Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach
Adequate sleep is essential for our bodies and minds to function properly. Sleep is restorative, meaning it allows the body to repair itself from the depletion of energy and other vital functions that occur while we are awake. Despite rest playing a crucial factor in health and wellness, many people struggle with sleep hygiene.
Good sleep hygiene is essential for those recovering from addiction or other mental health issues because it aids in the healing process. Sleep is often overlooked at the expense of other factors in securing lifelong recovery. As you sleep, your brain is resting while your heart pumps blood, nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, facilitating healing and growth. Sleep boosts the reproduction of brain repair and growth cells, which is essential for your brain to heal from substance use and addiction.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Addiction Recovery
Numerous consequences are associated with sleep disruptions and sleep deprivation, especially in addiction recovery. In general, not getting enough sleep is linked to:
- The development of many chronic conditions, such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- An increase in motor vehicle crashes
- Mistakes in performance
- Unintentional injury and disability
- Sleep disorders
It is important to recognize that the use of substances and addiction can wreak havoc on one’s sleep hygiene. Exposure to certain drugs, such as stimulants, can lead to severe sleep deprivation. Chronic drug use can create severe sleep disturbances and insomnia. Similarly, these effects are also common withdrawal symptoms experienced by those in detox for nearly all types of substance use. As a result, poor sleep hygiene and insufficient sleep often lead to relapse.
Healthy Sleep Habits to Practice as Part of Your Recovery
Although the first several weeks in recovery will likely produce uncomfortable sleep disturbances, there are several sleep habits that you can practice as part of your addiction recovery journey. These habits include:
#1. Altering your sleep environment: Good sleep tends to occur in dark, quiet, cool and comfortable environments. Alter your sleep environment so that there is as little light as possible, removing any clock or cell phone lights that may disturb your sleep throughout the night. Silence all cell phones or other nonessential alerts until the morning. Also, consider keeping your bedroom temperature cool by sleeping with a fan or turning down your thermostat.
#2. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend getting a certain amount of sleep per night, depending on your age group. Adults typically need seven or more hours per night for adequate sleep. As important as it is to dedicate a specific number of hours of sleep per night, it may be even more critical to keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
#3. Creating a bedtime routine: Bedtime routines aren’t only for children; they can also be vital for those in recovery. You may pick a specific time to start your bedtime routine, with your first order of business being transitional time. You may want to complete some last-minute chores or give yourself a cool-down period of relaxation. Engaging in some form of daily reflection or mental health check-in is vital to recovery, such as mindfulness meditation or journaling. Finally, ensure that your sleep environment is comfortable.
#4. Avoiding naps: Short naps (20 to 30 minutes) during the day may improve your energy temporarily but can cause sleep disturbances throughout the night. If you feel an urge to nap, do your best to avoid napping after 4 p.m. To get acclimated to your nighttime routine, try to avoid naps entirely.
#5. Prioritizing a healthy diet: A healthy, balanced diet can go hand-in-hand with good sleep hygiene. Certain foods and drinks can make it easier to fall asleep when needed, while certain sugary foods can keep you awake throughout the night. Consuming a high-fiber diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout the day is great for your recovery and your ability to fall and stay asleep.
#6. Limiting screentime: Using technology before bed can be stimulating to your brain. The blue light from televisions and phones can suppress melatonin levels and delay your ability to fall asleep. If you are trying to achieve good sleep hygiene, limit your screen time before bed. A good rule of thumb is to stop using electronics at least 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep. To help you stick to a schedule, you can incorporate a limit on screentime into your bedtime routine.
DiscoveryMD recognizes sleep as essential for achieving long-term sobriety and recovery. We meet our patients wherever they are on their unique healing journey. To learn more about our programs, contact us today.