Sleep plays an important role in maintaining our physical, emotional, and mental health. It’s essential for regulating emotion, repairing muscle tissue, re-energizing the brain, and building your immune system. Unfortunately, sleep disruptions like insomnia are common issues for individuals recovering from an addiction, and it can be detrimental to the recovery process and your mental health. According to a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, individuals who suffer from insomnia and are trying to get over an addiction are at risk of relapsing.
It all has to do with dependency. Once an addict starts to abuse substances before bed as a self-medicating sleeping aid, like alcohol or narcotics, the brain associates those drugs with sleep. Accordingly, without them, your circadian rhythm is thrown off course and your body isn’t quite sure when it’s time for bed. Incorporating a nighttime routine can aid in preventing insomnia, get your internal clock back on track, and occupy your mind so you can resist the urge to relapse.
Meditative practices like yoga, breathing exercises, and mindfulness are great ways to relax the mind before bed, and promote a healthier, happier mindset. In a study by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar, she found that the cortical thickness of your brain, neural density, and enhanced activity in the prefrontal cortexes during meditation mirrored the brain patterns of an addict when they were under the influence of a substance. In other words, meditation naturally gives you a similar “high” that alcohol, illegal substances, or prescription drugs give —but it impacts your general well-being in a positive way.
Make Sure You’re Sleeping on The Right Bed
Sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress not only affects your physical health, but it can also negatively influence your mental health. When you’re struggling with addiction or going through recovery, it’s easy to slip into a dark place if you’re left to lay alone, basking in your thoughts and urges. An uncomfortable mattress is a common cause of sleep disruption, so make sure you’re sleeping on an accommodating bed.
You can look into a hypoallergenic latex foam mattress, so it’ll keep your sleeping space healthy while you work on your head space. You should also consider your sleeper type when choosing a new bed. For example, side sleepers generally want a plush or pillow top mattress because they offer the curves of your body the pressure relief they need.
Set a Bedtime and Wake Up Time
Having a routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day helps to support your circadian rhythm, and makes it easier for your body to fall asleep at night. Having a consistent routine helps you make stronger, healthier decisions and it will remind your body that substances don’t control what time you sleep—your brain does. Once you make it a habit, your brain will start to recognize it’s time to go to bed when that set time starts to come around.
Start a Journal
It can be difficult to facilitate your thoughts when you’re going through recovery—especially at night when you have a lot of time alone to be stuck in your own head. Keeping a journal on hand for you to write in before you go to bed allows you to get everything that’s bothering you out of your mind, and onto a piece of paper. It can be quite therapeutic, really. It also works as a distraction, to keep your mind occupied and on the right track to overcome your addiction.
Read a Book
If writing isn’t your forte, try reading a book before bed. It works the same way in that it distracts you from a wandering mind, but it’ll also make you more sleepy after focusing on little font, and your eye muscles constantly move back and forth across the page.
Put Away Electronics
After a day of watching TV, checking social media and your emails, and surfing the web on your laptop, it’s nice to unplug and put away your technology when you’re trying to wind down for bed. Too much screen time in itself can take a toll on your mental health, but especially if you’re having trouble falling asleep. When your phone is nearby your sleeping space, your brain stays alert longer than it’s supposed to because of your buzzing smartphone. An hour before bed, try turning your phone off or on do not disturb. You’ll feel more relaxed, unbothered, and your brain will have time to relax after non-stop technology stimulation.