Why Sleep is Crucial for the Success of Sober Living

Sleep is essential for our overall health, but sleep plays an even more essential role when the brain and body are under stress and in a state of transition. Learn how sleep can support your recovery journey and how to ensure you get quality sleep throughout the various stages of the recovery process.

April 25, 2023

The Importance of Sleep in Recovery

It is said that a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for any ailment.

Sound sleep is essential for maintaining physical, emotional, and mental well-being. However, it is particularly important in preventing relapse for someone recovering from substance abuse. Someone in that condition may experience a range of negative consequences that undermine sobriety without enough restful sleep. They include increased cravings, decreased cognitive function, and heightened emotional instability.

In this article, we explore why sleep is so critical to the success of sober living and examine how sleep and sobriety are deeply interconnected. We will also offer practical tips and strategies to help those in recovery get the restful sleep they need to support lasting sobriety and overall health and wellness.

Dangers of Not Getting Enough Sleep

According to some estimates, between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. On the higher side, that’s almost a fifth of the entire US population. In other words, a huge chunk of Americans is at risk from adverse short and long-term effects of inadequate or poor-quality sleep.

Here are some common dangers associated with sub-optimal sleep:

Short term consequences :

• Impaired Cognitive Function  

Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think clearly, concentrate, and make decisions - reducing productivity and performance during your work day.

• Mood Changes

Sleep-deprived people are often irritable and suffer from mood disorders like depression or anxiety.

• Fatigue and Daytime Sleepiness

Not getting enough sleep at night can make you feel tired and groggy during the day, affecting your concentration and alertness during work or other activities like driving.

• Impaired Motor Function

A lack of sleep can affect your coordination, balance, and reaction time, making you clumsier and more prone to accidents and injuries.

Long-term consequences :

• Weakened Immune System

Sleep plays a vital role in strengthening the immune system. Consistent lack of sleep can, therefore, leave you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

• Weight Gain

Sleep deprivation can disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite, causing an increase in hunger and a preference for high-calorie foods that eventually lead to obesity.

• Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases

Sleep is time for the body to rest and recover. Not having enough of it can make you more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.

• Decreased Sex Drive

Sleep deprivation can reduce libido and cause erectile dysfunction in men, leading to insecurities and relationship problems.

Overall, sleep deprivation has far-reaching consequences on our optimal health and well-being. Having enough quality sleep is, therefore, fundamental in a holistic approach to treating addiction.

How are Sleep and Addiction Related?

The connections between sleep and addiction are established tenets of medical science, both conditions being known to significantly impact each other.

Substance abuse can disrupt sleep patterns, causing individuals to experience insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep disturbances. For instance, marijuana withdrawal has been shown to cause sleep deprivation in 40% of recovering individuals. This can cause a vicious cycle, where individuals turn to substances to help them sleep and end up worsening their sleeplessness over time. Conversely, not getting enough sleep increases the chances of someone relapsing into addiction.

Our bodies produce more stress hormones when we don’t get enough quality sleep. That can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression and further increase the risk of a relapse. As we’ve discussed earlier, a lack of sleep also impairs cognitive function, making it harder for people to be lucid, make decisions, and regulate emotions. These conditions can lead to increased cravings for drugs or alcohol and a higher relapse tendency.

A 2020 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behavior. That can make it more difficult to resist the temptation to abuse substances, which can be particularly consequential for individuals in addiction recovery.

Given these complex and interrelated connections, it is clear that addressing sleep issues is a vital component of addiction treatment and recovery. Overall, the dangers of not getting enough sleep cannot be understated, especially for those in addiction recovery who already face significant challenges in maintaining sobriety.

Sleep’s Role in Addiction Recovery

Over the decades, there have been multiple studies indicating the critical role sleep plays in addiction treatment and recovery.

One evidence-based study from 2021 found that sleep difficulties and a lack of established daily routines increased the risk of drug use relapses. It concluded that insomnia and sleep health programs should be standard practices in helping patients suffering from substance use disorders.

Another study revealed that complaints about sleep duration and quality were commonplace among people recovering from substance use disorders (SUDs). It found that problems related to sleep could persist for weeks or months in the recovery period and are linked to relapses in drug or alcohol use.

These findings highlight the critical role sleep plays in addiction treatment and reinforce the importance of addressing sleep issues as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. The fact that quality sleep is also linked to the body’s ability to repair and restore itself is particularly important for individuals who may have damaged their health through substance abuse. Prioritizing sleep and developing healthy sleeping habits can help individuals in addiction treatment improve their chances of successful recovery and long-term sobriety.

How to Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep?

Getting enough sleep is a basic precondition to general health and well-being, but more so for someone recovering from addiction and SUDs. Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to maintain optimal health and well-being.

Here are some tips to help you create an environment conducive to good sleep and aid your journey to lasting sobriety.

• Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This helps regulate your body's circadian rhythm, making it easier over time to fall asleep and wake up.

• Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment

Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Use comfortable bedding and invest in a good mattress and pillows so your environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep.

• Limit Caffeine

Caffeine can disrupt sleep, so it’s advisable to avoid it after 12 pm.

• Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity can help you release negative energies and improve sleep quality and duration. Just make sure to avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it can be overly stimulating and prevent you from falling asleep easily.

• Practice Relaxation Techniques

Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can calm you down and prepare you for sleep.

Get the Right Help to Deal with Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you need a holistic recovery program that takes all relevant factors into account, including sleep.

Studio 64 prioritizes sleep, nutrition, and exercise as essential components of addiction treatment. We understand that long-term sobriety and wellness can only be achieved by addressing the root causes of addiction. Our response is a whole-body approach to recovery that is designed to get sufferers back on their feet and resume meaningful and productive lives.

Reach out today to learn how we can help you on your recovery journey.

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