How to Get Better Sleep in Addiction RecoveryShelby Wall
It’s no secret that sleep is integral to your health and wellbeing. This is the time of day when the body repairs itself and moves short-term memories to long-term storage; it’s also when young people experience critical progressions in growth and development. When sleep is sabotaged, there are devastating physical and emotional consequences.
Unfortunately, insomnia is one of the highest-reported issues for those who are in the early stages of recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Today we’ll discuss sleep difficulty in early recovery and provide key tips about how to get this troubling symptom under control.
Insomnia and Addiction
A study from Stanford University School of Medicine, the Department of Psychiatry, the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco’s VA Medical Center indicates that insomnia and sleep difficulty are five times more common for those in early recovery than in the general population.
This disruption is explained by the biology and physical aspects of addiction. Ongoing substance use affects the brain at a neurochemical level, significantly altering levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine. The physical effects of drug use, particularly in the instance of stimulants like amphetamines, can also impact the body’s circadian rhythm, pushing users to stay up all night or sleep for days at a time. Finally, the lifestyles of addicts and alcoholics are not conducive to consistent, reliable sleep patterns.
As these issues compound over time, many people turn to various substances to fall asleep. They may drink or medicate in order to sleep through the night. When these drugs and alcohol are removed from the equation, it becomes difficult to achieve a full night’s rest. For all of these reasons, low sleep quality may extend into early sobriety.
How Sleep Quality Affects Your Recovery
Those who pursue addiction treatment may assume that their sleep problems will be immediately cured by sobriety. Unfortunately, these symptoms may linger for some time. While many programs only emphasize the importance of physical health as it pertains to diet and exercise, research indicates that a good night’s sleep can also significantly impact your recovery. Penn State’s study found that for addicts recovering from opioid dependence, adequate sleep affected the frequency of cravings and positive emotions.
Other studies have echoed this finding with respect to those in recovery from alcoholism – those who had a sleep disorder were twice as likely to relapse. For this reason, it is nearly impossible to understate the importance of a good night’s rest in the early days of recovery.
Steps to Get Quality Sleep While Sober
- Be consistent. By setting specific times to sleep and wake, you begin to reintroduce the concept of a strong circadian rhythm to your body’s internal clock. While it may be difficult to drift off at first, with time, this will improve.
- Avoid “sleep sabotagers.” Heavy meals, blue light from TV screens and smartphones, caffeine, and nicotine before bedtime can all negatively impact your chances for a good night’s sleep. To be safe, stay away from these for two or three hours before you plan to lay down for the night.
- Get physical. Consistent exercise, even something as simple as a midday hike, can help you to get out any excess energy that may keep you up at night.
- Make a nighttime ritual. Think about things that relax you, and use them as cues for your body to begin to wind down. Light a candle, curl up with a good book, or spend some time meditating before bed each night.
- Create a space for sleeping. If you work, watch television, or do other activities in bed, your mind may not fully associate that space with sleeping. Cut back on these if you notice yourself not getting a great night’s sleep.
Sleep Well in Recovery
Choosing to get sober is a decision that improves every aspect of your life. While early recovery may involve instances of poor sleep quality, this is usually just a temporary struggle. If you or someone you love are experiencing insomnia or other difficulties sleeping, be sure to reach out to a qualified addiction treatment professional for advice. Contact Concise Recovery at 877-347-3549 to learn more about your treatment options.