. (source)

9) Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that balances adrenal and thyroid hormones, easing anxiety and helping with sleep. (source)

Months after I quit, I still had many symptoms of thyroid imbalance – a malady that often results in poor sleep. Instead of opting for a prescription, I took ashwagandha once per day for about a month and started sleeping better.

10) Holy Basil

Holy basil is an adaptogen that lowers cortisol, a stress chemical, and is clinically effective for improving sleep. (source)

Once you find out which herbs work best for you, they’ll become part of your anti-insomnia (and anti-anxiety) arsenal for years to come.

I still use lemon balm and chamomile on a near-daily basis, and I use passion flower with great results whenever I have serious trouble sleeping. I still take ashwagandha because it has anti-aging benefits, and I feel more calm when I take it.

While I’ve had good results with chamomile capsules, I prefer to make chamomile tea every evening. You can find chamomile tea in any grocery store.

I’m one of many ex-drinkers with a continuing oral fixation. I often joke to my friends that I still have a drinking problem – I drink too much tea, coffee, and water. So be it!

I discuss my chamomile tea habit in an article about how to stop missing wine.

Remedy #2: Magnesium and Epsom Salt Baths

alcohol withdrawal insomnia

I vividly remember the day I began supplementing with magnesium during post-acute withdrawal. This mineral changed my life overnight.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme systems in the body and is necessary for proper nerve function. Since magnesium is required for brain balance, it is also required for sleep.

Research has shown that magnesium supplementation improves both subjective and objective measures of insomnia. (source)

It wasn’t until after I began supplementing with magnesium taurate (I currently use magnesium citrate) that I realized that much of the anxiety, jitters, and general malaise I felt during post-acute withdrawal were simply symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Around 50% of the population doesn’t get enough magnesium. Yet the vast majority of alcoholics are deficient in magnesium. (source)

Just one drink increases magnesium excretion by 100%. So imagine how much magnesium is lost when a person drinks half a fifth a day for months on end!

Magnesium can be obtained from foods like spinach, brown rice, and almonds. Unfortunately, our soil has much less magnesium than it did before the advent of industrial farming.

Here are the best ways to supplement with magnesium if you’ve just quit:

When I began taking epsom salt baths and supplementing with magnesium, I felt more relaxed within minutes and enjoyed the best sleep I’d had in years.

quit drinking and can't sleep

Remedy #3: Amino Acids For Sleep

I’ve discussed amino acids often on this site, because they are the building blocks for neurotransmitters that are depleted by long-term alcohol consumption.

Here are five amino acids that can help to end alcohol withdrawal insomnia:

  • 5-HTP – Precursor to serotonin, which is converted into melatonin to induce sleep (source)
  • L-Theanine – Suppresses glutamate by plugging its receptors, helping to alleviate insomnia (source)
  • Glutamine – Improves brain function, improves sleep, and reduces alcohol cravings (source)
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – Aids liver function and regulates glutamate, helping to reduce anxiety that leads to insomnia (source)
  • Glycine – Glutamate agonist that improves objective measures of sleep quality (source)

I have tried all of the above with good results, and I still use 5-HTP and L-theanine on a regular basis. In my opinion, NAC in particular is an underrated solution for anxiety and insomnia during post-acute withdrawal.

can't sleep without alcohol

My favorite amino acid of all is DLPA, which is not specifically used for insomnia. In fact, it’s not advisable to take DLPA before bed, because it is a combination of amino acids that are precursors for neurotransmitters that can make you feel euphoric and motivated.

However, as we discussed earlier, normalizing your brain chemistry during the day can help you sleep better at night.

When I began taking DLPA in the mornings, I began feeling better almost instantly. This supplement contains precursors to pain-relieving endorphins and energy-giving adrenaline. It therefore has the unique ability to help you feel relaxed and upbeat at the same time.

Remedy #4: Sleep Support

For people that quit drinking and can’t sleep… I’m SUPER PUMPED to tell you about Sleep Support because it’s an easy and affordable way to consume many of my favorite sleep-inducing nutrients.

Here is a list of some of the potent natural compounds contained in Sleep Support:

  • Magnesium Citrate – Counteracts insomnia by calming the entire nervous system
  • L-Theanine – Encourages sleep by lowering glutamate and cortisol levels
  • L-Tryptophan – Naturally increases levels of serotonin and melatonin
  • Melatonin – Primary hormone used by our bodies to induce sleep
  • Ashwagandha – Improves sleep by modulating GABA and balancing the thyroid
  • Valerian – Promotes sleep by enhancing GABA activity
  • Wild Lettuce Leaf – Supports sleep via pain-relieving and anti-anxiety compounds
  • Hops – Encourages sleep by calming brain activity and inducing relaxation

This supplement absolutely works to bring on sleep more quickly and to provide a deeper night’s rest. Shipping is free, and if Sleep Support doesn’t agree with your biochemistry or help you sleep better, you can return it for a full refund.

quit drinking and can't sleep

My only criticism of Sleep Support is that it only contains 13.5 mg of magnesium citrate, and I’ve had the best results with 250-500 mg per day. This problem can easily be solved by taking it along with some extra magnesium citrate.

It would be difficult to find all of the ingredients in Sleep Support for a reasonable price. It is a godsend for many of my private clients!

Remedy #5: Multi-Nutrient Formulas

There are exciting new supplement blends that can be used to support alcohol recovery, including restoration of natural sleep. Take care not to choose weak herbal extracts and basic B-vitamins dressed up with fancy marketing. Ideally, the supplement blend you choose will have some of the following nutrients in it (especially the amino acids):

  • B-Vitamins – Highly depleted by alcoholism and necessary for energy and cognition
  • Vitamin C – Restores cellular health damaged by alcohol consumption
  • Magnesium – Supports relaxation, sleep, and nervous system functioning
  • Zinc – Restores the immune system and hormonal balance after alcoholism
  • 5HTP – Amino acid that helps with relaxation and sleep
  • DLPA – Amino acid that supports healthy endorphin levels
  • L-Glutamine – Amino acid that stabilizes blood sugar, increases GABA, and repairs the gut
  • Phosphatidylcholine – Natural compound that supports the liver and brain

Of course, there are other helpful nutrients for alcohol recovery, like organic omega-3 fish oil and N-Acetyl Cysteine. However, these nutrients taste pretty terrible, so they’re not often found in blends. They’re best taken separately.

Multi-nutrient formulas can help if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are trying to quit and have trouble sleeping
  • You have just finished detoxing from alcohol and have trouble sleeping
  • You have already quit and are struggling with post-acute withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia

You can learn more in my article on 3 of my favorite supplements.

We will now proceed to explore some additional supplements that I’ve tried for myself at least several times each, and which I feel confident in recommending.

Remedy #6: Kava

If you quit and cannot sleep, you might love Kava, which is a plant in the Western Pacific islands that contains natural compounds called kavalactones that have been clinically shown to help with anxiety. (source)

Natives in this region of the world have long known about the relaxing properties of kava root powder, which offers the following effects:

  • Sedative – Brings on sleep much more easily
  • Anesthetic – Dulls pain and numbs the taste buds
  • Euphoriant – Lifts mood and alleviates social anxiety
  • Entheogenic – Mildly lifts consciousness to a more transcendent realm

I have used kava powder from Top Extracts with amazing results. This brand offers kava powder that contains 70% kavalactones, which is much more potent than the brands of kava that you’ll find at Whole Foods and other online retailers.

kava for sleep

After I mixed a teaspoon of Top Extracts’ kava powder with water, I drifted into a super relaxed state that lasted for about an hour. I did not feel intoxicated or high, I just felt very calm. I then had one of the best nights of sleep that I can remember!!

There were no undesirable side effects while I used kava, nor any after-effects in the morning.

Because my results with kava had been hit or miss with other vendors, I have waited to write about kava until now.

I really believe that kava powder is an underrated solution for occasional sleeplessness – and more importantly, that it can help many people suffering from alcohol withdrawal insomnia.

Interestingly, kava bars are cropping up around the U.S. – and they’re a huge hit with people who have quit alcohol. They’re also a big hit with police, who are busy dealing with drunk mayhem outside of regular bars, while the kava bar attendees enjoy relaxed conversation.

Remedy #7: Kratom

Kratom is an evergreen tree native to certain parts of Asia, with leaves that contain a potent compound called mitragynine.

Mitragynine is a partial opioid agonist, meaning that it stimulates the brain’s opioid receptors – but in a much less powerful way than opiates (kratom is not an opiate).

Although I didn’t try kratom specifically as a sleep aid, I slept very well after taking Classic Red Bali from Top Extracts.

kratom for sleep

Because of kratom’s unique ability to enhance both relaxation and focus, hundreds of thousands of former opiate addicts have used kratom to get off of opiates.

A growing number of people have had success using kratom to reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including insomnia.

You can learn more about kratom – and my method for preparing it as a tea – in my popular article: How To Use Kratom For Alcohol Withdrawal.

Remedy #8: Phenibut

Phenibut is a compound that is remarkably similar in structure to GABA.

Because it enhances GABA activity, phenibut has the following effects:

  • Calms the nervous system
  • Aids in sleep
  • Boosts mood
  • Alleviates social anxiety

In short, phenibut is a powerful anti-anxiety supplement that helps with sleep and can also be used to ease mild to moderate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal at home.

I’ve had great results using phenibut from Absorb Health before air travel and big social events. If you want to try phenibut on its own for insomnia, I would definitely recommend this brand.

phenibut to help sleep quitting drinking

I should mention that I take very small doses of phenibut – 200-500 mg at most. This dosage should be sufficient to induce a very pleasant night’s rest.

Remedy #9: Nutrient Repair

can't sleep without drinking

Ultimately, how to end alcohol withdrawal insomnia is the same question as how to end alcohol withdrawal itself. If you want to sleep better after quitting alcohol, a full program of nutrient repair should be high on your priority list.

Many alcoholics are deficient in B-vitamins, which can lead to various psychological disturbances including insomnia.

In particular, Vitamin B6 must be present in order for tryptophan (or 5-HTP) to convert into serotonin, which itself is a precursor for melatonin.

Before proceeding, I’ll briefly discuss four additional nutrients that are effective for insomnia.

  • Lithium Orotate – Compound containing 5mg of elemental lithium, a rare trace mineral that support the nervous system in similar ways as magnesium. It has helped many people, including myself, feel noticeably more mellow and sleep more easily.
  • Niacinamide – One of the forms of Vitamin B3 (along with niacin and nicotinic acid), can increase serotonin concentrations. It can be taken along with tryptophan to induce sleep and mood-boosting properties via the same pathway used by tryptophan and 5-HTP.
  • Inositol – A natural glucose isomer that regulates GABA and serotonin and enhances REM sleep. To be effective, this nutrient needs to be taken for at least a few weeks so that it can accumulate and begin working.
  • Melatonin – This sleep-signaling hormone may also have antioxidant properties. Melatonin is contained in Sleep Support, in which it works synergistically with other sleep-inducing compounds.

Since inositol can contribute to episodes of low blood sugar, it might be wiser to try niacinamide first if you’re among the many alcoholics prone to hypoglycemia.

For more information about nutrient repair and repairing your body during alcohol withdrawal, the following resources can help you:

Remedy #10: Medications For Alcohol Withdrawal

alcohol withdrawal insomnia

If all else fails and inpatient rehabilitation is not an option, you may be able to obtain medications for alcohol withdrawal from your doctor. These medications will stimulate your GABA receptors and/or reduce glutamate levels, which can help you sleep.

I’ve written articles about a number of medications for alcohol withdrawal and cravings. Here is a list of articles I’ve written about medications that are most likely to help stop alcohol withdrawal insomnia:

When I quit drinking, I was prescribed a benzodiazepine called Ativan. I was tapered off of this medication slowly over the course of two weeks, because benzodiazepines stimulate GABA receptors powerfully and can cause addiction in a short time span.

I was then given a large supply of Trazadone to take each night. I stopped taking it after about a week because it made me feel extremely groggy the next day. My own continuing insomnia gave me the motivation to slowly discover the gentler remedies contained on this list.

Lifestyle Strategies For Insomnia

alcohol withdrawal insomnia

Even though supplements and medications can help tremendously for alcohol withdrawal insomnia, they are not necessary in every case. In other cases, they are necessary, but not sufficient to guarantee that you get the best night’s sleep possible.

The following lifestyle strategies changed my life by putting a nail into the coffin of my insomnia problem:

  • Don’t consume caffeine after noon. It takes 8 hours for caffeine to leave your system! I used to drink a pot of coffee throughout the day, and slept better immediately once I switched to chamomile tea in the evening.
  • Minimize sugar in your diet.  Nutrition is a neglected pillar of recovery. Every time you eat a high-sugar meal or snack, you put your body on a blood sugar roller coaster that affects your mood. To learn more, check out my article on alcoholism and hypoglycemia.
  • Get 20-30 minutes of sun each day. Sunlight soon after you wake up can help burn off excess melatonin in your system, helping to reset your biological rhythm. I do morning cardio in the sun every day before working, and take Vitamin D3 on rainy days.
  • Exercise every day. Research shows that people who exercise for at least 150 minutes per week sleep 65% better and feel significantly better during the day. (source) To learn more about fitness for recovery, check out my article on exercise and addiction recovery.
  • Read before bed every night. Going to bed with a good book kills multiple birds with one stone: It gives you something to look forward to before bed, distracts from negative thoughts/rumination, and makes your eye muscles and brain tired. I used to look forward to have a “night cap” that made me wake up at 3 AM. Now I look forward to learning something new from an interesting book, even if I only get 5 pages in before falling asleep.
  • Try progressive relaxation. This is a weird method that I’ve had a LOT of success with. Instead of letting my mind wander to potentially undesirable thoughts as I’m drifting off to sleep, I proactively instruct my body to relax in a sequential way. I think to myself: “Relax your eyes. Relax your jaw. Relax your neck. Relax your shoulders. Relax your arms, wrists, hands, fingers…Spine, hips, legs, calves, ankles, feet, toes.” Combined with long and deep breaths, this will make your body feel like it’s floating, and you can repeat it until it puts you right to sleep.
  • Get better bedding. Sleeping on an old-fashioned mattress can cause pain that can keep you awake. I recently got a Zinus Memory Foam 12 Inch Green Tea Mattress from Amazon, and it’s so comfortable that my roommate lay down on it and followed suit 3 days later! I agree with the general sentiment of the 5 star reviewers on Amazon.
  • Get a himalayan salt lamp. I’m a very visual person, and I would have trouble sleeping in a room if it was lit up until bed time with hospital-style ceiling lighting. Once nightfall hits, I turn on my himalayan salt lamp and read next to a bedside lamp with soft light. It’s a less sooty alternative to the kind of light provided by candles.
  • Get a light-dimming program for your computer after dusk. When I find myself doing work after nightfall hits, a free program called flux on my Mac automatically dims the blue light that prevents the release of natural melatonin.
  • Try hypnosis before bed. The video below is similar to an app that I once used to help me through some difficult alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including insomnia. It did not resolve the biochemical mayhem in my brain, but it did make me feel slightly less alone and accepting of my condition at the time.

There are many other lifestyle strategies for insomnia such as yoga, meditation, and sauna or steamroom therapy. While these can be helpful, especially in the months after quitting drinking, the importance of biochemical repair for alcohol withdrawal cannot be overstated.

If you think you’ve tried everything for insomnia, keep looking and you will find a solution that makes alcohol withdrawal insomnia a thing of the past!

Being a silver lining optimist is both a choice and a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Being CERTAIN that you’ll find a solution to a problem drastically increases your odds of doing so. This basic truth of the human mind applies just as much to alcohol withdrawal insomnia as anything else in life.


I hope that you can use this article as a blueprint for improving your life and finally putting an end to insomnia caused by acute withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

As with all of my articles, I risk giving out too much information that I’ve gleaned over a number of years. I certainly do not want to give the impression that I used all of these remedies at once!

To reiterate, here is what I would use if I were personally having trouble sleeping after quitting drinking:

I would also make sure to integrate some of the lifestyle strategies from the section above.

I can’t guarantee that what worked for me will work for you. But I find a tremendous amount of fulfillment in the idea that something I’ve learned can help others break free from the same horrible state of body and mind that once tortured me.

Quitting drinking and not being able to sleep sucks… but now you have some strategies to help! Feel free to post a question or comment.

Hierarchy of Alcohol Recovery
Please review this post!



The information we provide while responding to comments is not intended to provide and does not constitute medical, legal, or other professional advice. The responses to comments on fitrecovery.com are designed to support, not replace, medical or psychiatric treatment. Please seek professional care if you believe you may have a condition.

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

thank you!! most helpful article by far that i have come across!

5 years ago

Thank you so much for this article. I quit heavy drinking abruptly due to a seizure which they thought was caused by another condition, which for me was the very first seizure in my 46 years. It occurred 48 hours after a weekend of binge drinking, in addition to my heavy drinking up to 4 times a week. My question is, of all the things you recommended taking in the “on short” portion, do you see the need to keep taking all of them for good or at what point do you know to try to reduce or start eliminating… Read more »

2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Scott

I also wanted to discuss this alcohol withdrawal. I have just stopped drinking and have some questions. Please let me know if you are interested so we can discuss.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jose

Hi, sorry to hear about your seizure, may I ask what symptoms you had during seizure?
I drink exactly same amount each week🥴

5 years ago

Most informative article out of the thousands I’ve read

You spoke well on Benzodiazepines .. they are so dangerous. I’m still suffering horribly… wish there was help for this insomnia.

5 years ago

Would one experience these alcohol withdrawal symptoms if they drank 2 to 3 drinks a night and then quit cold turkey? I have recently decided to quit in order to cut out my sugar in an effort to better my cholesterol. I haven’t slept well in eight days so I am searching for an answer.

Chris Scott
5 years ago
Reply to  tammy

Hi Tammy, everyone is different but I’d say 2 to 3 drinks per night is on the lower end of the spectrum. I’d look into L-glutamine to help with sugar and alcohol cravings. Best of luck to you!

5 years ago

What do you think of Kavinace? Magnesium makes me have loose stools, if not diarrhoea, so I tend to avoid it!

Chris Scott
5 years ago
Reply to  Priscilla

Hi Priscilla, I am not familiar with Kavinace. However, I am a big fan of kava, which you can read about in this article here.

Magnesium oxide is known to cause loose stools, being poorly absorbed by the body. Unfortunately most “magnesium” supplements in stores are magnesium oxide. This is why I always recommend magnesium citrate. Everyone is different though!