Disturbed sleep patterns are a common issue faced by individuals in early recovery from addiction. The condition is often responsible for high relapse rates among newly sober individuals. For some people, the normal sleep cycle may be interrupted by bad dreams, rapid thought patterns and restlessness leading to lower quality of sleep. Others may experience the desire to sleep at all times. Past studies show that insomnia is an often neglected factor during recovery.
The mind-altering effects of addictive substances can make it challenging to get a proper night’s sleep. These effects last long after an individual has stopped using substances. People in recovery experience sleep disturbances much before the actual rehab process starts. A small, older study shows that people who suffer from substance use disorders have a five to ten times higher likelihood of experiencing sleep disorders than people who do not consume addictive substances. Another research also shows that the prevalence of insomnia during alcohol withdrawal may be as high as 50 percent.
A study by researchers at Penn State University has established a strong connection between proper sleep and successful recovery from opioid addiction. Findings of the study, which appeared in the journal Addictive Behaviors in February 2017, show that adequate sleep and positive emotions are not only important for overall health and well-being, they also reduce the cravings for drugs in early recovery.
Brain takes time to stabilize during withdrawal
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls emotion, movement, and feelings of reward and pleasure in human brain. Regular intake of drugs and alcohol, as well as addiction to such substances, results in a lower level of dopamine production by the brain. Consumption over a period of time ensures an ample supply of dopamine which offsets the shortfall of production by the brain.
During early recovery, the brain takes time to stabilize in order to resume a steady supply of dopamine. The time involved is usually four to six weeks, although it may be higher in severe cases. Till dopamine levels return to normal, individuals may experience symptoms such as increased stress levels and a state of panic. Experiencing stress and low mood during this time may result in prolonged periods of high-intensity stress. Anxiety, depression and an unsettled emotional state during the withdrawal phase are triggers of insomnia.
The problem becomes worse when individuals try to self-medicate by consuming alcohol or drugs to overcome insomnia. Alcohol, which is frequently used as a cure for insomnia, may initially help in getting sleep but it has the effect of disturbing normal sleep cycles. Consuming alcohol before bedtime often results in frequently waking up at night and facing difficulty in falling asleep again. Psychoactive drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) interfere with sleep patterns by inducing restlessness and higher energy levels. Using such substances to cure insomnia may lead to a vicious cycle which is difficult to break and may result in relapse.
Dealing with insomnia during withdrawal
Although insomnia is a common symptom during withdrawal, it can be addressed in several ways so that normal sleep patterns are resumed. Adhering to a regular sleep schedule is one of the key components of battling insomnia. Medicines such as benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics and antihistamines may sometimes be recommended; however, they need to be taken under strict medical supervision and for a shorter duration due to associated side effects and the risk of developing dependence. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help in changing thought processes and bringing about relaxation. Practicing meditation and breathing also help in calming the mind and relaxing body muscles.
It is most important to maintain proper sleep hygiene at all times. This includes avoiding caffeine and nicotine before bedtime, reading or taking a warm water bath before sleeping, and eliminating distractions such as bright light and noise. A proper sleep pattern will also help an individual in his or her recovery process.
If you or a loved one is battling substance use disorders, contact the Rapid Detox Helpline to know about various that provide a soothing environment to foster recovery and promote the transition to a sober lifestyle. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-403-5591 or chat online with our experts to know more about drug detox centers and alcohol detox centers near you.