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Binge Drinking Tied to Insomnia, Study

Update Date: Jun 10, 2013 04:09 PM EDT

If you're having problems falling asleep, doctors say you should lay off the bottle.

A new study has linked frequent binge drinking to insomnia symptoms in older adults.

The findings published in the journal SLEEP involved 4,970 community-dwelling adults ages 55 and older from the 2004 wave of the Health and Retirement Study.

Participants had completed questionnaires about binge drinking and sleep habits. Researchers said participants reported the number of days on which they had "four or more drinks on one occasion" in the prior three months.  Investigators then used the answers to calculate the average number of binge drinking days per week.  Participants were also asked to report the frequency of difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking too early or feeling un-rested in the morning. Participants who reported having sleep problems "most of the time" were considered to have an insomnia symptom.

The findings revealed that 26.2 percent of all participants had two or less binge drinking days per week on average and 3.1 percent had more than two days per week on average.

After accounting for confounding factors like demographic variables, medical conditions and elevated depressive symptoms, scientists found that participants who binged more than two days a week had an 84 percent greater chance of reported an insomnia symptom compared to non-binge drinkers.

"It was somewhat surprising that frequent binge drinking (more than 2 binge drinking days per week, on average), but not occasional binge drinking (more than zero, but less than 2 binge drinking days per week, on average) had a significant association with self-reported insomnia symptoms," lead author Sarah Canham, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in Drug Dependence Epidemiology, John Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Mental Health in Baltimore, Maryland, said in a news release.

Researchers said the latest study is the first to tie binge drinking with insomnia symptoms in older adults.

"Clinicians and health care providers should be aware of and discuss the use of alcohol with their older patients, particularly those who report poor sleep," added Canham. "Binge drinking behaviors may be an appropriate target for improving poor sleep."

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