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Importance of sleep in addiction recovery

January 29, 2022
Reviewed by: Lisa Misquith

Staying overnight working, partying, or even just vibing to your favourite song seems apparent, especially today, where sleeping early as a part of daily habits is unusual. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation’s minor but conspicuous effects are inattentive to many, leading to detrimental impacts on the body over time. The topic might not hold a grave concern, especially among millennials and Gen Z. Still, it plays a significant role. It controls many physical and mental aspects of the human body. 

These impacts are even worse when one might try to recover from addiction—maintaining your sobriety while recovering can be challenging for some. General recommendations such as practising self-care, using coping strategies, engaging yourself in your sober network, and others are helpful. Still, sleep patterns are one of the prominent factors that influence addiction. 

Why is sleep important? 

Sleep contributes to many factors to maintain healthy well-being throughout your life. It determines your physical health, mental health, and the quality of life you live. Sleep is an inherent time when your body heals and regenerates itself. When you wake up, the way you feel depends on what happens while sleeping. 

Sleep fosters many physical elements of the body. For instance, it is involved in healing and regenerating your heart and blood vessels. Sleep deprivation often aggravates the risks associated with heart diseases, high blood pressure, kidney diseases, stroke, and diabetes. According to the American Sleep Association statistics, getting less than 6 hours of sleep for a longer duration makes an individual 48% more likely to die of heart diseases and 15% prone to a stroke.  

Moreover, the brain’s functioning is critical and sleep assists in its regeneration process. Without this, you might find yourself irritable, having trouble concentrating, inability to control emotion, suicidal ideation, impulsivity, anxiety, depression, and much more. 

What happens after you quit using drugs and alcohol?

The withdrawal process can be exhausting initially, and the symptoms depend on the substance a person was addicted to previously. Addictive substances like marijuana, alcohol, and opioids generally induce sleep. The effects can be contrary when you quit. At the initial stages of withdrawal, the stimulants reverse the process and incite a wakeful consciousness producing a coma-like sleep. These withdrawal symptoms are part of post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), where you might experience distorted sleep for months. 

The connection between sleep and addiction recovery 

Sleep and addiction share a complex relationship. Recovery is a long-term process. Years or even months of addiction can have adverse effects on your body. Even after you cease the addiction, the harmful effects can still be evident. In such cases, sleep helps an individual to heal and recover. 

 It can be troublesome to sleep when an individual puts immense effort into recovering from an addiction. Studies suggest that individuals recovering from alcohol addiction with disrupted sleep are at higher risk of relapsing the addiction. Likewise, few studies employ the same statistics to other addictions as well. Sleep deprivation alters the decision-making capacity and normal functioning of the brain. Quality sleep is vital to achieving a successful recovery.

Sleep deprivation is one of the symptoms that often appear while recovering from addiction. For instance, 40% of the people recovering from marijuana reported insomnia during the withdrawal process. The recovery process itself can be mentally and physically exhausting. The additional symptom of insomnia makes an individual more vulnerable and prone to reversion. Moreover, poor quality sleep can fuel cravings and make it hard to resist. 

Improve your sleep in recovery 

If you have disturbed sleep while recovering, it may seem chaotic and baffling to understand where to start. Nevertheless, medication, therapy, lifestyle changes are a few methods that will help you cope. According to the American Addiction Centers, 2021, sleeping medication can cause dependency with the vague possibility of adding quality sleep in long-term use. Thereby few natural practises can foster quality sleep in the long term. 

  • Relax and de-stress before bed

Calming your mind before bed can help you to a great extent. Engage yourself in any activity you love, like reading a book, breathing exercises, taking a warm shower, or meditating. These activities induce positive and calm emotions, ultimately signalling your brain to rest.  

  • Ambience matters 

Ambience plays a massive role in inducing sleep. Make sure you sleep in silence or optimum white noise to avoid disruptive sleep. White noise is nothing but faint noises that help an individual to sleep. It could be the sound of a whirring fan or the sound of rain. 

Avoid bright lighting or use blackout curtains to have a dark room. Moreover, make sure you use the bed only when you have intentions to sleep. Avoid working or watching television in bed. This signals your body that, once you go to bed; it’s time to sleep. 

  • Avoid exercise before bedtime

 Exercise before bedtime can increase your energy level, making it difficult to fall asleep. Try scheduling your workout routine in the evening if you miss your morning hours. 

  • Schedule your sleeping time 

Replacing your bad habits with good ones is the key to developing long-term peace with your body and mind. Establish sleeping rituals that will help you sleep and wake up at the scheduled time. 

  • Avoid day-time naps

Small naps during the day can significantly delay your schedule at night. Therefore, it’s advisable despite being tired to avoid naps during the day. 

  • Avoid caffeine 

Who would say no to a hot cup of coffee? However, caffeine can have a substantial impact on your sleeping schedule. Limit your caffeine intake later in the day, and no more than 2 servings. 

When to seek help?

Sleep should be the utmost priority while recovery. However, those still struggling from addiction should seek professional help, then focus on a healthy sleeping schedule. The natural methods to induce a sleeping ritual are effective. Nevertheless, if the recovery process interferes with your daily tasks and natural methods are futile, you might consider consulting a specialist. 

Recovery could be a difficult phase, but you are not in this alone. Hope is out there, and one must seek help without hesitation.  


Sleep 101: Why Sleep Is So Important to Your Health. 

How Important Is Sleep?. 

The Link Between Sleep Quality and Addiction Recovery. 

(2021 April 29). Importance Of Sleep In Addiction Recovery. 

(2019, May). Sleep and addiction. 

Importance of Sleep in Addiction Recovery.