Sleep quality and addiction recovery have a deeply complex and interwoven relationship. Both using and withdrawing from drugs and alcohol can make getting good sleep harder, and vice versa. So if you’re suffering from a mental illness on top of your addiction, it can be doubly challenging to get the sleep you need to successfully recover from these conditions.
Not getting enough sleep during recovery leaves you vulnerable to relapse and worsens your mental health. Luckily, with the right treatment, it’s possible to recover successfully, avoid relapse, and improve your sleep problems along the way.
How Are Sleep and Addiction Related?
The numbers are alarming: people with substance use disorders are up to 10 times more likely to battle a sleep disorder as well. This clearly demonstrates a connection between sleep quality and addiction, but how does it work?
Sleep and addiction are deeply intertwined issues. In other words, poor sleep quality can contribute to the risk of developing a substance use disorder, but the opposite is also true: People who suffer from drug addiction are more likely to experience poor sleep quality, too. This can lead to a vicious cycle that’s hard—but not impossible—to break.
Sleep Deprivation Increases Vulnerability to Addiction
Research has demonstrated that people with insomnia or other sleep problems are at higher risk for developing a drug or alcohol addiction. It makes sense; one of the first solutions that people reach for when they can’t fall asleep is to use a substance. Whether it’s Ambien, alcohol, or marijuana, many people with insomnia turn to using drugs to help them sleep. They might also need other substances during the day to keep them awake. Both of these, unfortunately, can quickly turn into an addiction.
Being sleep-deprived also has been shown to lead to cognitive impairments, like increased impulsivity, poor judgment, or irritability. This might be another way that lack of sleep can lead to increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse; if you’re sleep-deprived and not thinking clearly, you’re more likely to engage in risky behaviors like drug use.
Dopamine: Friend or Foe?
The science behind how using drugs and alcohol affects your sleep is well-documented in research. A key biological factor that comes into play here is the neurotransmitter dopamine. You’ve probably heard about dopamine as the “happy chemical”; the thing that gets released in your brains while exercising, listening to good music, or doing certain drugs. Dopamine makes individuals feel happy and motivated, which is why many people use drugs in the first place.
The problem lies in the fact that dopamine also is responsible for making people feel more alert and plays a role in regulating sleep. In fact, it’s so effective at doing this that some dopamine-increasing medications are used in treating conditions like narcolepsy. When a person uses powerful dopamine-increasing drugs (like cocaine or meth) recreationally, it’s no surprise that the high levels of dopamine interrupt the sleep-wake cycle. The result is a disruption of the circadian rhythm, which means a lot of tossing and turning at night. And unfortunately, the worse your sleep quality is, the harder it becomes to quit drugs and alcohol.
Sleep Quality and Addiction Recovery: A Proven Link
Since sleep and addiction have such a complex, two-directional relationship, it makes sense that sleep quality and addiction recovery are also interrelated. In fact, sleep is more important than ever when you’re doing the hard work of recovering from drug or alcohol addiction.
Getting good, uninterrupted sleep each night is a crucial factor in successful addiction recovery. Studies have found that people recovering from alcohol addiction are twice as likely to relapse if they aren’t getting sound sleep each night. Many scientists believe that this statistic can be generalized to addiction to other drugs as well, although more research needs to be conducted in this area. It seems clear, though, that sleep disturbance has a large effect on whether or not you’ll be able to successfully recover from addiction.
The familiar two-way relationship comes into play with sleep quality and addiction recovery. The detox or withdrawal period from many substances is known to come with symptoms like insomnia and nightmares. For example, 40 percent of people withdrawing from marijuana have reported that they experience difficulty sleeping, and opioid withdrawal can cause sleep problems as well.
Because the withdrawal period at the beginning of your recovery journey can make it so hard to get good sleep, you’re left, again, with all the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Without the right help, your mental health symptoms could get worse, leaving you more vulnerable to relapse. Poor sleep quality can strengthen cravings, too, and make them harder to resist
One thing is for sure: Getting good at sleep at night is one of the most important things you can do for your recovery. However, the link between sleep quality and addiction recovery means that it’s hard to get good, restful sleep when you quit drugs or alcohol. That’s why it’s so important that you seek help at a professional addiction treatment center where you’ll have the support you need to get through it.
Hope Is Out There: Mental Health and Addiction Treatment
The cyclical relationship between sleep quality and addiction recovery might sound like a nightmare when you first learn about it. But the good news is that the team at Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital is on your side. With evidence-based treatment, you can get through the withdrawal period, recover from both addiction and mental illness, and get your sleep cycle back on track.
Complete Recovery Improves Sleep Problems
Yes, withdrawing from most substances is difficult and comes with a myriad of sleep disturbances that leave you vulnerable to relapse. But we can help you get through the hardest part—and the road ahead will look much brighter.
Once you’ve broken out of the vicious cycle of poor sleep, mental health problems, and addiction, your body will have an easier time regulating sleep. You’ll no longer have substances or withdrawals that keep you awake at night. And getting restful sleep every night will improve your mental health, which will in turn decrease your desire to use drugs and alcohol in the first place.
You just need to get that ball rolling—and we’re in this with you for the long haul.
Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Can Help
When you’re struggling with both mental illness and addiction, it’s important to receive evidence-based treatment from a program that specializes in dual diagnosis conditions. Treating the addiction alone and leaving your mental illness unattended won’t get you out of this vicious cycle; your mental health symptoms are likely to come back, leaving you vulnerable to relapse.
Our dual diagnosis treatment program offers both inpatient and intensive outpatient options for care. Both programs address your drug or alcohol addiction as well as whatever mental illness you are struggling with. Moreover, because our highly trained staff understand the link between sleep quality and addiction recovery, they’ll be able to help you ease back into restful sleep.
We deeply understand how painful it can be for addiction and mental illness to rob you of restful sleep. Our multi-disciplinary treatment team has the specific clinical expertise to treat both issues using evidence-based practices and help you break out of this vicious cycle once and for all.