Addiction and Sleep Problems

Sleep difficulties often go hand-in-hand with drug and alcohol addiction, and unfortunately, the problems often continue even after the completion of an addiction treatment. Adequate sleep is important for the body and the brain to function, and for people who are newly abstinent, a good night’s sleep can be elusive.

Sleep disorders are five to ten times higher for people with substance use disorders than in the general population. Additionally, research indicates that nearly three-quarters of addicts report sleep problems after completion of withdrawal, often lasting a month or more.

The link between sleep disorders and addiction is complex and often overlooked. However, the problem shouldn't be ignored because lack of sleep is a frequent contributor to depression, anxiety and relapse in early recovery. Sleep is critical for healthy functioning. It affects concentration, alertness, energy level and attention.

For people who are dependent on drugs and alcohol, the type and complexity of sleep problems varies considerably depending on the substances. For example, people who use opiates have difficulties falling and staying asleep. Stimulants such as cocaine and meth increase energy and promote wakefulness and let people “crash” into an anxious sleepless state when the drug effect runs out.

Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are sometimes used to treat insomnia, especially when the sleep problem is caused by anxiety. However, “Benzos” are themselves highly addictive, and as tolerance develops, people require more and more of the substance.

Alcohol is a depressant that may help people fall asleep, but it interferes with normal sleep patterns. People who use alcohol as a sleep aid often find themselves wide-awake and unable to continue sleeping in the middle of the night. Alcohol can also make sleep apnea worse.

There is no magical cure for sleep disorders, however a targeted biochemical restoration, based on a complete nutritional and lifestyle assessment is a critical component in effective drug-, alcohol- and insomnia-treatment. Biochemical restoration repairs damaged brain chemistry, including amino acid imbalances and other biochemical deficits, which make people more prone to addiction and insomnia.

Cognitive-behavior therapy, which helps people change problematic feelings, thoughts and behaviors, often helps people in drug or alcohol addiction treatment.

Therapists often teach relaxation techniques that help release negative emotions and calm the body. In some cases, alternative treatments such as biofeedback, meditation or yoga have proven to be measurably helpful.

If you are already in treatment, be sure your treatment professionals are aware of your sleep difficulties and target them in the program.

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