9 Easy Tips for Sleeping Better in Recovery
Getting plenty of restful sleep is one of the best things you can do for yourself in recovery. A night of good sleep can mean the difference between meeting the day with energy and focus and just dragging yourself through. Even a minor sleep deficit can have a significant effect on your physical and mental health, and therefore your recovery.
Sleep deprivation and running a chronic sleep deficit have been shown to cause cognitive impairments such as poor concentration, poor working memory, poor long-term memory, and worse decision-making. In the long run, inadequate sleep can significantly increase your risk of anxiety disorders and major depression. Since these commonly occur along with addiction, it’s crucial to do what you can to get enough sleep.
Unfortunately, insomnia is a common withdrawal symptom and it may persist for weeks or months into recovery, making the process harder. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, these tips might help.
First, See Your Doctor
Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to rule out medical causes for your insomnia. Talk to your doctor about your insomnia and be sure to share your addiction history. Many sleep medications are just benzodiazepines and you should definitely avoid those if you have a history of substance use issues.
Next, See Your Therapist
There are two main reasons to talk to your therapist about your sleep problems. The first is that insomnia is a common symptom of several mental health issues, including major depression and anxiety. It could point to an issue that hasn’t been treated or hasn’t been treated adequately. If such an issue does exist, your sleep should improve as you get it under control.
Second, your therapist can help you sleep better. There is a specific cognitive behavioral therapy protocol for insomnia called CBT-I. It includes many of the tips mentioned here but also entails examining your assumptions about sleep and what you say to yourself while lying in bed awake.
Get on a Regular Sleep Schedule
The best tip for sleeping better is one no one wants to hear: sleep at a regular time, even on the weekends. There are a lot of reasons we hate this advice--we have too much to do, we don’t like being constrained by a regular bedtime, we need to catch up on weekends, and so on. However, your circadian rhythm is complex and it doesn’t know what a weekend is.
If you keep your body guessing about what time you’re going to go to bed, you just won’t be able to fall asleep as fast or sleep as deeply. Start by setting a regular wake-up time and you will find it easier to fall asleep at night.
Turn Your Bed into a Sleep Trigger
You want a clear connection in your mind between getting into bed and falling asleep. That means your bed should only be used for sleep and sex. Don’t watch TV in bed, don’t look at your phone, don’t read or eat or do anything else in bed.
If you lie down to sleep but you don’t fall asleep for 20 minutes, get up and do something low-key until you feel tired. Otherwise, your anxiety starts going up, you think, “Here we go again,” and you start to think of your bed as a sort of torture device, where you lie exhausted but unable to sleep.
Cut out the Naps
Naps can be tempting, especially if you can’t ever seem to get a good night’s sleep but they can also throw off your rhythm. Naps are especially disruptive if you sleep for more than twenty minutes or nap later than 2 p.m. When you’re trying to conquer insomnia, it’s best to cut out naps completely. Think of it as storing up your tiredness for bedtime.
Cut down on caffeine.
For most people, a bit of caffeine is fine and moderate coffee and tea consumption appears to have some health benefits. However, caffeine also has a half-life of between four and six hours. If you drink a cup of coffee at noon, as much as a quarter of that caffeine--plus whatever is leftover from the morning--might still be in your system at midnight, depending on how fast you metabolize caffeine. Even if it doesn’t keep you awake, it can disturb the quality of your sleep. If you can’t sleep, try cutting down on caffeine or setting a strict cutoff time.
Keep Your Room Dark and Quiet
This is an obvious bit of advice that almost everyone ignores. We evolved to sleep in dark, quiet environments but most of us now live in places where it’s hardly ever dark or quiet. There are street lights, traffic, noisy neighbors, 4 a.m. garbage trucks, barking dogs, and so on. Even low levels of light and sound can disturb your sleep even if they don’t completely wake you up. If you can’t keep your room dark and quiet, consider investing in some ear plugs and a sleep mask.
Turn Down the Thermostat.
Just as we evolved to sleep in dark and quiet, we evolved to sleep in slightly cooler temperatures. However, most of us now live in temperature-controlled buildings that are theoretically the same around the clock. One important sleep adaptation is that our body temperature drops. If you can, turn down the thermostat to between 68 and 70 degrees before bed, you should sleep a bit more deeply.
Have a Good Bedtime Routine
Finally, have a good bedtime routine. A regular sequence signals your body that it’s nearly time to sleep. A good routine can also help you wind down and relax before you get into bed. Try not to work or deal with other stressful things up to the time you go to bed.
Keep in mind that watching intense movies or TV shows right before bed can have a similar effect to real-life stress. Instead, do something relaxing. Listen to some music, pray or meditate, or take a warm--but not hot--shower or bath. You’ll sleep better if you lie down while in a good mood.
Getting plenty of sleep is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health, especially if you are recovering from addiction. Unfortunately, insomnia is one of the most common problems people face when dealing with substance use and mental health issues. There are no guarantees that you’ll get a good night’s sleep on any given night, but if you create the right conditions, you can tip the odds in your favor. At The Foundry, we believe that wellness is one of the most important parts of a strong recovery from addiction. That’s why we emphasize overall health, including restful sleep, in our treatment programs. To learn more, call us today at (844) 955-1066.
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