In my last blog, we discussed the important role of exercise in addiction recovery. In this edition we are going to look at the importance of sleep.
Sleep is critical to physical and emotional health. Disrupted sleep patterns can initiate and exacerbate underlying mood, cognition, and attention problems. We all know how poorly we feel after a restless night’s sleep. Not feeling refreshed in the morning almost always results in a less than productive day, and generally feeling bad, both emotionally and physically.
Many things can negatively effect a good night’s sleep—stress, caffeine, anxiety, physical pain, jet lag, shift work, a snoring partner, and many others. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine, and its effects on sleep, than others. Drug and alcohol use/abuse can dramatically affect sleep, both from intoxication and withdrawal. Many drugs of abuse, including cocaine, continue to adversely effect restful sleep for many months after becoming clean and sober.
Sleep involves complicated brain functioning, and is integral for successful recovery. Although sleep aides can help in the short term, perhaps a few nights to a week, long-term use can also negatively impact sleep. For this reason, sleeping medications should be used sparingly, and with caution, especially when in recovery. Always consult with your doctor in the appropriate use of these medications.
The quality of one’s sleep is greatly improved when the body is physically tired. Regular exercise is an excellent sleep aid; however, exercise should take place at least 1 to 2 hours before expected sleep time. A relaxing hot shower can feel great, but also often requires a period to cool down (mentally and physically) before sleep can be initiated.
If you’re not tired, don’t go directly to bed sites. Lying in bed, and worrying about not being able to fall asleep, will keep you up. A “busy mind” prevents sleep initiation, especially when trying to get to sleep.
Know your body, and listen to it! Simple sleep hygiene, as discussed above, can make a big difference in how you think, feel, and behave when you are awake, especially when in recovery. Never underestimate the power of a goods night’s rest. It is a keystone of maintaining health and mental sharpness.