Your Ultimate Guide to Getting the Best Sleep in Recovery

Getting the best sleep in addiction recoveryA topic that often doesn’t get discussed, sleep is an incredibly important part of recovery from addiction. When addiction is active, we often lose vital sleep because our mind and body are reacting to chemicals they’ve acquired from substance abuse. Late at night, for example, is a common period where substance abuse takes place – and as a person becomes accustomed to this, they may find that even in the nighttime hours of recovery, they’re wide awake. A 2018 study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors concluded that worse sleep quality predicts higher levels of drug cravings, with daily drug cravings also having a negative effect on the quality of a person’s sleep. They truly go hand-in-hand, and if we can get a good grip on cravings and sleep quality, we’ll be much more adept to rest well for maximum restoration.

How Sleep is Impacted by Drugs

In 2017, researchers conducted a study which assessed the sleeping patterns of those in residential treatment centers for addiction. They found that sleep cycles – along with sleep waves – are shaped by rituals and routines; the good news, however, is that a person’s sleep cycle is bound to become more stabilized the longer a person is in recovery. Mark Grant, a psychologist with over 20 years of experience treating those who struggle with pain and stress, emphasized on his website, Overcoming Pain, explains that restful sleep serves many functions:

  • Produces serotonin and other mood-balancing chemicals in the brain
  • Produces growth hormones and others that are necessary for our physical health
  • Impacts immune functioning
  • Memory consolidation and learning takes place

When recovery from addiction is sought, a lot of these benefits are already negatively affected, and it takes time to restore some of what was lost when addiction was active. The Sleep Help Institute breaks down several classes of drugs and explains how each of them affect sleep:

Stimulants – drugs like cocaine affect the brain’s limbic system, which regulates motivation and pleasure. Stimulants increase wakefulness, which affects REM sleep (a crucial part of sleep that affects memory consolidation, mood and more)

Hallucinogens – these drugs impact a person’s perceptions and can create delusions or hallucinations in people. Ultimately, serotonin is affected (a chemical that regulates sleep and other major body functions), and persistent sleep disturbances tend to occur

Depressants – while most people believe that substances like alcohol help them to sleep, it actually disrupts sleep by worsening insomnia and altering a person’s sleep quality

Opioids – highly recognized for disrupting sleep, opioids block a person’s access to REM sleep and even deeper restorative stages of non-REM sleep

One person shared her story of addiction and how it affected her sleep via Kelly Brogan, MD. She stated:

“…As little as I slept, I was holding onto Ambien for dear life. The occasional good nights of sleep reinforced my belief that the only reason I even slept was because this pill helped me…”

Restoring Sleep During Recovery

The process of healing reminds us that good sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity – and we can best improve our capacity for sleep by taking good care of our physical, mental and spiritual health. Tuck, a website that aims to provide quality information on sleep hygiene, health and wellness, explains that there are a number of steps that can be taken to improve a person’s quality of sleep over time in recovery:

  • Reach out to others – rely on your support team in recovery when you’re having bad days so that you can effectively work through them
  • Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – this approach helps people change negative, unproductive thought patterns into newer, healthier ones; if we’re able to work through some of the issues we’re going through using tools such as CBT, we may sleep better at night because we won’t have as much on our mind
  • Improve sleep hygiene – take a warm shower before bed, meditate, exercise, drink plenty of water, eat healthy food and more
  • Turn your bedroom into a room that’s conducive for good sleep – get soothing aromas, comfortable bed sheets and make sure your room stays clean for optimal mental health and sleep benefits
  • Follow a regular sleeping schedule – this will help train your mind and body to prepare for sleep at a certain time, rather than keeping your body at a fluctuating schedule
  • Get lots of natural light – artificial lighting can disrupt the body’s natural sleeping rhythm, whereas natural lighting (such as opening the blinds or even trying bright light therapy) can greatly help your body regain stabilization
  • Watch your diet and exercise – exercise lets out excess energy that may be pent up throughout the day, and healthy foods promote both better mood and sleep

It Does Get Better

Improved sleep quality may take some time, but it will improve if you don’t give up. Addiction recovery improves not only sleep, but many other areas of your life – if you’re ready to start working towards your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today. It does get better.

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.