The Importance of Sleep In Recovery

Sleep. It’s the one thing we do for hours every day, hopefully without interruption. The Centers for Disease Control states that adults need approximately seven to eight hours of sleep each day. This amount varies from person to person, but it is impossible to skip sleep or function on a lack of sleep for very long.

When people periodically miss vital hours of sleep they are more prone to accidents, forgetfulness, and even overeating. Long-term, chronic sleep problems, lack of sleep, and sleep quality deficiencies have been linked to chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, obesity, and depression.

Sleep becomes even more important during periods of healing or change, and sleep is a vital part of recovery from drugs, alcohol, or behavior addictions.

Addiction and Sleep Difficulty

Addiction creates a myriad of symptoms, and those symptoms manifest in different ways depending on the individual and the substance that is used. Assuming that the individual had little or no troubles sleeping before using substances, it is completely reasonable to anticipate some changes in sleep patterns based on substance use. Consider the following:

  • Depressant drugs like opioid painkillers, marijuana, and alcohol may cause excess sleepiness.
  • Stimulant drugs like cocaine or amphetamines may cause difficulty sleeping.
  • It is possible to become dependent on substances in order to fall or stay asleep.
  • Most drugs impact the quality of sleep a person experiences, even if that person sleeps a full eight hours or more.

Substance use can and will alter brain and body physiology. The human body strives to maintain balance and equilibrium at all times. Addiction and substance use are complicated disorders that occur for a variety of reasons. Most people do not intend to create lasting sleep problems with substance use, but it is yet another unfortunate side effect of addiction. Over time, sleep issues will impact mental and physical health, which may lead to a cycle of substance use in order to feel awake or fall asleep.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders recognizes substance/medication related sleep disorder as a clinical diagnosis. This occurs when a person becomes dependent on substances in order to sleep, or when a person experiences disordered sleeping because of substance use. This diagnosis commonly occurs with other diagnoses, such as depression or substance use disorder.

Mental Health and Sleep

The CDC estimates that up to 50-70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. These disorders lead to gradual sleep deprivation and can trigger or worsen mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.

The human brain requires sleep in order to perform routine maintenance on itself. During sleep, excess proteins are swept away, the body repairs muscles, breathing becomes regulated, and muscles have an

opportunity to rest and repair. Unfortunately, people who already struggle with mental health disorders are more likely to experience problems sleeping. Harvard University states that sleep problems may even increase a person’s chances of developing mental illness, and it may activate or worsen existing mental illnesses.

People who already experience psychiatric disorders are more likely to struggle with falling or staying asleep. In fact, researchers are beginning to understand that sleep problems and mental illness have been tied together for much longer than anyone suspected. Consider the following facts from Harvard University:

  • Proper sleep helps improve treatment outcomes for depressed patients.
  • Depressed individuals who do not sleep properly are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who are able to sleep.
  • A lack of proper sleep may trigger mania in patients with bipolar disorder. Furthermore, insomnia may signal or trigger the onset of a manic episode.
  • More than 50% of adults who experience generalized anxiety disorder also struggle with sleeping properly. Furthermore, those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic disorder, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to experience troubled sleep cycles and further anxiety.
  • Children and adults who suffer from attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder are less likely to have a good night’s rest, thereby increasing frustration and making it even more difficult to remain productive.

The Importance of Sleep During Recovery

Sleep is incredibly important during addiction recovery because the brain literally cleans itself during sleep. Sleep is an important time for the brain to relax. During sleep, our brains sweep away excess proteins, and gently work to cleanse away toxins.

Addiction robs us of our ability to live a productive, happy life. Yet, people don’t begin using substances in order to make themselves miserable. Drug and alcohol use usually begin when a person attempts to numb uncomfortable feelings, or cope with life stressors. Sometimes addiction begins when a person constantly struggles with sleep problems.

It’s easy to see how proper rest can help the body during the drug or alcohol detoxification process. Sleep allows the body to heal itself and recover from excess toxins. Reputable integrated treatment centers often help facilitate the healing process by helping patients return to a natural, healthier sleep cycle. By understanding that addiction is an illness, it becomes clear that proper sleep should be part of the healing process.

Article written by Foundations Recovery Network.