How Addiction May Be Affecting Your Sleep. Guest post written by Vanessa Bermudez



How Addiction May Be Affecting Your Sleep

Sleep is a necessary bodily function that contributes to many restorative processes that are linked to memory, cognition, and mental health. When an individual suffers from addiction, no matter the substance, it can have drastic effects on their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. For substance abusers that are going through detox, this may also result in insomnia, commonly accompanied by odd dreams or persistent sleep interruptions. In an effort to mitigate sleeping issues that an addict may experience during withdrawal, this article outlines how substance dependencies may cause sleep troubles, and how you can naturally encourage more restful sleep patterns.

Depressants vs. Stimulants

Although some people seek the help of depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines when trying to fall asleep at night, these types of substances may actually do more harm than good. Using depressants to induce sleep will ultimately make it more difficult for you to fall asleep on your own, and build-up a tolerance that can leave you at-risk for dependence. Alcohol in particular has negative effects on sleep patterns, as it reduces REM sleep, and increases the chance of night sweats, sleep disturbances, and nightmares.

Stimulants have a different effect on sleep and wakefulness, as they increase alertness and reduce feelings of tiredness. Those that struggle with cocaine and amphetamine addictions, alongside other stimulating drugs, are likely to have issues with insomnia and hypersomnia as a result of their stimulus intake. Long-term use of these substances can decrease REM sleep, likely causing the person to feel less rested the next day, and potentially reducing their overall cognitive functioning. When a person’s brain is too active, it will be rather difficult to fall asleep, which is often the case with addiction in individuals that heavily rely on stimulants.

How to naturally promote sleep

While addiction and detox may drastically alter your sleep cycle, implementing healthy coping methods are the first step to getting a restful night of sleep.

  1. Avoid sleep medications, as your body may become reliant on these nighttime aids in order to fall asleep. If this occurs, it also may prolong your recovery period, and make it more difficult to achieve a healthy sleep habit on your own.
  2. Exercise can also induce a better night’s sleep by reducing overall feelings of stress, anxiety, and arousal, which sometimes may be the root cause sleep disorders like insomnia.
  3. Try new sleep promoting techniques, like aromatherapy or CBD oil, which may aid in relaxation and quality rest. Particularly, the scent of lavender is commonly used as a natural sleep aid to enhance deep sleep.
  4. Reduce intake of common stimulants like caffeine, especially after 2 pm. After this time, the chances of the caffeine throwing off your sleep schedule increase, and may keep you awake at night.
  5. Distance yourself from natural and artificial light (from phones, televisions, computer screens, etc.) at least an hour before attempting to go to sleep. Light affects our biological clocks, which may alter our sleep-wake cycle. When your eyes are exposed to light, your brain perceives that it is not dark yet, which can delay the release of sleep-inducing hormones like melatonin and increase the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep.



Vanessa Bermudez is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She is the co-founder and editor of Modern Girls, a collaborative digital space featured in Girl Gaze Project and Teen Vogue.