Previous studies examining associations between sleep and alcohol use have done so primarily at the aggregate (between-person) level and primarily among healthy young adults. This study aimed to examine reciprocal, within-person associations between sleep and alcohol use among young adult drinkers with insomnia.
Young adults who engaged in past-month binge drinking and met diagnostic criteria for insomnia (N = 56) wore wrist actigraphy and completed online daily diaries assessing sleep and drinking for an average of 8.52 days (SD = 2.31), resulting in 477 reports. Multilevel models were used to examine within- and between-person effects of sleep quality and efficiency on alcohol use and vice versa. Bedtime and waketime were included as secondary sleep parameters.
Participants reported drinking on 231 days (48%). Participants did not report significantly different sleep quality on heavier-drinking days, nor did they demonstrate significant changes in actigraphy-measured sleep efficiency. However, they self-reported better sleep efficiency on heavier-drinking days (driven primarily by improvements in sleep onset latency), and they reported heavier drinking following days of better sleep efficiency (driven by improvements in total sleep time). Drinking was also associated with later bedtimes and waketimes.
Young adult drinkers with insomnia report reciprocal associations between subjective sleep efficiency and alcohol use, but these results were not replicated using objective measures. Providers may need to challenge the belief that there is a positive association between alcohol use and sleep among young adults who drink and have insomnia.

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