No alcohol, no sleep. This is a common issue for people who are newly sober and one of the most common withdrawal symptoms for alcoholics. Other symptoms of alcohol addiction recovery can play a part in reduced sleep. The sweating, cold chills, and aches can all wreak havoc on getting a peaceful night’s sleep.

It’s important to improve sleep in recovery because as it’s needed more than ever. Lack of sleep can dramatically impact one’s mood in a negative way. It’s harder to focus and think properly when the mind is fuzzy from a bad night’s sleep. The last thing a recovering alcoholic needs is to suffer from insomnia.

The good news is there are ways to improve sleep in recovery. There are prescription medications but also holistic ways that help you to sleep better. We have 14 ways that have been proven to help people sleep without alcohol for recovering addicts.

Recovering Alcoholics and Insomnia

The majority of people that drink often will likely experience problems with sleeping. More than three drinks cause the average person to fall asleep sooner than they normally would. The problem lies when you stop drinking. Sleep in recovery can be fleeting for a while after abstaining from alcohol.

SAMHSA found that 72% of those with an alcohol use disorder had problems with sleep. They have found that no alcohol and sleep have a connection. Common things that a recovering alcoholic will experience include waking up more often throughout the night. Their quality of sleep is worse than it was before. They have less of deep sleep and wake up earlier than they normally would. 

A study by Colrain IM, Turlington S, Baker FC. Impact of alcoholism on sleep architecture and EEG power spectra in men and women found that sleep issues can last months after drinking has stopped. Recovering alcoholics are often going to have a problem getting to sleep. It’s also been noted that a lot of recovering alcoholics had previously had problems with sleeping before they became dependent on alcohol. 

Sleep after rehab can be disrupted for quite a long time even after the other withdrawal symptoms go away. Generally, the symptom of not being able to sleep is between the 2-6 month period of abstinence.

Understanding Sleeping Drunk and Sleeping Sober

When you go to sleep sober, you go through different sleep cycles. They take place at different times throughout the night. You’ll have stages of deep sleep where the body is actually recuperating itself. This is really important when you are going through addiction recovery. You go through REM sleep too. During this phase of sleep, your brain consolidates and remembers information from the day.

When you go to bed drunk, you may fall asleep faster but it interferes with your body’s sleep cycle. When you go to bed drunk, you don’t get the REM sleep you need. Going to bed drunk can cause physical and psychological problems that can keep you in the addiction loop.

Why Sleep in Recovery is Really Important

David Hodgins, professor of psychology at the University of Calgary said, 

“Sleep has a reputation among the recovering community of being one of the last things that fall back into place for an individual and it’s also recognized as a potential precipitant of relapse. For those in the 12-step program, they describe factors that put you at risk of relapse as HALT. This stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.”

If recovering addicts are feeling any of these things, they’re more likely to relapse. Not getting the sleep you need is going to make you feel tired and probably angry. That’s why it’s important to put in the effort to improve sleep in recovery. While it may be challenging, there are ways you can help yourself get on top of sleeping issues. 

Ways to Help Improve Sleep in Recovery

There are useful tools you’ll be taught so you can get to sleep in recovery. You can use these tools when you get home as well. Some of the tips are things you’ll be doing in recovery while others are actions you can take when you go home. 

It’s important to create a space for sleeping that you want to go to. Your bedroom can and should be your sanctuary. A few simple things like making your bed and decluttering in the bedroom can make all the difference in you wanting to go to bed at night. When you reduce physical clutter, you also reduce mental clutter.

Be intentional about your sleep routine. It does take time to settle down enough that you can be content at bedtime. If you find that watching TV until late hasn’t worked, you might want to try other things. Take a bath, read a book, or drink some tea while stargazing. Try to do things that relax you and make you feel at peace. 

The more you meditate, the more you’ll find you can negate all the mental chatter. Part of the reason you can’t sleep is that you can’t shut off your mind. When you train yourself to be mindful, you can stop falling into the chatter and create peace inside of yourself. Meditation not only clears you of all the thoughts that can cause negative effects, but it can also allow you to tap into the divine part of yourself. That powerful part of you that was able to stop drinking in the first place. 

Before going to bed, do a few things that are special for you. This is going to get the mind to see a connection with pleasant things and bedtime. Right now, you may have a fear of going to bed because it’s meant sleepless nights in the past. This is going to cause you to feel stress, which in turn makes it harder to sleep. So make bedtime something really wonderful for yourself. This will alleviate stress and give you time to spoil yourself.

By creating a time you go to bed and wake up, your body will get used to the process. As time goes on, your body will be accustomed to going to bed at the time you have set.

You want to make sure you don’t take naps throughout the day. When you nap, you’re not getting into the full resting state that sleep gives you. Napping will make it much more challenging to get a good night’s sleep.

Don’t ingest anything that could give you energy in the evening. This could be anything from sugar to caffeinated drinks like coffee, soft drinks, or tea. You should also avoid nicotine. A study published in Psychology, Health & Medicine found that most smokers lose a minute of sleep for every cigarette they smoke. 

You’ll likely begin this process in a rehab program. How it works is you’ll tense your muscles and then relax them. This helps to release any stress in the body so you can properly rest. This is something you may want to make part of your bedtime routine. 

Biofeedback, which is something you will take part in during your time in rehab, is helpful for those having sleep issues. You begin to become aware of how your body responds to stress, which allows you to control those stress factors. 

Through therapy, you can experience an improvement in your emotional state. Often, the reason you started drinking in the first place is to numb something painful in your life. When you stop drinking, you’re not only dealing with withdrawal symptoms but also the underlying reasons for why you started drinking in the first place. One of the things that makes an addiction recovery program so effective are the services they provide, which includes CBT. Through CBT, a therapist will help you address your dysfunctional behaviors. As you work through these issues, your mind will be more at peace. 

Raising your endorphin levels through exercise is going to help you recover from addiction. Many of the symptoms you suffer from will be reduced and even alleviated. You get rid of stress and tire the body out. This is going to make it easier to fall asleep at night.

This type of therapy entails that you sleep for just a few hours, limiting your sleep intentionally. You can gradually increase your sleep slowly until you’re able to get the amount of sleep you want. They may do this during a program to help you get sleep in recovery.

There are a variety of medications that can help you sleep. Benzodiazepines, in particular, are often administered. The problem is they are quite addictive. If you’re in recovery, this can put you at risk of a new addition to your medication. A healthcare provider would have to decide that the medication is more beneficial than it is a risk. If you were to go this route, you would want to ensure that you’re in close contact with your physician to avoid becoming dependent on the medication. 

It’s important to get outside and expose yourself to natural light. There have been many studies that discuss how different types of light affect your mind. One of the tell tale signs you’re not getting outside enough and spending too much time on the computer is lack of sleep. Get yourself outside and take in that natural, bright light. On the flipside, reduce the amount of time you’re on electronic devices. This helps you get a better sleep at night. 

Getting Help for Sleep in Recovery

These suggestions for helping you get the sleep you need may help some addicts. However, they may not work for everyone. Getting sleep as you’re recovering from addiction is essential, helping you more than you know. If you can’t sleep for long periods of time, you may experience negative side effects. These side effects could lead you right back to drinking. 

This is why it’s important for some to get professional help for their addiction. Not only are you receiving support and tools for sobriety, but you also get help with things like managing insomnia. They can address your sleeping problem and help you find the best method to get you back on track. As you recover, many things could come up that you’ve otherwise been repressing. As you deal with your past and the emotions involved, you free your mind for better sleep. 

At Women’s Recovery, we can help you on your journey to a no alcohol and sleep enhanced life. We use the methods above in our intensive outpatient program setting. The various therapies we use will help you find more peace in your life. This can help with sleep as well as other methods we recommend. Women’s Recovery in Denver and in Dillon, Colorado can help. Our programs allow you to meet your responsibilities while you get the help and support you need. Call us today for any questions you have. We welcome you to leave a comment below.