Symptoms of insomnia may reduce likelihood of alcohol-induced blackout: Future work to test whether circadian misalignment, common among insomniacs, alters alcohol metabolism

Heavy drinkers with symptoms of insomnia, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, may be less likely to suffer alcohol-induced blackouts, according to a study co-authored by a Rutgers researcher.

It’s the opposite of what they expected when they began the study. Historically, research has suggested that insomnia worsens alcohol-related consequences.

“Because insomnia has been shown to impair memory and cognitive functioning, we thought that participants in our study with severe insomnia and high rates of alcohol use would also have the highest rates of blackout frequency,” said Angelo M. DiBello, an assistant professor at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies within the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology and a coauthor of the study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. “What we found was exactly the opposite.”

To measure alcohol-induced anterograde amnesia — commonly referred to as a blackout — among young adults, DiBello and colleagues from the University of Missouri (first author Mary Beth Miller) and the University of New Mexico (shared first author Cassandra L. Boness) used data collected from 461 college students from an introductory psychology course at a large Midwestern university.

Eligible participants were at least 18 years old and had reported heavy drinking in the past 30 days — defined as five or more drinks on a single occasion or 14 or more drinks a week for men and more than four and seven drinks, respectively, for women.

Participants were asked about their drinking habits, whether and how often they experienced alcohol-induced blackouts and if they suffered symptoms of insomnia. About a third — 146 — met the criteria for insomnia.

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