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How Withdrawal Changes Your Sleep Patterns

Sleep is one of the most vital aspects of recovery. During sleep, your body ramps up its natural healing processes and refreshes your mind. After a good night’s sleep, you have replenished physical and mental strength to get you through difficult time—and the recovery process is, certainly, a difficult time. Unfortunately, getting sleep is often very challenging during the withdrawal process.

How Withdrawal Affects Your Sleep

Sleep and addiction are inexorably linked. One study found that addicted individuals are five to ten times more likely to suffer from sleep disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, sleep problems occur most often with prescription opioids, cocaine and alcohol (although nicotine, marijuana and prescription stimulants can also cause sleeping issues).

However, problematic sleeping patterns do not stop when drug abuse or addiction stops. Long-term substance abuse has been found to alter the brain’s neural pathways, which changes sleep patterns and makes sleep erratic. For example, opioid addiction causes your body to stop making dopamine (which helps you be more resistant and resilient to stress) because the drug provides the dopamine high—that’s one of the neurochemical changes that mark physical dependence. During withdrawal, your body does not have naturally produced or an injected dose dopamine, causing symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Aches and pains
  • Stomach upset

These symptoms contribute to sleep problems. However, the change in neurochemistry you’re going through in the early stages of recovery can also lead to insomnia and other sleep disturbances, including:

  • Sleep cycle disturbances
  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • Sleep apnea

Your body will begin to produce normal dopamine levels, but that could take more than a month, and the resulting sleep disorders can persist for six months or longer.

Why Sleep Matters to Recovery

To put it succinctly, sleep, especially early in your recovery process, increases your chance of avoiding relapse.

In a study of cocaine-addicted rats, the animals that were able to sleep more exhibited fewer cravings for cocaine. Conversely, less sleep increased cravings for cocaine. The researchers believe that the same association exists for humans and encourage those going through withdrawal to see seek help from a sleep-based therapist or sleep medicine expert.

Sleep also gives your body time to heal, and years of substance abuse have likely taken their toll on multiple organs and tissues. Adequate sleep also enhances mood regulation, which helps you minimize mood swings and/or giving in to negative emotions and thought patterns.

What You Can Do

As difficult as it may be, practicing good sleep habits can aid you on your road to recovery and help you establish a healthier lifestyle. Good sleep habits include:

  • Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking at the same time every morning
  • Turning off the TV and other devices at least an hour before bed
  • Stretching or moving through a gentle, sleep-inducing yoga practice before you get into bed
  • Meditating before bed
  • Drinking a calming, caffeine-free tea or warm milk with honey
  • Breathing deeply or listening to a sleep story created to help you sink into sleep

You can also call Duke City Recovery Toolbox to start your recovery journey. We are here as your resource and your support in your recovery efforts. We provide a safe environment and personalized recovery program to increase your chances for success. Contact us to schedule an intake appointment or walk in anytime between 6:00 and 8:00 am Monday through Thursday.