Sleep Awareness Week: The Role of Sleep in Recovery

National Sleep Awareness WeekSleep Awareness Week, created by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), begins this weekend and it’s the perfect time to talk about how proper sleep can play a powerful role in your recovery. This year’s theme is “Begin with Sleep,” and the campaign is designed to highlight the “importance of good sleep health for individuals to best achieve their personal, family, and professional goals,” according to the NSF.

There are countless benefits of a good night’s sleep. For those in recovery, regular, restorative sleep can help you feel more present, focused, energetic and emotionally balanced. It can also ensure that you have a more positive mindset, which is a must when it comes to overcoming the many challenging and setbacks along the road to recovery.

The Link Between Sleep and Substance Use Disorders
Unfortunately, poor sleep and substance use disorders are bedfellows. In fact, one study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found that the incidence of insomnia is five times greater for people in early recovery than for the general population. This is partly because substance abuse as well as co-occurring mental illness can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep/wake cycle.

Sleep disturbances are also a hallmark sign of PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (protracted withdrawal syndrome), which is a variety of symptoms that exist after the period of acute withdrawal ceases. Plus, good sleep hygiene isn’t usually a priority during active addiction.

How can you tell if you have a sleep disturbance? Consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a hard time falling asleep?
  • Do you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep?
  • Do you experience racing thoughts that keep you from falling asleep?
  • Do you feel drowsy and exhausted during the day?
  • Do you fall asleep during the day?
  • Are your dreams vivid or emotionally disturbing?
  • Do you wake up in the morning feeling extremely groggy?

Mood Disorders and Sleep
According to the NSF, there’s also a complex link between mood disorders and sleep. A negative mood can make quality sleep virtually impossible and poor, interrupted sleep can cause bouts of anxiety or depression. It’s a tough cycle to break: An inability to get solid shut-eye can leave you feeling emotionally out of sorts the next day, which makes it that much harder to sleep the following night.

To tell whether your mood is impacting your slumber, the NSF recommends watching out for the following:

  • Is your switch always on? The risk of insomnia is much higher among people with major depressive disorder. This is because this type of mood disorder makes it difficult to turn off racing, anxious thoughts or pessimistic chatter prior to bedtime.
  • Do you drag during the day? Feelings of depression and anxiety can cause fragmented sleep patterns (you wake up several times a night), and this results in feeling fatigued the next day — even if you spent ample time in bed. What’s more, depression itself can lead to low energy and feelings of exhaustion, so you might be dealing with two causes of daytime drowsiness.
  • Do you suffer bad dreams? Frequent nightmares have been linked with depression and anxiety as well as substance use disorders. Dreams may intensify once you’ve stopped using drugs and you might also experience dreams of using again. Vivid, disturbing or negative dreams can cause you to awaken from slumber and make it challenging to fall back to sleep.

Getting Back to Good Sleep
During recovery, it will take time (weeks or even months) for your body to relearn how to sleep naturally without the aid of drugs or alcohol. But rest assured: Treating your substance use disorder is a surefire way to move toward proper, restorative sleep. As you wait for your body to adjust, practicing proper sleep hygiene can also help. Start with the following tips:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. This means doing your best to get into bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on weekends.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual for bedtime. For instance, consider winding down a half hour before lights out with a few stretches, some gentle yoga, guided imagery, prayer or a 10-minute meditation session.
  • Set the sleep stage. Make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark (no blue lights from smartphones or tablets) and comfortable and cool. The NSF recommends keeping the temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Avoid long, late-day naps. A short, 20-minute nap can help you feel revitalized but napping for a long period of time, or napping late in the day (after 3 pm), can make it tough to fall and stay asleep at night.
  • Cut out caffeine and nicotine. Both caffeine (in foods and beverages) and nicotine are stimulants and can cause sleep disturbances.

R&R at At BRC Recovery
We’ll equip you with the recovery skills needed to get your sleep and health back on track so you can live an empowered, sober life. For more information about our addiction treatment programs, call a BRC Recovery Admissions Specialist today: 866-905-4550.