Sleep is extremely important for general good health, especially for people who are on the road to recovery from addiction. It is recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, slightly varying from person to person. It is important to get good quality sleep, not broken sleep, which will then mean that you wake up feeling refreshed, not tired. Lack of sleep makes every problem seem much worse by placing people into their most vulnerable state as good sleep lowers stress levels, so lack of sleep heightens stress. Lack of sleep also heightens the risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and increases the risk of turning to coping mechanisms which in the addicted could lead to relapse. This is because when people are sleeping, their bodies are repairing and recovering so lack of sleep prevents this rejuvenation.
Different drugs and stimulants have different effects on sleep and some of these are discussed below.
Alcohol is a depressant and, although alcohol may help people to fall asleep easily, it is not always conducive to a restful night’s sleep as it can cause early waking, restlessness and sweating. Alcoholics also spend less time in REM sleep mode (rapid eye movement – so called as the closed eyes move rapidly). This sleep phase is important as it is when people dream. It is also the phase when thoughts are processed and things that have been learnt throughout the day are stored away into memory. In recovery from alcohol addiction, people can experience insomnia and sleep deprivation.
Cannabis is another substance that people can use to help them to get to sleep. It doesn’t cause early waking like alcohol, but it disrupts the sleep pattern causing people to have less REM sleep. When people try to quit cannabis, they can suffer from insomnia, sleep deprivation, nightmares and vivid dreams.
Cocaine is an energising drug. It keeps people awake and prevents them from falling asleep, causes insomnia and reduced periods of REM sleep. It is common to take sleeping drugs to help get some rest after a night on cocaine or other energising drugs. During the withdrawal period, people can suffer from nightmares, restless behaviour, difficulty sleeping despite tiredness and also hypersomnia (too much sleep).
Opioids such as methadone and oxycodone, which are used mainly for pain relief, give similar problems to cocaine during the withdrawal period. Sleep deprivation is also a big problem for recovering addicts and the quality of good, reparative sleep is extremely reduced.
Unfortunately, sleep problems associated with withdrawal can last for years, raising the chances of relapse to addiction. However, there are many natural things that people can do to aid a good night’s sleep which are detailed below. Try them and make a note of what works best for you.
- Do some form of exercise through the day – yoga, walking, gym
- Take in some fresh air – go for a walk
- Go to bed at roughly the same time each evening and try get up at roughly the same time each morning – create a sleep routine
- Make sure that your room is clean and tidy as this helps to settle your mind
- Make sure that the temperature is pleasant
- Reduce caffeine and stop caffeine after 2:00pm
- Avoid naps throughout the day
- Eat dinner at a reasonable time, not just before bed. Give your food time to digest and make dinner a lighter meal
- Refrain from blue light at least one hour before bed – phone, laptop, computer
- Make sure that your room is dark enough – try using an eye mask
- Keep electronic devices away from you whilst sleeping
- Try breathing exercises before bed – listen to a meditation app, sleep app
- Make sure that your bed is comfortable
- Try not to drink fluids within 1-2 hours of going to bed
- Try to relax before you sleep
- Have a cup of chamomile tea, nighty night tea or warm milk and honey two hours before bed
I take natural supplements to aid a good night’s sleep which I have detailed below. Other methods should be tried first as listed above. Before taking any medications, even natural medications like these, you should always consult your doctor as there may be conflicts with other medications or treatments that you may already take.
Melatonin – Life Extension – 3mg half hour before bed (at difficult times)
5HTP – Jarrows Formula 100gm – I take this with the melatonin for six days, then skip a day and then restart
Valerian Drops – A Vogel or Rescue Night Drops – Bach
I have tried Nytol tablets and they worked well but they are not natural and can react with various other medications.
Hopefully you’ll find something that works for you and this information will help you to get a good night’s sleep.