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Getting a good night of sleep can be extremely difficult while recovering from addiction because of withdrawal and many other changes that your body is adapting to. In fact, for some in recovery, an inability to sleep can cause so much stress that it actually triggers the person in recovery to fall into relapse. This sleep, however, is crucially important to the recovery process. Learn why, and how you can battle sleeplessness during recovery, below.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep isn’t just important for strong, physical health; it plays a central role in mental, emotional, and psychological health as well. According to a study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, even just one night of sleep loss results in a decreased ability to effectively make decisions. This means that not getting enough sleep could greatly undermine the success of your recovery, as staying on top of sobriety requires a special diligence and careful attention in daily decision making. Moreover, sleep is shown to reduce stress levels. A study performed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychiatry concluded that a week of sleep limited to 4.5 hours per night resulted in increased stress, irritability, and mental exhaustion in those being tested. With stress being one of the most common triggers for relapse, it is the last thing you want to exacerbate with sleep deprivation.

How to Deal with Sleeplessness

There are many things within your control that will help you battle insomnia. First, be sure to create a sleeping environment that is free of distraction, including humming noises and the small lights on electronics that can sometimes interfere with sleeping patterns. Second, keep in mind that insomnia can be a vicious cycle if you’re not careful—continuing to lie in bed while preoccupied with an inability to sleep will only perpetuate the problem. If this describes you at night, try getting up for a few minutes to do something that will take your mind off of what has been keeping it preoccupied, be it eating a small snack or writing out a to-do list. Also be sure to keep tabs on habits that may be interfering with your sleep cycle, such as exercise or caffeine close to bedtime, or a tendency to engage in social media on a mobile device just after lying down for sleep. Just remember: no matter how difficult it may be to sleep, resorting back to old habits is not the answer. Alcohol-induced sleep, for example, does not offer the sustained type of rest that your body needs, and according to the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry, long-term use of alcohol can actually cause something to happen in your brain that interferes with both sleep and perception of sleeping habits.

So while it may be difficult to find restful sleep as you move into addiction recovery, keep in mind that old habits are not going to aid in developing healthy sleep patterns. The best thing you can do instead is focus on getting a good night of restful sleep so that your recovery will stay on the right track. A comprehensive treatment program will aid you in this effort; at A Mission for Michael, clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Licuanan serves as our on-staff sleep specialist to help recovering addicts develop healthy sleep patterns that will promote successful recovery.