A lack of quality sleep can wreak havoc on nearly every aspect of life. Poor sleep can have serious consequences, including an increased risk of depression, impaired breathing, and heart disease. Daytime sleepiness is associated with memory deficits, impaired social and work function, and even car crashes.
Substance Abuse and Sleep
Drugs and alcohol disrupt the sequence and duration of sleep, plus the total time required to fall asleep.
The healthy, average adult sleeps 7.5 to 8 hours every night. Drugs and alcohol disrupt the sequence and duration of sleep, plus the total time required to fall asleep. For people in recovery, however, quality sleep can be elusive. It is considered normal for newly sober people to suffer from serious bouts of insomnia, especially during the withdrawal stage. Symptoms like muscle cramps and restless leg syndrome make it nearly impossible to drift off to sleep.
Why Does Poor Sleep Lead to Relapse?
New research has been conducted to identify the role sleep plays in relapse. For a group of 18 people in early recovery from alcoholism, each reported feeling as if it took hours to fall asleep. In reality, researchers found that it did not take them an extended amount of time to drift off to sleep. However, their brains were “awake” for the majority of the night. On average, the participants who were less accurate about how they were sleeping were more likely to relapse and return to drinking.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. A lack of sleep makes people feel tired, irritable, unmotivated, mentally unclear, and cranky. None of these emotions gel with the grounded and introspective recovery planning that is needed to establish and maintain long-term sobriety.
When newly sober people are tired and easily irritated, it can be hard to deal with life. Willpower to abstain from drugs and alcohol can be weakened. In one single moment of thoughtlessness, it is easy to react and fall back into old habits without thinking.
On a subconscious level, experts tend to believe that sleep influences the reward systems in the brain, which have been linked to drug cravings and drug seeking behaviors. Though the true purpose of sleep remains a mystery, researchers have linked a newly found neurotransmitter – orexin – with changes in the reward centers of the brain.
Experts tend to believe that sleep influences the reward systems in the brain, which have been linked to drug cravings and drug seeking behaviors.
Sleep will Come
Quality sleep is clearly needed to recover from addiction. Unfortunately, it can be next to impossible to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep during early recovery. Remember that these sleep disturbances will lessen with time and continued sobriety. The more time that passes, the easier it will become to sleep and stay sober.
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