Addiction disrupts nearly all aspects of a person's life, and gets in the way of living a productive, full, and healthy life. Sleep is one of the most critical, but often overlooked, areas in which this is the case.
An ideal night's sleep falls between 6 and 8 hours a night for most people, and should be without interruptions, allowing you to wake up naturally and feel rested. Many people in recovery struggle with sleeplessness, but doing what you can to get as much sleep as possible is a vitally important part of the recovery process.
Substance abuse and insomnia
Many people who abuse drugs or alcohol believe that their use helps them sleep. In particular, alcohol is often viewed as a way to relax and help someone go to sleep. However, the truth is that, while alcohol can make you fall asleep more quickly, it also makes your sleep less restful.
A person sleeping drunk will get worse sleep, be more likely to wake up in the middle of the night, wake up too early, and experience less deep sleep, where the body and brain slows down to it's deepest, most restful level. Alcohol or drugs may have been a part of your routine to fall asleep, but it masked deeper problems with your sleep that can no longer be ignored.
Making sure you get an adequate amount of sleep every night can be tremendous help in the recovery process. This is because the process of recovery makes use of the brain's caretaker cells, or the body's natural ability to heal itself from damage. Just like a custodians keeping a building clean, these caretaker neurons repair connections, and restore the natural balance of cells.
While drugs and alcohol damage your brain, staying sober will give these restorative cells more time to go to work. Sleep is one of the best ways for the brain to heal itself, and getting a full night's sleep will give your brain and body the maximum amount of time it needs to refresh.
Tired addicts risk relapse
Not only does a full amount of sleep promote recovery, but going without sleep increases the risk of a relapse. Feeling tired makes us more cranky, irritable, impatient, and less able to be introspective and aware of our own thoughts.
This can weaken defense mechanisms and make someone more susceptible to the pull of addiction. As previously discussed, alcohol can superficially make you feel less awake, and a person in early recovery may be tempted to turn to alcohol to fall asleep again.
How to sleep well
Here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of getting a good night's sleep:
- Develop a regular sleeping schedule, so that you are trying to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every night.
- Get some sunshine and exercise during the day.
- Try to associate your bed with sleeping. Try to avoid lying awake in bed (if you are having trouble sleeping right away, get up and do a relaxing activity), and avoid bringing in TV or entertainment into the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine six hours before you plan on sleeping.
- Avoid eating two hours before sleeping.
- Before going to bed, develop a routine of relaxing – practices like calming music, diming the lights, meditation or yoga, or drinking hot milk or herbal tea to bring down your levels of excitement and anxiety and get ready for sleep.
Sleeplessness is a frequent problem for people in early sobriety, and can be among the last thing to fall into place, but the sleep disturbances will get better over time, the longer you are sober. Your future of sobriety will also be a future filled with restful sleep.