If you’re experiencing sleeplessness after substance abuse treatment, you’re not alone.
Many Americans have sleep deficits. Unfortunately, because you’re in recovery, you have a greater chance of suffering from insomnia than most people, at least temporarily. Sleep deprivation can be serious, so it’s important to develop a bedtime ritual, adapt good sleep hygiene, and embrace other healthy habits that promote better rest.
We’re Losing Sleep
The National Sleep Association reports that 50-to-70 million adults have some type of sleep disorder, including insomnia, sleep deprivation, parasomnias, and circadian rhythm disruptions. At least one in three people will experience some time of problem in their lifetimes.
Insomnia is the most common disorder. Approximately 30 percent have it in the short term, and 10 percent long term. For people in recovery, those numbers vary somewhere between 25 and 70 percent.
The average adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep, but we rarely get it. One factor is that we work longer than ever before—between 44 and 60 hours a week. Other aspects of lifestyle contributing to a lack of sleep include daily chores, extended commutes, working at home late at night, plus watching TV or playing on electronic devices.
In 2015, Americans spent approximately 40 billion dollars on sleep remedies and aids. There’s some dispute as to their effectiveness, as well as their safety. Still, nearly half of the people using over-the-counter sleep remedies did so for a year or more. Some people choose prescription medication as well, which can be addictive.
Using sleep relief options isn’t an appropriate method for someone in recovery. Addiction has already upset the proverbial apple cart when it comes to sleep—altering brain chemicals and offsetting circadian rhythms. And the type of substances once used may also contribute to the problem.
What Is Insomnia?
Normal sleep is a complex, continuous process which involves many patterns of brain wave activity. Insomnia is the interruption of this process, either due to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
There are many types of insomnia, but the two most common are primary and secondary:
- Primary insomnia isn’t associated with or caused by medication, a psychiatric problem, or medical condition. Causes for primary insomnia might be a disruption of the circadian rhythm caused by working alternate shifts or traveling; environmental factors contributing to a less-than-restful atmosphere; or physical or emotional stress.
- Secondary insomnia is a result of a physical, mental, or emotional health condition interfering with rest; or caffeine or tobacco.
Unfortunately, the Journal of Addiction Medicine reports that people in recovery often suffer insomnia at rate five times greater than most people. The longer you experience sleeplessness, the worse the symptoms become. You may notice this already: one or two days with little sleep is bothersome. Weeks on end without proper rest is a serious problem that affects cognitive function, mood, and for people post-treatment, the ability to resist compulsivity and cravings.
Regaining the Ability to Sleep
If you’re in the early stages of recovery, the first thing you need to do in order to sleep better is simply be patient. Your body and mind went through some serious changes in treatment. Worrying about the lack of sleep heightens aspects of anxiety and even depression.
- Exercise. You hear it all the time, but it’s true: regular movement is vital to your health, and it’s one of the primary ways to ensure good sleep health. Just make sure not to do a strenuous workout right before bed.
- Follow a clean diet. Spicy or fatty foods, citrus fruits, and caffeine put your digestive system to the test. This isn’t what you want in the middle of the night. Make sure your last meal is at least two to three hours before bed. Eat healthy and light.
- Put away the electronics. The blue light emittance from mobile devices is a known sleep disrupter. At least one hour prior to when you’d like to rest, set them aside. This includes shutting off the television. Read a paper book, meditate, or listen to soothing music or atmospheric sounds that help promote rest.
- Create the right environment. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for rest. Reduce clutter, close the blinds, cool the room, and indulge in a few luxurious linens and pillows that make the concept of sleep easy to imagine.
- If you must nap, make it short. Research indicates a 20-30 minute “power nap” can be invigorating. Any longer can throw off your sleep-wake cycle.
- Get more natural light. To help reset your circadian rhythm, you need to get outside more often. Even 10 minutes a day can help. If you work an alternate shift, investing in a therapy light may help.
There are also non pharmacological methods to consider in order to sleep better. Maybe one of these will work for you:
- Acupuncture. This technique reduces anxiousness and improves relaxation. It also helps people manage sleep apnea, which may contribute to frequent wakefulness.
- Mindfulness meditation. The science supporting meditation benefits continues to grow, including its ability to be a natural sleep aid.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. One of the easiest techniques to master, this involves a combination of dedicated breathing while tensing and relaxing muscle groups.
- Biofeedback. There are various applications of biofeedback, and you usually have to work with a professional who has the equipment to measure your response and provide the right recommendation. This process helps people recognize stress more quickly and learn how to relax.
Willingway’s Peaceful Environment
Our inpatient rehabilitation treatment facility is set on 11 acres of lakes, forests, and gardens. We offer recreational therapy and comfortable private rooms so people can adjust to good sleep habits. We also introduce residents to a variety of self-care techniques that help them develop a pattern of wellness.