The Sleep Challenge During Recovery
Addictive substances are often used as a self-prescribed sleep aid by addicts. Once in recovery, the person then has to learn how to sleep without its help. Additionally, many addictive substances wreak havoc on the body circadian rhythms, which time and control the sleep-wake cycle. Recovery also increases stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can get in the way of a good night’s rest.
Despite these challenges, adequate sleep can be a powerful factor in their recovery success. Sleep regulates emotions and contributes to decision-making skills and reasoning. Without it, the emotional center of the brain becomes more sensitive to negative stimuli while the logical center becomes less active. To successfully make good recovery choices day after day, recovering addicts need the clarity of mind and physical strength that comes from adequate sleep.
How to Address Sleep Issues During Recovery
Daily personal habits and behaviors all affect your sleep. Habits that support sleep include:
- A Consistent Sleep Schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day even on weekends. The body will adjust the release of sleep hormones to follow your preferred schedule.
- Create and Regularly Follow a Bedtime Ritual: A bedtime ritual gives your body a chance to relieve daily stress and tension. It can include anything that helps the mind and body relax like reading a book, meditation/yoga, or a cup of warm milk.
- Daily Exercise: Exercise is good for physical and mental health. When done regularly, it can boost mood and energy levels. It also serves to help tire out the body for better sleep at night. However, avoid strenuous exercise within four hours of your bedtime as the release of endorphins and adrenaline can interfere with the onset of sleep.
- Create a Supportive Sleep Environment: In some circumstances, the bedroom can make or break your sleep success. The room should be cool, dark, and quiet to eliminate as many environmental distractions as possible. Most people sleep more comfortably in a room that’s kept between 60 to 68 degrees. That may mean an electric blanket for warmth in the winter or a ceiling fan and open windows in the summer.
Additional methods and therapies that can help include:
Mindfulness Meditation: Consistently practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and pain perception. Meditation also reconnects the emotional and logical centers of the brain, which can reduce anxiety and stress.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you how to contract and relax specific muscle groups, pinpointing areas of tension and stress.
- Bright-Light Therapy: Natural sunlight helps determine and adjust the sleep-wake cycle. Bright-light therapy helps the brain correctly time the release of sleep hormones to better regulate the onset of sleep.
Though it may take time for good sleep habits to take hold, they can lead to the deep, restful sleep that’s needed for clear thinking and improved physical health. Better sleep brings you or your loved one step closer to a life free of addiction.