Recovery comes with its ups and downs, and sleep problems are part of the territory. Any substance or behavior that affects the body neurologically poses the potential for sleep trouble. Yet, sleep is essential to a successful recovery. Sleep provides emotional balance and appetite control as well as building the body’s immune system and ability to recover from daily wear and tear. Better sleep habits support the return to physical, emotional, and mental health by helping the body return to an improved place of wellbeing.
Recovery-Related Sleep Issues
Addiction recovery may come with a host of sleep-related issues. Insomnia is very common, and the source can come from a number of places, including the addiction itself. Alcohol and drugs, in particular, are often used as sleep aids during times of extreme stress.
Your body may learn to rely on them to fall asleep and without that, pacing, tossing, turning, and other insomnia symptoms can be problematic. Other behaviors related to substance abuse such as an inconsistent schedule and an active nightlife may interfere with the ability to sleep as well. And, at night, when there’s nothing else to do, it can be hard to distract the mind from the source of addiction.
Despite the challenges, sleep is crucial to a successful recovery. Sleep stabilizes emotions by maintaining balance in the brain’s emotional processing center and promoting activity in the brain’s logic center. It also helps curb addiction-related appetite changes and food cravings by keeping hunger and satiety hormones in check.
However, the quality and length of the sleep cycle are influenced by habits and behaviors. Consequently, a change in habits can improve sleep.
The brain can be trained to release sleep hormones at certain times. You do that by following a consistent schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, weekends included.
Consistency in schedule extends to meals too. The brain, in part, uses the timing of your meals to determine the beginning of the sleep cycle. Try to eat your meals around the same time each day and keep them at regular intervals. Watch out for foods that interfere with your digestion or sleep hormones such as high-fat foods or caffeine.
Build a Bedtime Routine
Routines, like your daily schedule, train the brain when to begin the sleep cycle. Bedtime routines also help reduce stress and anxiety before bed. Try to include activities that help you relax. For some, that may be listening to quiet music, while others find a book or taking a warm bath to be a better way to calm the mind and body.
Addictive substances and behaviors often start as a way to deal with stress. If that’s the case, the return of that stress and the stress of recovery can make falling asleep that much more difficult.
Stress management can come in many forms. Both meditation and yoga, for example, use deep, focused breathing to bring the mind into the present and away from a stressful past or future. Meditation has been shown to strengthen the connection between the brain’s emotion and logic centers to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Yoga, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce the amount of stress-related proteins in the blood.
Other stress relievers may come in the form of journaling or muscle relaxation techniques. Some recovering addicts may need more guidance such as that of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT retrains the mind in how it thinks. It requires a trained professional but has been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
You need the best sleep-supportive conditions. Start with a mattress designed for your preferred sleep position and weight. If you have specific pain issues or health conditions, look for a mattress that helps you address problem areas.
The sleep environment should be cool, dark, and quiet. Keep the temperatures below 68 degrees and block out any artificial or natural light. Noisy neighbors or street noise can be muffled with a white noise machine or app.
Recovering addicts need the health benefits that come with better sleep. It can take time for sleep habits to take hold and a body recovering from addiction may take longer than normal. But better sleep can improve health well beyond recovery. It’s the start of a new life free of addiction and full of freedom.