Sleep Awareness Week: The Importance of Sleep in Recovery

March 13th kicks off this year's sleep awareness week. In honor of this time, we thought it would be good to discuss why quality sleep is crucial for recovery. Sleep has several health benefits and is vital to maintaining physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It is also critical to maintaining sobriety long-term. The quality and quantity of your sleep can impact your recovery journey positively or negatively, depending on whether and how you prioritize sleep.

You can practice better sleeping habits by creating an environment conducive to a good night's sleep and following other tips and tricks. Take advantage of National Sleep Awareness Week and begin prioritizing better sleep today.

The Importance of Sleep in Maintaining Well-Being

Sleep is crucial for sobriety but also vital for your overall well-being. The quality and quantity of your sleep directly impact your mental and physical health and ability to function in your everyday life. That is because sleep allows your brain and body to recharge and reset for the next day's tasks. Without it, you will struggle to fulfill your daily work or home responsibilities and may develop harmful coping habits. 

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the average adult requires at least seven hours of sleep each night to function properly. They also indicate the benefits of quality sleep, some of which include: 

  • Improved immunity
  • Illness prevention 
  • Weight loss or weight gain prevention 
  • Reduced stress levels 
  • Increased heart strength 
  • Prevention of severe or chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease 
  • Improved mood and memory
  • Increased productivity 

These are just a few benefits we may blatantly notice. The body reaps a whole other set of benefits while we sleep, such as the ability to repair itself and process and store memories. 

What Is the Difference Between Sleep and Rest?

Sleep is necessary for many reasons. However, rest is also healthy, and though it is related to sleep, it is different. Rest is a necessity for similar but unique reasons to sleep. Can we experience benefits when we rest? 

The most significant difference between sleep and rest is the hormonal changes we experience when we are sleeping. Our bodies go through a lot during the day. Sleep is the most effective way for the body to heal and feel recharged for the next day. 

When we rest, our minds and bodies can still take a break. However, it is not as effective as sleep, and rest does not always lead to unconsciousness. When we rest, it is easy to become distracted by intrusive thoughts, obsessions, or other life stressors. Sleep is the only time the brain can be completely shut off. That makes it the only time we stop thinking about work, relationships, or other stressors and recharge our batteries. 

The inability to sleep and fully rest your mind and body can impact your health and put your recovery at risk. 

Why Sleep Is Vital for Long-Term Sobriety

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is a connection between sleep and substance use disorder (SUD). They claim that individuals with insomnia are at an "increased risk for substance use" because they may turn to benzodiazepines — depressants that produce sedation and induce sleep — prescription drugs or other substances to help with their sleep disturbances. NIDA also tells us that sleep deprivation "downregulates dopamine receptors," making people more vulnerable to substance use. 

Maintaining sobriety takes a lot of energy. You have to combat intrusive thoughts and triggers, attend therapy and support group meetings and have enough energy to take care of yourself and potentially others. Without proper rest, doing all this can feel impossible.

Lack of sleep can increase the risk of relapse, especially in the early stages of recovery. Your mental and physical health may also decline, and the urge to self-medicate can intensify. Unfortunately, many individuals struggle with sleep disorders in addition to SUD. If that is the case for you, further medical intervention to treat your sleep disorder may be necessary. 

What Are Sleep Disorders?

Sleep disorders are "conditions that disturb your normal sleep patterns." Some common sleep disorders include: 

  • Insomnia, or the inability to fall and stay asleep 
  • Sleep apnea, which affects the ability to breathe and stops breathing for at least 10 seconds while sleeping 
  • Hypersomnia, characterized by the inability to stay awake during the day 
  • Circadian rhythm disorders cause issues with your sleep-wake cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the proper times. 
  • Parasomnia is described as unusual behaviors while falling asleep, sleeping, or waking up, such as walking, talking, or eating. 

Discuss any concerns with your doctor if you feel you may be struggling with a sleep disorder, especially if it threatens your recovery. 

Aside from sleep disorders, there are things you can do to prioritize your sleep today. That includes: 

  • Developing good sleeping habits
  • Maintaining a daily routine and ensuring you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning
  • Exercise frequently, as physical activity during the day may help you fall asleep faster at night
  • Create a space conducive to sleep, including comfortable bedding, room-darkening curtains, and maybe even a sound machine
  • Remove electronic devices from your sleeping space, as some research indicates they can disrupt sleeping patterns

Visit NorthStar Transitions today for more information or further support in your recovery journey. 

Maintaining addiction recovery has many moving parts, from taking care of your body to attending support group meetings and prioritizing your emotional well-being. Another integral part of maintaining sobriety is getting enough quality sleep. Sleep is vital to our overall well-being. Without it, our mental and physical health can start to deplete significantly. Similarly, lack of sleep can put your sobriety at risk. Without the ability to recharge, your mind and body lose energy, making it challenging to do everything you need to do to maintain sobriety long-term. You can prioritize sleep and sustain your recovery by following the tips above and, more importantly, discussing your corners with a medical professional. For more, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400

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