It is common for those in early recovery to struggle with insomnia or a disturbed sleep pattern. This can lead to tiredness and fatigue during the day; it can also increase the experience of fuzzy thinking that people often complain about when they first become sober. Most people find that once they have been sober for a few weeks they regain the ability to enjoy a full night’s sleep. In fact the return to a normal sleep pattern can be one of the first signs that the individual is settling into the sober life.
The symptoms of sleep problems in early recovery can include:
* Repeatedly waking up during the night
* Waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to return to sleep
* Having dreams that are disturbing
* Struggling to get to sleep at night
* Spending an excessive number of hours sleeping
* Not feeling refreshed after sleep
* Inability to sleep because of racing thoughts
* Feeling tired and drowsy during the day
* Falling asleep during the day
There are a number of reasons for why people experience sleep problems in early recovery including:
* Alcohol and drugs will have been influencing the individual’s sleeping pattern for many years. It can take the body a bit of time to adjust to a normal sleep cycle that is not chemically induced.
* They symptoms of withdrawal can be uncomfortable and these may keep people awake at night.
* Those people who have been abusing sleep medications may find that it takes a bit of time before they are able to once again sleep naturally.
* It is important that people get plenty of exercise during the day.
* People can find sleep difficult if they are too worried about their future. The transition from addiction to sober living is an one to make.
* Those people who are staying in a rehab may be kept awake because of staying in a strange environment and sharing it with other people. They may also find that the expected sleep routine of the rehab does not fit in with their normal pattern.
* Certain symptoms of withdrawal such as restless leg syndrome can interfere with the normal sleep pattern.
Insomnia in early recovery can be dangerous for a number of reasons including:
* It can lead to symptoms of depression
* It causes people to become irritable and moody
* It can make the individual more accident prone
* The individual will not have the energy to do the things they want to do during the day
* If the insomnia continues the individual may begin to have hallucinations
* It can lead to anxiety problems
* The newly sober person may take it as a sign that life in recovery is not satisfying
* It may increase the risk of relapse
There are things that people can do to increase their chances of getting a good sleep at night including:
* Developing a sleeping schedule and sticking to it. This means deciding on an appropriate time to go to bed and to wake up.
* It is not a good idea to spend hours lying awake in bed because the brain begins to associate being in bed with being awake. If people find that they are unable to sleep the best idea is to get out of the bed and do something relaxing like reading a book.
* It is highly recommended that people avoid all caffeinated drinks from the late afternoon onwards.
* People should avoid having a TV or any other type of entertainment in their bedroom. This is to mentally reinforce the idea that going to bed is about going to sleep.
* It is not a good idea to eat a large meal in the couple of hours before going to bed.
* It is best if people avoid day time napping.
* People should try to create a relaxing environment prior to going to bed so that this puts them in the right mood for sleep. This could mean dimming the lights and listening to relaxing music.
* Some people find that drinking hot milk or chamomile tea before going to bed helps them sleep.
* One of the most important tools that people need to develop in early recovery is the ability to manage stress. These stress management strategies will help people sleep better at night.
* Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can help people sleep better at night. Practicing one of these techniques prior to bed may help ensure a more restful night.
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