The Surprising Link Between Sleep and Addiction Recovery

Learn how hitting the snooze button a few times could actually help your recovery.

As addiction research grows, sleep studies are gaining more traction. The modern holistic recovery center thrives on scientific evidence, and the surprising benefits of sleep may become relevant in future addiction recovery approaches. While holistic drug rehab itself is an ever-changing environment, some things—such as sleep—are powerful constants which can empower drug addiction recovery.

 The Dynamics of Sleep

Because sleep research has gradually established itself as a prominent field, recent studies have focused on its dynamics in life’s many aspects. Among these, of course, is substance use, abuse, and addiction. Insomnia and depression, too, have a unique link—and it’s a link which may further promote unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Insomnia’s Surprising Impact

Generally regarded as a main depression symptom, insomnia may actually cause depression. In fact, the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford and the United Kingdom suggests as much. As per their studies, sleep disruption may be a core cause of the following:

  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Hallucinatory experiences
  • Anxiety

The study, which examined 3,755 students, served to improve sleep quality by understanding the effects of quality sleep on depression, anxiety, and paranoia. While one group underwent intensive cognitive behavioral therapy, the other group did not. Those who received cognitive behavioral therapy sleep support had drastically lower levels of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and paranoia.

Additionally, the individuals reported higher levels of psychological well-being, home functioning, and daytime work functioning. Several side benefits also include reduced nightmares and improved cognitive functioning.


 Diving Deeper into Insomnia

While direct cause-and-effect relationships are difficult to identify, many experts believe that insomnia can contribute to a number of psychological problems. Holistic drug rehab providers understand this connection, assisting patients with healthy sleep hygiene habits which reduce sleep loss—and improve overall psychological well-being.

Before we discuss the advancements in holistic drug rehab, however, let’s talk more about insomnia’s direct impact on mental health. Other studies suggest that a good night’s sleep is a vital component of mental health. A study conducted by the University of Washington researched the impacts of fatigue in administrative reasoning—as well as emotional management. Unsurprisingly, the study did find a positive correlation between sleep loss and emotional dysregulation. This type of evidence is acknowledged by the modern holistic recovery center, and it’s being utilized to further the advancement of holistic drug treatment as a whole.

 Let’s Examine the Science Behind Sleep Deprivation 

The brain has two regions which are responsible for emotional regulation: the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. When a person is sleep deprived, their prefrontal cortex becomes less active. A lack of sleep also reduces the prefrontal cortex’s ability to interact with the amygdala. When the relationship between these two brain areas becomes strained, emotional dysregulation occurs even more.

In essence: Fatigue makes it difficult to regulate emotions. It also, sadly, makes it difficult to get good sleep. This paradoxical effect isn’t as confusing as it sounds, however. Emotional dysregulation can cause a number of psychological effects, and each reduces sleep quality:

  • Irritability
  • Impulsivity
  • Irrationality

When a lack of sleep causes negative emotions, a bad sleep cycle may persist. Sleep deprivation, reportedly, can also cause long-term impacts on mood variability. It also causes one to be more emotionally reactive—reducing one’s mental “barrier” to life’s daily struggles. This is why insomnia often coexists with the following negative mood traits:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Grumpiness

A holistic recovery center which values sleep quality, more often than not, can pinpoint such personality quirks which are “powered” by sleep deprivation. Mood variability can be difficult to manage, of course. Still: many experts believe that sleep quality is not only a cure for bad moods but a cause of them. Today’s holistic drug treatment centers, for this reason, often outfit their holistic drug treatment strategies with plenty of rest.

One particularly telling emotion-related sleep test utilized MRI brain scans to view amygdala activity. Reportedly, the brain area is 60 percent more reactive to emotional stimuli in sleep-deprived participants. Some holistic drug treatment centers, today, use similar research cases as a foundation for long-term recovery approaches. Seemingly, a brain without sleep reverts to more primitive types of reactivity. It may produce inappropriate, or even radical, emotional reactions. It may also limit the individual’s ability to place events into broader contexts.

A full night’s rest, meanwhile, causes the amygdala to coordinate with the prefrontal cortex with higher degrees of efficiency. As a result, the individual will have a better grasp on their “emotional brakes” and “emotional gas pedal.”

Loss and Mental IllnessLinking Sleep Loss and Mental Illness

Holistic drug treatment centers acknowledge how sleep loss impacts short-term and long-term mental efficiency alike. To understand sleep’s role in addiction recovery, however, we must understand how a lack of sleep contributes to the long-term mental illnesses which increase addictive tendencies.

Sleep loss and mental illness, reportedly, exist on a two-way street of interaction. The flow of traffic may be stronger in one direction, depending on the disorder. This isn’t to suggest every psychiatric condition is worsened by a lack of sleep. Rather, it suggests that sleep disruption has likely been a neglected factor in mental illness recovery—and addiction recovery—for many, many years.

While healthy sleep’s potential has yet to be fully realized, lack of it can cause a person’s mood to decline. It can also reduce their “moral systems,” or mental facilities which help them make healthy positive life choices. Holistic drug treatment centers, normally encouraging of such behaviors, have started adopting healthy sleep exercises and regimens to jump-start the recovery process.

Every day, we face temptations. Typically, we’re able to exert self-control to resist them. If we’re sleep deprived, however, our minds may become less likely to maintain this resistance. Depression, anxiety and a weakened emotional constitution, in a sense, feed impulsivity.

Embracing Sleep as a Recovery Tool

Holistic drug rehab takes a comprehensive approach to recovery. As part of holistic treatment programs, sleep can serve as an underlying foundation upon which a person can thrive. Sleep can be used positively—and it often is, if a holistic rehab center has an inpatient program.

For it to be used positively, however, the patients attending a holistic rehab center must first understand how their REM cycle works. Then, they must understand how a lack of REM sleep contributes to addictive tendencies. Finally, they must learn to take advantage of REM sleep—maximizing their chances of recovery from the ground up.

 The Impact of REM Sleep on Mental Health and Addiction

REM sleep—or rapid eye movement sleep—is the sleeping period during which a person dreams. During REM sleep, a few physical changes occur in the body, including:

  • An increase in body temperature
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • An increase in heart rate
  • An increase in breathing rate

While scientists still don’t understand the inner workings of REM sleep, they’ve discovered that sleep disruption—which increases stress hormones and imbalances neurotransmitter activity—can cause a person’s mental health to decline. In fact, Harvard Medical School asserts that losing REM sleep can cause a person to suffer from impaired thinking. Over 70 types of sleep disorders exist, and REM sleep is impacted in most of them.

Where addiction and addictive tendencies are considered, REM sleep is—once more—a vital component. Missing too much REM sleep can increase one’s chance of developing depression—and depression increases the chances of addiction.

Studies conducted by Harvard and holistic treatment programs, alike, also suggest that a lack of REM sleep can contribute to bipolar disorder. Studies examining various populations report that between 70 and 99 percent of patients suffering from insomnia may enter a manic bipolar episode—if they’re predisposed.

Other mental illnesses are aggravated by a lack of REM sleep, too. As per the same research, sleeping issues affect between 25 and 50 percent of children with ADHD. Another study found that roughly 40 percent of ADHD children, between ages 15 and 17, began drinking alcohol sooner than their non-ADHD counterparts.

Sleep Therapy During Treatment

Healthy sleeping habits are achievable without sleep therapy. This said engaging sleep therapy practices in a holistic rehab center can absolutely help someone recover quicker. While some holistic treatment programs offer inpatient sleep hygiene support, sleep therapy and sleep-related cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, others may simply help patients understand how important REM sleep is. Both approaches are effective in increasing one’s chances of recovery.

The Journal of Addiction Medicine covers another important aspect of sleep hygiene as part of an inpatient program: insomnia during recovery. Several of their studies suggest that individuals in recovery are five times more likely to experience insomnia than their addiction-free counterparts.

For some, sleep disturbances may be infrequent. This said, even minor sleep disruption—over time—can severely hinder one’s recovery. Recovering alcoholics, for example, have a higher chance of relapse if their underlying sleep issues aren’t handled. Those addicted to alcohol also typically have sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea, when trying to get sober.

Sleep Hygiene Practices During Recovery

Whether you’re visiting an inpatient recovery center or are part of an outpatient program, a few healthy sleep practices can boost your overall chances of recovery. Let’s cover some of the sleep hygiene fundamentals, discussing the direct benefits of them soon after.

Take Short Naps

If you love taking naps, you still can. You should, however, keep them short. Some enjoy taking daytime naps, but they often sleep too long—which hurts their natural sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that naps under 30 minutes are ideal for restoration. Naps within this timeframe also won’t hinder your overall sleep schedule. By keeping your naps short, sweet and to the point, you’ll benefit from the following:

  • Improved mood
  • Improved alertness
  • Improved physical wellbeing

Each of these benefits, alone, are incredibly beneficial to addiction recovery.

Eat the Right Foods

Next, you should take care of your diet. Even if you’re involved with an inpatient addiction recovery center, you can still have a sleep-healthy diet. Don’t eat spicy, rich or heavy meals if possible. Similarly, try to avoid foods packed with fat and carbs. Carbonated drinks, citrus, and sugar can hinder your sleep cycle if they’re consumed before bedtime, too, so be wary of those late-night snacks.

Get Your Sunlight

Get outside more to soak up some vitamin D. Sunlight exposure not only makes your skin more radiant—it helps your body regulate its sleep-wake cycle. By getting enough sunlight, your body will produce more than enough vitamin D. Over time, sufficient vitamin D levels are conducive to a healthy body and mind.

Secure a Pleasant Sleep Environment

It can be difficult to make sure your sleeping area is cozy enough for rest. Still, the extra effort taken to secure a pleasant environment goes a long way. Make sure your area’s outside noises aren’t intruding on your slumber time, and use high-quality pillows and bedding to make sure you won’t wake up in the middle of the night. Don’t hesitate to buy blackout curtains, either, as they’ll keep the sun’s rays out of your face—keeping your body how it should be: asleep.

The journey to full recovery takes a lot of effort, but you’ll have a much easier time if you’re getting enough sleep. Surprisingly, having a healthy sleep schedule is one of the healthiest things you can do during recovery. Contact Elevate Addiction Services to find out more details about sleep hygiene, and ask us about our specific programs. We’re with you, every step of the way.

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