Good sleep is essential for the body and mind to recuperate during recovery from addiction. Many people who are going through recovery struggle with sleep problems including insomnia. Clinically, lack of sleep for up to three nights may lead to chronic insomnia, which is harmful to both the body and mind. Because insomnia can be a barrier to progress in recovery, it is important to treat it and other sleep disorders in recovering individuals.
Why Is Insomnia So Common Among Recovering Individuals?
Sleeping disorders like insomnia are among the common withdrawal symptoms for people recovering from substance use. When using substances, the brain’s neurotransmitters are affected, impacting regular sleep rhythms. Once the body’s system is detoxed of these substances, it disrupts the neurological pathways associated with regulating sleepiness.
For example, people who cease marijuana use can experience sleep problems that last for weeks. A similar phenomenon often arises for people in detox from opioids. Research also shows that persistent lack of sleep after withdrawal may trigger a relapse. Certain medication-assisted treatments for substance addiction may also cause sleep disorders. Many times, people recovering from substance addiction may not return to normal sleep patterns for six months or longer.
When assessing sleep disorders, health providers should consider the duration of recovery and medications used for treatment. They should rule out other causes of sleep problems, such as stress, a life crisis, or side effects of other medications. Recovering individuals may be asked to keep a sleep diary by recording total time in bed, time of sleep onset, the number of times awakened, and total time while awake. With all this information, a health professional can determine the severity of insomnia and its causes, then address them appropriately.
What Role Does Insomnia Play in Relapse?
Sleep deprivation makes the first few months of early sobriety have a high risk for potential relapse. This is because stress and insomnia are interrelated. Lack of sleep directly and negatively impacts one’s emotional and mental health. These effects include anxiety, irritability, mood swings, lack of energy, and more. Quality of life and relationships can suffer from all these mental and physical issues.
The close association between insomnia and relapse is largely due to the fact that sleep and addictive behaviors share many common neurobiological and psychological processes in the brain. This makes sleep disturbance a universal risk factor for relapse. Recovery specialists emphasize treating sleep disturbance in early recovery as a preventative measure against relapse.
How Do You Treat Insomnia in Recovery?
Because insomnia during recovery increases the risk of relapse, health professionals will often treat it to maintain a person’s recovery progress. This also means taking into consideration an individual’s co-occurring mental health issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been proven effective in treating insomnia and mental health problems related to addiction. Light therapy also helps promote normal sleep patterns.
Generally, recovery specialists do not recommend treating this kind of insomnia with sleep medications that contain antihistamines. This is because such medications do not help re-establish the natural sleep cycle, but rather induce sleep chemically. They also frequently have side effects such as daytime sleepiness and reduced alertness. Certain prescription sleep medications also have known risks for being over-used. The safest course of action is to promote sleep hygiene naturally.
How Do You Practice Sleep Hygiene to Cope With Insomnia?
Recovering individuals can follow some self-care principles to cope with insomnia without using drugs, especially if insomnia comes as a temporary condition. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and little to no caffeine intake can help address sleep disorders naturally. Taking certain supplements such as Vitamins D and E may help an individual get to sleep.
The sleep environment also matters. The room should be dark, quiet, and cool. Some relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, before going to bed may also help. This way the body and mind are cued by stimulus control to follow a regular bedtime ritual. Below are a few stimulus control principles:
- Go to bed only when you feel sleepy
- Do not lie down or fall asleep in a place that is not your bed
- Avoid using the bed for activities other than sleep
- If you are unable to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and go into another room
- When you wake up during the night and get out of bed, only engage in quiet activities
- Get up at the same time every morning
- Do not nap during the day
In sum, a regular bedtime ritual is to help the body and mind re-learn a natural and consistent sleep-wake rhythm.
Is poor sleep hampering your recovery progress? Did you know that the close association between insomnia and relapse is largely due to the fact that sleep and addictive behaviors share many common neurobiological and psychological processes in the brain? If you have sleep problems during recovery, it is important to seek professional help for your sleep issues in conjunction with addiction treatment for the best outcomes. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists can treat your sleep problems. Most of our staff has been in recovery themselves, so we understand why getting a good sleep can be challenging during recovery. We are also well trained in treating substance addiction and co-ocurring mental health issues, which can contribute to sleep deprivation. You can benefit from our full medical residential facility which offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. Call (866) 906-3203.