Importance of Sleep for Recovery
On March 14, 2021 most of the US will reset their clocks for Daylight Savings Time. Changing the clock often means changing your sleep, too. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Habits that can help you get a good night’s sleep include a regular meal schedule, pleasant social interactions, having a relaxing evening routine, and—going to sleep and waking up at the same time.
As the seasons change, many of our habits and routines also change, including sleep. As the days lengthen in the spring and early summer, you may have more energy later in the day and may be able to get by on less sleep. This can be a natural result of changes in natural light and daily activity.
Sleep issues spill over into other areas of our lives such as physical wellness (it’s easier to work out and exercise if we are not tired), emotional wellness (it’s often easier to deal with difficult emotions if we are well rested), and occupational wellness (it’s easier to focus on work school or to fulfill other roles if we have slept well).
Sleep and Substances
Insomnia is prevalent and persistent in early recovery from substance use disorders and may predict relapse[i].Alcohol affects sleep patterns and interferes with the REM sleep[ii] you need for memory storage. Marijuana also decreases REM sleep and can cause extended sleep disruption8 for up to a week after use. Cigarette smoking[iii] can decrease restorative sleep and increase your risk for sleep apnea. Focusing on sleep is very important for early and long-term recovery.
Poor sleep habits have been related to obesity,[iv] pain disorders, headaches, mood disorders,[v] addiction relapse,[vi]and difficulty managing PTSD.[vii] Mental health conditions also can cause sleep disturbances, which may result in a downward spiral of worsening symptoms and greater sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness increases risks for accidents while driving and during other activities.
Getting a good night’s sleep does wonders for the body and the mind and is essential for early and long-term recovery! The body needs adequate sleep to function at its best. “Sleep hygiene” is what you do to ensure a good night’s sleep—not medical treatments, but how you prepare for sleep, your sleep environment, and activities during the day that promote good sleep.
Sleep habits and routines
Structuring a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same or similar times every day (even on weekends) is a very important to create and sustain.
Preparing for sleep
A relaxing bedtime routine can help you get to sleep more easily. You may find that listening to soothing music before bed or an evening meditation may help in your routine, or there may be other activities that you do to relax. Many people use sounds to fall asleep. Sound generators that create soothing sounds of waterfalls or breezes can make it easier to relax and fall asleep and are now available on many smart phone apps.
Creating a sleep-friendly environment[vii] is a great way to get a restful sleep and improve the quality of your sleep.
Light regulated our biological clock, which influences an individual’s alertness and sleepiness throughout the day. Exposure to bright lights during evening hours and at nighttime stimulates the brain to stay awake, while less exposure makes it easier to fall asleep. A bedroom or sleeping area should be kept dimly lit at bedtime and dark while sleeping. Curtains, blinds, and eye masks can also block out morning light, and can prevent a person from waking up too early.
Temperature affects sleep. Many scientists believe that a slightly cool temperature is best for sleeping. While there is no ideal temperature for sleep, the temperatures that are generally conducive for sleep are between 54 and 75 degrees. Hot sleeping environments make it more likely that a person will experience lighter sleep cycles and several awakenings during the night, which you probably already know, if you have ever tried to sleep on a hot and sticky summer night with no air conditioning! Your type of bedding, as well as what you wear for sleeping, may affect your body’s temperature.
[i] Kaplan, Katherine A. PhD; McQuaid, John PhD; Primich, Charles MSN; Rosenlicht, Nicholas MD An Evidence-Based Review of Insomnia Treatment in Early Recovery, Journal of Addiction Medicine: November/December 2014 – Volume 8 – Issue 6 – p 389-394 doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000052
[ii] See infographics at https://adcaps.wsu.edu/substance-use-sleep/
[iii] See Zhang et al. (2006). Cigarette smoking and nocturnal sleep architecture. American Journal of Epidemiology, 164(6), 529-537. AND Krishnan et al. (2014). Where there is smoke…there is sleep apnea. Chest, 146(6), 1673-1680.
[iv] St-Onge, M.-P. (2017). Sleep-obesity relation: Underlying mechanisms and consequences for treatment. Obesity Reviews, 18(Suppl. 1), 34-39.
[v] O’Keefe, K. (2016). Sleep loss linked to mood disorders. Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, 22(8), 33.
[vi] Lydon-Staley et al. (2017). Daily sleep quality affects drug craving, partially through indirect associations with positive affect, in patients in treatment for nonmedical use of prescription drugs. Addictive Behaviors, 65, 275-282.
[vii] van Liempt, S. (2012). Sleep disturbances and PTSD: A perpetual cycle? European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 3, 19142.
[vii] National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/