Throughout your recovery, you will glean tools that will help you to feel better physically, deal with cravings, and keep your mood balanced – all things that will assist you in staying clean and sober. Some of these tools are complex and/or may have varying rates of efficacy depending on your personal situation, but there is one thing that everyone can do no matter who they are and what their goals for recovery: sleep.
Getting a good night’s is an easy way to give your recovery a boost. It’s free, it’s easy, and you can start right now. Here’s how.
Restorative sleep – not too much and not too little – gives your body the time it needs every night to repair and prepare for the next day. A solid night’s sleep can translate into tangible benefits, including:
- More efficient metabolism of food and fewer cravings (e.g., You eat less because you aren’t trying to boost your energy with calories.)
- Improved immune system, allowing you to ward off colds and infection more easily
- Better overall health (e.g., lesser risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more)
- Lesser chronic or acute pain
- Decreased risk of injury due to accident
- Improved mood
- Increased cognitive function and memory
When you feel better physically and mentally, and are better able to manage chronic health problems, limit accidents, and think more clearly, you will be more equipped to manage the normal ups and downs in life, and more likely to choose healthy coping mechanisms and avoid relapse.
Make It Happen
Of course, you cannot just will yourself to fall asleep or stay asleep if that is difficult for you. But you can make a number of little changes to how, where, and when you get your sleep that can make a huge difference in your ability to enjoy the benefits of restorative rest. You can:
- Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Once you determine how much sleep you need each night for optimum functioning, help your brain and body to naturally begin to shut down for sleep and then wake up in the morning by choosing a sleep routine you can maintain every day.
- Create a sleep space that is conducive to uninterrupted sleep. This means having a bed that is comfortable, enough blankets, a dark environment, and white noise if you like. This should all be in a space that is private so you will not be disturbed.
- Avoid activities before bed that will make it harder to fall asleep. Exercise, nicotine use, caffeine, use of electronic screens, and big meals can all keep your brain awake and active for hours, so it is best to avoid these activities in the hours before bed.
- Do not drink or use drugs to help you fall asleep. This goes without saying in recovery, but it is a good reminder that a lack of sleep is not a justification for use of any substance, including addictive sleep medications that are prescribed by a doctor.
- Work out every day. It may be that your body just isn’t tired at bedtime, and that may be due in part to level of energy you expend throughout the day. Getting regular workouts can help you to feel more prepared to sleep at bedtime. In addition, regular exercise can help to boost your mood and manage anxiety and stress as well, which can also help you sleep better at night.
- Wind down before bed. Do some yoga. Take a hot bath. Read a book. Meditate. Do things you enjoy that help you to feel calm, relaxed, and ready to go to bed.
- Get treatment for co-occurring mental health and physical disorders. For many, mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety can make it difficult to go to sleep at night. It is important to continually engage with treatment for these issues to manage the underlying trauma and anxiety that may contribute to insomnia in order to get the full benefits of the other lifestyle changes listed above. Similarly, if you are struggling with a disease or injury that is causing you pain and making it difficult to sleep at night, actively work toward recovery on that front as well.
Will Sleep Positively Impact Your Recovery?
Do you have days where you are so exhausted that you tend to snap at people more quickly, make mistakes, and/or have accidents the next day? All of these things only add to your stress levels and contribute to the development of new, ongoing issues that will further increase your stress and decrease your ability to stay focused on your recovery.
There are few things in addiction treatment that apply to everyone across the board without exception, but learning how to get good sleep every night on a regular basis is one of them. If you are having a hard time managing your mood, staying focused at work or in treatment, or otherwise managing stress in your life, one of the first things you can do to make a positive impact on your recovery is to start getting a good night’s sleep every night.
What are some of the things you will do tonight to start getting the sleep you need for a healthy recovery?