Addiction significantly impacts sleep. People in active alcohol addiction may think drinking is the only way they can fall asleep (I did), but alcohol is associated with sleep disturbances and related disorders like sleep apnea. 25-72% of people in treatment for alcohol use disorder report sleep problems. Cocaine, on the other hand, can cause insomnia.
Whatever the substance, it messes with your circadian rhythms. And when we’re using substances addictively, we’re often on an inconsistent and irregular schedule. When we enter recovery, it can take time for sleep to improve. A study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that the incidence of insomnia is five times greater in people who are in early recovery than in the general population.
Withdrawal from certain substances is associated with sleep problems, but those issues may persist after you’ve fully detoxed. Remember that this is normal; wondering whether something is wrong or abnormal won’t help you get to sleep.
Often, people’s first thought when dealing with sleep issues—particularly insomnia—is to research medications. But some people with a history of addiction worry about relying on sleep meds. Know that this isn’t a dead-end; if the idea of taking medication to sleep makes you uncomfortable, there are ways to improve your sleep without them.
Recovery-Friendly Treatments for Insomnia
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), some methods that don’t involve medication and have continually shown positive results are: mindfulness meditation, bright-light therapy, progressive muscle relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Small changes like not drinking any fluids or using your phone past a certain time can also have an impact.
Recovery allows us to address any co-occurring disorders that may be impacting sleep. Anxiety can keep you up at night. Depression can make you tired during the day and mess with your sleep schedule. Mental health treatment can improve these symptoms.
It can feel very frustrating to struggle with sleep problems, because it often feels out of our control. However, there is help available that can make bedtime less fraught. While I’ve always struggled in this arena, it helps me to remember that sleep in recovery is much more restful, restorative, and higher quality than in active addiction.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find peace and rest in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 888-906-9431.