Many individuals in early recovery experience difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. The emotional and physical toll of withdrawal can lead to a variety of symptoms that impact sleep — Irritability, racing thoughts, shaking, fidgeting, nightmares and headaches can all make getting good rest elusive.
When you’re in recovery from drugs or alcohol, this transition time affects all areas of your life, and sadly, sleep is one of them. While the amount and quality of rest will inevitably fluctuate during this period of early sobriety, don’t fret because it won’t last forever. Soon enough, you’ll have better sleep than you ever had in the throes of addiction.
While your body is readjusting to a life without damaging substances, use these helpful tips to help you get better sobriety sleep.
Get on a Sleep Schedule
Often, lifestyle habits that come along with addiction are harmful to getting healthy sleep. You may have found yourself awake all night and asleep all day to accommodate the social scene that came with drug use. Or maybe cravings for alcohol drove you up out of bed in the early morning hours.
Regardless, getting back to a normal schedule will both help you get the sleep you need and prevent you from slipping back into an old lifestyle pattern and substance use habit. Regulating sleep with a schedule is one of the best ways to prevent this.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, one of the best ways to keep your brain and body healthy is to commit to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (yes, even on weekends). A strict schedule is hard to keep, but it can help you grow in self-discipline, which is an essential character trait to long-term sobriety.
Signal Your Brain it’s Time for Sleep
According to Mayo Clinic, creating an environment that is conducive to sleep is one of the easiest and most effective ways to sleep better in recovery. Try the following ways to set the tone, one at a time, until you find what works best for you:
- Dim the lights;
- Read for 20 minutes;
- Do a guided audio meditation;
- Read affirmations;
- Practice mindfulness exercises;
- Do a word search or crossword puzzle;
- Practice personal hygiene (take a bath, brush your teeth).
These activities and others can help induce a state of calm, and when you use them regularly, your brain will easily be signaled that it’s time to rest. Make sure you’re not including sugar, caffeine or nicotine in your nightly routine, too, since these substances can stimulate the brain.
Put Away Screens
According to the Harvard Medical School, blue light that is emitted from electronics (such as phones, tablets and TVs) can inhibit sleep. Circadian rhythms, or the body’s natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness, is impacted by the light we are exposed to throughout a 24 hour period.
Blue light from screens can trick our brain into thinking it’s daytime and prevent us from falling asleep by suppressing melatonin (the chemical that helps induce sleep). Harvard Health recommends shutting off electronics two to three hours before bed.
Get Daytime Sunlight
While bright lights at night can make falling asleep harder, sunlight during the day can make it easier. While it’s not completely an antidote to nighttime blue light, a combination of daytime exposure and low nighttime exposure to light is helpful.
Light impacts our circadian rhythm and mood, so even artificial light (in the form of light therapy) can be beneficial for our overall health. Aim for at least 10 minutes of outdoor activity every day, since even in small doses sunshine can decrease depression and related issues, according to Issues in Mental Health Nursing.
Consider Sleep Aids
One way to get better sleep in recovery is to use over-the-counter sleep aids. Early recovery is a tough time, and anything you can do to help your chances of sustained sobriety is well worth it.
There are natural supplements like melatonin gummies and valerian root that can be taken before bed to usher in that much-needed rest. Many people swear by chamomile tea, lavender essential oils and similar sleep aids. A noise machine can work wonders if you’re easily distracted by small noises.
If you’ve tried natural sleep aids with no success, speak with your doctor about prescription sleep aids that may be helpful to you. Just be sure to mention you’re in recovery!
Get the Rest You Need for Recovery
While there are many things that are out of your control in the recovery process, sleep isn’t one of them. You can make a huge impact on your success when you aim to get better sleep in sobriety.
A sleep schedule, a nightly routine, reducing screen time, adding daytime sunlight and the help of sleep aids can boost your mood and your health, making recovery more attainable.