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Alcohol and Health

Why Do I Feel Tired After Quitting Alcohol?

May 11, 2024
14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
May 11, 2024
14 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
May 11, 2024
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
May 11, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
May 11, 2024
14 min read

Understanding and Navigating Sobriety Fatigue

  • Post-alcohol fatigue (or “sobriety fatigue”) affects many people after they quit drinking. It’s a common part of the detoxification process. While the duration varies per person, it’s a temporary phase. 
  • You can successfully manage sobriety fatigue by prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated and nourished, getting some exercise, and finding a support group.
  • Reframe is here to support you through the fatigue phase and beyond. We offer 24/7 online support forums with millions of people like you, science-backed resources, and encouragement to help you stay on track. 

You did it. You did the hard thing and decided to quit drinking alcohol. You’re looking forward to better health, better relationships, and a better quality of life. What an exciting step on a new path! But you might be wondering, “Why do I feel so tired now that I’ve quit?” If so, you’re not alone. 

Many report feeling exhausted shortly after they quit drinking — a phenomenon known as “sobriety fatigue.” It can be discouraging, especially when you’re eager to blaze a new, alcohol-free trail, but it won’t last forever. In this post, we’ll explore why you feel tired, how long it may last, and how you can successfully navigate this phase of your journey.

What To Expect When You’re Quitting Drinking

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Because alcohol takes such an extensive toll on our body, the body immediately goes into repair mode when we stop drinking. The liver starts to heal itself. The brain works to restore balance. The musculoskeletal system begins recovery too. 

Amid this extensive recovery process, we might notice withdrawal symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

And while it's not on the official list of withdrawal symptoms, many experience overwhelming fatigue when they quit drinking. Let’s explore why. 

Understanding “Sobriety Fatigue” 

Does detoxing make you tired? The answer is yes. To understand why, we first have to understand how alcohol affects our body.

Brain Chemistry

Alcohol notoriously alters our brain chemistry — it’s part of what makes it so addictive. When we drink regularly, our brain becomes accustomed to the rush of dopamine and serotonin alcohol provides and slowly stops making its own. When alcohol is no longer present, the brain has to scramble to restore balance. Of course, we don’t see all of this happening, but we feel it in the form of fatigue.

Sleep Quality

While alcohol might help us fall asleep, it disrupts our overall sleep quality. After quitting, the inverse happens. It may be difficult to fall asleep without a nightcap, but our sleep quality will improve as our body adjusts to the changes. During the transition, we might feel extra groggy throughout the day. 

Nutritional Deficits

Alcohol is also notorious for interfering with nutrient absorption. Even those of us who consider ourselves “healthy eaters” could be nutrient-deficient thanks to alcohol. Even when alcohol is out of the picture, it could take our body time to catch up, and we may feel laggy until it does.

In addition to physical factors, the emotional turmoil of quitting can be exhausting. It may cause fights with loved ones. It may mean parting ways with friends. It may be a daily battle with our inner voice. All of these can deplete our mental energy.

The bottom line is that when we decide to quit drinking, it takes our body time to adjust and restore balance, which can leave us feeling tired. This is especially true for heavy or chronic drinkers. To add insult to injury, sobriety fatigue can cause a domino effect in our lives, but we’ll get into that in a bit.

How Long Does Post-Alcohol Fatigue Last?

The fatigue may seem unbearable as you drag through your daily life, but remember — it’s only a phase. The exact length of the phase varies from person to person. Some might feel better after a few weeks, while others have to endure it for several months. It largely depends on several factors:

  • Prior alcohol habits. For example, someone who drank heavily for years might have a longer road to recovery than someone who got carried away during a particularly rough few months.
  • Age. A young person might have a shorter fatigue phase than an older person. 
  • Overall health. Coexisting health conditions might make this phase last longer.
  • Personal circumstances. Stress, lifestyle choices, and sleep habits can all play a role. A working mom with three kids might find it takes longer to feel better than a retiree with an empty nest. 

There’s no way to know how long post-alcohol fatigue will last. The important thing is that it eventually passes and leads you to the healthy life you’ve been dreaming of and working toward. Keep this in mind if you’re struggling, and don’t forget to reach out for support if you need it!

The Impact of Sobriety Fatigue

Not all of us have the luxury of sleeping all day. We have busy lives, people who depend on us, jobs that expect us on time, and an endless range of other demands. Fatigue is never convenient. So what happens when we have to endure it for weeks or months?

Unfortunately, it can affect every aspect of our life: 

  • Relationships. When we’re always tired, we may not feel like doing anything with our friends or family. This can cause strain on our relationships.
  • Work. Sleepy eyes make it hard to meet deadlines and fulfill other work responsibilities to the best of our ability. We can hope for merciful managers, but the stress of trying to keep up can be disheartening.
  • Home life. After a long, exhausting day at work, we may feel like the last thing we want to do is dishes and laundry — even when we aren’t suffering from sobriety fatigue. If we don’t, however, it all starts to pile up on us, causing even more stress. 
  • Self-esteem. With our relationships, work life, and dishes all piling up, we may start to feel hopeless and overwhelmed, and we may lose confidence in ourselves. If this happens, remember that you’ve already done something incredibly hard and worth being proud of — you quit drinking! 

It’s more important now than ever to find a way to navigate the challenges that come with post-alcohol fatigue so we don’t find ourselves backsliding into old habits. 

Navigating Sobriety Fatigue

Fortunately, there are several things we can do to successfully manage sobriety fatigue: 

  • Prioritize sleep. Our body does most of its restorative work while we sleep. Maximize your sleep by keeping a regular schedule, creating a restful sleep environment, and practicing relaxation techniques before bed. And if you feel like you need to take a power nap during the day, do it! 
  • Exercise. This may not sound appealing to you right now, but even a snail’s pace walk around the block will help boost your energy and help you sleep better later. 
  • Nourish and hydrate. Now more than ever, your body needs quality nutrition and hydration. Swap empty carbs for nutrient-dense proteins and produce that fuel your body. And, as always, drink plenty of water!
  • Find a support group. There are plenty of other people going through this with you; you just have to find them. Find a group that meets locally or join a virtual group on Reframe. Either way, having a support group can make all the difference. 
  • Read success stories. If you need a boost of encouragement, read stories of people who have already been where you are and made it through successfully. 
  • Create a vision board. Whether you clip photos out of a catalog or visualize your future in your head as you’re falling asleep, a vision board can help you focus on your end goal and get you through the most difficult days of sobriety fatigue.
  • Seek professional help. If you feel like nothing is working and there is no relief in sight, you can always reach out to your doctor for further guidance. They might be able to rule out or pinpoint other contributing factors.

These tips will help see you through the dreary days of sobriety fatigue and come out with another victory on top of quitting alcohol.

Tiring but Temporary 

It can be discouraging to feel tired after quitting drinking, but it’s a normal part of the recovery process. Your body is working hard to restore balance, but it takes time and energy. You can help the process by taking care of yourself, finding a support group, and imagining your alcohol-free life beyond sobriety fatigue. Reframe is here to cheer you on and support you every step of the way. You got this!

Summary FAQs

1. Why am I so tired after quitting drinking?

It takes our body time to adjust to the absence of alcohol after using it for some time. During the adjustment phase, the body spends its energy recuperating, leaving us feeling sluggish and sleepy. 

2. What is “sobriety fatigue”? 

Sobriety fatigue, also known as “post-alcohol” fatigue is the overwhelming exhaustion some feel after they quit drinking. It’s bothersome but temporary. 

3. How long does sobriety fatigue last?

How long it lasts depends on several factors like age, health, and lifestyle, but it typically resolves after a few weeks or months. 

4. How can I feel less tired after quitting drinking?

To help your body recover and restore energy, it’s important to stay hydrated and eat plenty of nutritious foods. Any exercise you can muster will also help. Support groups and success stories can give you an added boost of encouragement. If nothing seems to work, however, reach out to your doctor for further guidance. 

Overcome Post-Alcohol Fatigue and Reach Your Alcohol Goals With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 forum and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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