Ahhhh, sleep! Few things make you feel as wonderful as a full amount of rest that provides energy to spare. Unfortunately, a lot of factors interfere with how well we sleep—and most of the time, we try to ignore them. A better focus on sleep hygiene is worth prioritizing.
Sleep: The Giant Reset Button
We know we need it, and might even have a general idea as to why, but the effects of proper rest are quite profound. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, getting enough sleep affects every area of your life—here are just a few benefits:
- You’ll get sick less often.
- It helps you maintain a healthy weight.
- It lowers your risk for serious health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- You can reduce stress and improve your mood.
- It helps you think more clearly and do better at work or in school.
- You’ll get along better with people.
- You’ll have the clarity to make better decisions and avoid injuries — for example, drowsy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year.
- Your body will experience fewer aches, and you’ll have better mobility and athletic performance.
In 2017, Time reported that neuroscientist Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Rochester “uncovered what many scientists now agree is sleep’s primary evolutionary function: to clean out the brain, quite literally, of accumulating debris.” In her research, Nedergaard determined that during sleep, the brain evaluates the balance of enzymes, hormones, and proteins, and cells contract, which allows fluid to “cleanse” the brain of “toxic detritus.”
It may seem that we’re in a passive state while we sleep, but in reality, Nedergaard noted, “without that nightly wash cycle, dangerous toxins can damage healthy cells and interfere with their ability to communicate with one another. In the short term, that can impede memory formation and the ability to coherently compose our thoughts and regulate our emotions. Over time, the consequences can be more dire. Lack of sleep can lead to faster aging of brain cells, contributing to diseases like Alzheimer’s.”
Why This Sleep Reset Matters to You
Since substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder are brain diseases, sleep is a top priority in order to effectively manage cravings, triggers, stress, anger, and the effects of trauma.
WebMD indicates focusing on proper rest helps regulate mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. It also states that “another thing your brain does while you sleep is process emotions. Your mind needs this time in order to recognize and react the right way. When you cut that short, you tend to have more negative emotional reactions and fewer positive ones. Chronic lack of sleep can also raise the chance of having a mood disorder.”
Now, you know this to be true when you get less sleep than usual and feel cranky the next day. That happens to all of us occasionally. But continued sleeplessness, shortened sleep, or insomnia really takes a toll over time. Biologically, a sleep deficit sets off an alarm in the immune system, increasing inflammation and keeping the “fight or flight” response on high alert.
This means you’re never fully at your best: your mind and body are struggling to remain reactive to any perceived threat. This is why in early recovery and beyond, cravings can appear more intense, triggers more frequent, and your overall emotional stability unbalanced.
Your Shut-Eye Sweet Spot
According to the Sleep Foundation, the average healthy adult needs 7–9 hours of sleep each night, and people over 65 roughly 7–8 hours. Here’s the organization’s checklist for determining your sleep sweet spot, which we provide verbatim:
Deciding how much sleep you need means considering your overall health, daily activities, and typical sleep patterns. Some questions that you help assess your individual sleep needs include:
- Are you productive, healthy, and happy on seven hours of sleep? Or have you noticed that you require more hours of sleep to get into high gear?
- Do you have coexisting health issues? Are you at higher risk for any disease?
- Do you have a high level of daily energy expenditure? Or do you frequently play sports or work in a labor-intensive job?
- Do your daily activities require alertness to do them safely? Or do you drive every day and/or operate heavy machinery? Do you ever feel sleepy when doing these activities?
- Are you experiencing or do you have a history of sleeping problems?
- Do you depend on caffeine to get you through the day?
- When you have an open schedule, do you sleep more than you do on a typical workday?
Answering “yes” to two or more of the above means you’ve been getting by so far with less rest than you probably require, and it’s time for change.
Willingway: Providing Recovery Solutions for 50 Years
We have a number of suggestions to help you prioritize sleep. Check out the following:
- How to Improve Sleep
- Handling Insomnia While in Recovery
- Understanding Ambien Addiction and Treatment
As an inpatient rehabilitation facility, why does Willingway focus on this aspect of your wellness? Because our medical professionals understand how each person can thrive with the right information and tools. We want our guidance to not only help you recover from addiction, but also to enable you to design a healthy life, full of promise and possibility. If you or a loved one needs this kind of assistance, please talk to a member of our admissions staff today.