Sleep is an important topic of discussion for those in addiction recovery, both in terms of the quality and quantity of sleep. Since substances can have such a major impact on the mind and body, it’s not uncommon for those in recovery to have difficulty sleeping at night, and this could be for several reasons: 1) for many people, nighttime is when they use substances the most, which means their body is going to be more awake the later it gets, 2) withdrawal symptoms can peak around this time, making it hard to sleep, 3) relapse dreams can cause a lot of tossing and turning at night. According to Tonic in 2017, about 85% of people who’ve been addicted to alcohol or other substances will have a “using” dream – otherwise known as a relapse dream – within the first 2 months of their sobriety.
It can be terrifying for someone to be in the middle of treatment yet have a dream that they’re back where they were when actively using; One woman shared her nerve-wracking relapse dream that had her fearful that she was back to using again. She told Tonic,
“They were never fun. They were always similar: I pick up a drink or serve myself punch that I don’t realize includes alcohol, drink it, and am terrified that I will restart my primal obsession…I would wake up feeling scared, disgusted, and then so, so grateful.”
A 2019 study published in Science Daily found that these types of relapse dreams are most likely to happen in those with more severe addiction histories, but thankfully the frequency of these dreams is likely to decrease the more a person spends in recovery. Dr. John F. Kelly, author and expert on addiction recovery, told The Fix earlier this year that as the mind and body gradually adapt to life in recovery, the psychological “angst” that they experience over relapse will diminish.
When these instances occur, you have to ground yourself and remember that you’re fully in control. At Cumberland Heights, you have the comfort and support system of knowing that you’re where you need to be – in recovery, with minimal to zero triggers. Dreams can feel incredibly real, but in your waking life, you are taking steps towards sobriety. These beginning stages are going to be the most challenging – but once you get through them, you’ll become stronger.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.