When life is busy and stress is prevalent, getting good sleep can be difficult. Yet waking up feeling rested and replenished is such a great way to start the day. Good sleep feels great to the mind, body and spirit, while poor sleep or too little sleep can have the opposite effect on our entire being. Sleep, therefore, is imperative in addiction recovery.
The Power of Consistent Sleep
Everyone has a circadian rhythm. This is the 24-hour schedule that your body uses to know when to be awake and when to go to sleep. Within the 24-hour cycle, the hormone melatonin is released in your body when it is almost time to go to sleep, which helps induce sleep. This cycle can be impacted by external factors, for example when it is light outside at night or you have jet lag, or if you work all night and try to sleep during the day.
The problem is that when the circadian rhythm is interrupted, it can also affect your cortisol, testosterone and melatonin levels. Sleep disruption can lower your defenses to cravings, thus making you more susceptible to a relapse. Whereas getting consistent sleep provides you with more strength and alertness to make good decisions.
Why the Body Needs Good Sleep
During the sleep cycle, a lot is happening in your body. In both the brain and the body at the molecular level, your cells are being cleaned, repaired and refreshed. Unfortunately, substance abuse can disrupt sleep, which means that your mind and your body are not getting what they need.
This is not just problematic at the molecular level, as sleep disruption can cause fatigue, irritability and other symptoms which interfere with day-to-day life. More importantly for someone in addiction recovery, sleep disturbances can contribute to a relapse.
How Sleep Affects the Brain
Waking up refreshed from a good night’s sleep is not a coincidence. While your body is sleeping, the brain is working hard. During sleep, the brain:
- Stores new information and memories
- Cleanses toxic waste from the brain
- Reorganizes nerve cells
- Repairs cells
- Releases vital hormones and proteins
On the other hand, if sleep is impaired, these important functions can’t take place, along with the functions of problem-solving, reasoning and the ability to pay attention to details. These are just some of the reasons that sleep is so important in alcohol and drug addiction recovery.
How Sleep Prevents Relapse
Good sleep helps you feel rested and mentally at your best, which further allows you to better face cravings and deal with triggers. But there is more to it than that. During sleep, the brain releases important hormones, including cortisol. This is the hormone related to the fight-or-flight response, which also helps you to deal with stress. When you have plenty of cortisol, you are better able to manage cravings and therefore prevent relapse.
Sleep is problematic for those in recovery, which has been known for a long time. However, with advances in neuroscience, scientists have been able to find out exactly why there is a direct correlation between sleep and relapse prevention.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits that you have surrounding sleep. There are many things that you can do to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep, and the longer that you continue to do them, the more effective they become. Here are some examples:
- Have consistent bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.
- Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature.
- Avoid large amounts of food and especially caffeine before bedtime.
- Avoid long naps, especially naps late in the day.
- Exercise during the day to improve your sleep at night.
- Remove all your devices from your bedroom, including TVs.
- Do not use devices within an hour of bedtime; the light confuses your brain and prevents your brain from releasing melatonin.
While sleep is one of the most difficult parts to regulate within recovery, sleep will come. By implementing good sleep hygiene and being very strict with your routines, eventually, your body will regulate itself. Doing all you can to access good sleep will be an important part of your addiction recovery.
Good sleep helps anyone, but for those in addiction recovery, it has even more importance. Find a way to get good, consistent sleep to help your body’s circadian rhythm. The importance of helping both your body and your brain get good sleep can help you to prevent a relapse. DiscoveryMD is committed to helping you in your drug and alcohol addiction recovery. Our rehab treatment center can help you access the counseling and treatment you need to build your recovery. Our staff understands addiction recovery because we have been there. Our outpatient services help you to receive care even when you have work or family commitments. Contact us today to begin your treatment.