Many individuals in early recovery experience difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. They describe weeks of tossing and turning, as well as racing thoughts that prevent them from being able to fall asleep.
If you think about it, having trouble sleeping in early recovery makes sense. Whether an individual used substances for weeks, months, or years, their brain adjusted to having these chemicals in their body and now must go through the slow process of adjusting back to being free of drugs and alcohol.
Here are some helpful tips that may help you get a better rest during your first few months of sobriety.
Get on a Sleep Schedule
One reason people in early recovery struggle to sleep well is because they are used to staying up all night and sleeping all day as part of their active addiction. It’s important that you start to regulate your sleep with a sleep schedule that you can adhere to in recovery. Determine a reasonable time to go to sleep each night and stay up until that time. This means no napping – it will throw your sleep schedule off! Make sure to set an alarm for a reasonable time to wake up in the morning. When your alarm goes off, get out of bed even if you’re still tired. You may be tired throughout the day but try not to nap. In a few days, your sleep schedule should be regulated.
Signal Your Brain it’s Time for Sleep
Getting into a bedtime routine can help to signal your brain that it’s time for sleep. Aside from brushing your teeth and getting into your pajamas, try and work in something relaxing. Some ideas include taking a hot shower or bath or reading a chapter in a book. Make sure to avoid electronics and TV as they can stimulate your brain, not relax it.
Consider Sleep Aids
Natural, over-the-counter sleep aids can be used in early recovery to help you get a better night’s sleep. Supplements like melatonin and valerian root can be taken before bed to help you fall asleep. Other ideas include drinking chamomile tea or using lavender lotion, since both have calming properties. Invest in a quality noise machine to help distract your brain and experience deeper sleep. 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!
Things to Avoid
As mentioned, make sure to avoid electronics and exciting TV shows before bed. This means turning your cell phone off or on silent as well. Electronics can stimulate the brain, making it hard to fall asleep. Similarly, cut off caffeine and nicotine at least an hour before bed since both substances are stimulants. Sugar is another item to scratch out as it can have similar effects too.
Creating your perfect nighttime routine can help the early stages of recovery fly by. If you get stuck try asking around at your 12-step group for suggestions. Perhaps something another person in recovery does could work for you too! Remember that the journey is worth the end result and if you need a partner Rehab After Work is here to help. View our programs here, or contact us to discuss treatment options.
Article Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC