Reductions in World Health Organization risk drinking level are associated with improvements in sleep problems among individuals with alcohol use disorder

Alcohol Alcohol. 2024 Mar 16;59(3):agae022. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agae022.


Aims: Among individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), sleep disturbances are pervasive and contribute to the etiology and maintenance of AUD. However, despite increased attention toward the relationship between alcohol use and sleep, limited empirical research has systematically examined whether reductions in drinking during treatment for AUD are associated with improvements in sleep problems.

Methods: We used data from a multisite, randomized, controlled trial that compared 6 months of treatment with gabapentin enacarbil extended-release with placebo for adults with moderate-to-severe AUD (N = 346). The Timeline Follow-back was used to assess WHO risk drinking level reductions and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was used to assess sleep quality over the prior month at baseline and the end of treatment.

Results: Sleep problem scores in the active medication and placebo groups improved equally. Fewer sleep problems were noted among individuals who achieved at least a 1-level reduction (B = -0.99, 95% confidence interval (CI) [-1.77, -0.20], P = .014) or at least a 2-level reduction (B = -0.80, 95% CI [-1.47, -0.14], P = .018) in WHO risk drinking levels at the end of treatment. Reductions in drinking, with abstainers excluded from the analysis, also predicted fewer sleep problems at the end of treatment (1-level: B = -1.01, 95% CI [-1.83, -0.20], P = .015; 2-level: B = -0.90, 95% CI [-1.59, -0.22], P = .010).

Conclusions: Drinking reductions, including those short of abstinence, are associated with improvements in sleep problems during treatment for AUD. Additional assessment of the causal relationships between harm-reduction approaches to AUD and improvements in sleep is warranted.

Keywords: World Health Organization risk drinking levels; alcohol treatment outcomes; gabapentin; reduced alcohol consumption; sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy
  • Alcoholism* / complications
  • Alcoholism* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • World Health Organization