four ways to get better sleep
I want to welcome guest author, Sarah Cummings, of Sleep Advisor. When it comes to recovering from addiction, sleep is an important component of the recovery process. It can take time for sleep cycles to return to normal. Early on, falling asleep and staying asleep can be difficult. There are some excellent tips in this article that can help. Please comment below if you have any thoughts on the subject of getting a better night’s sleep.

Everything feels easier after a good night’s sleep. We all instinctively know this to be true.

Backing up our instincts is a mountain of medical science. Research has proven conclusively that there isn’t a single known physical process or mental condition that isn’t improved by quality sleep, or suffers by a lack of it. Sleep really is the best medicine.

Recovery from any substance use disorder is a long hard road beset by many obstacles.

But as Lao Tzu’s famously said, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Improving sleep can be one of the most important first steps any recovering addict can make. Unfortunately, as is the way with many things in the world, while sleep might be exactly the medicine required to kick start addiction recovery, when you’re coming off a chemical dependency, sleep is often one of the things that suffers the most. What a cruel irony! In fact, the Journal of Addiction Medicine reports that individuals going through recovery are a whopping five times more likely to be inflicted by insomnia than members of the general public. Yikes!

Fortunately, there are a few ways recovering addicts can improve their odds of a better night’s sleep.

Read on below for four of the most effective.

Routine

It seems that when it comes to getting a good night’s rest, bedtimes are not just for kids. Regularity is one of the single most effective things we can all so for your sleep. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, day in and day out, will do wonders for your slumber. It’s vitally important to firstly give the yourself a minimum eight hour ‘sleep opportunity’ each and every night. That means calculating the latest time you need to be awake in the morning and then winding your clock back eight hours. Voilà, that’s your new bedtime – stick to it! The human body and brain adores routine, it helps to improve the function of huge range of bodily process, from sleep to digestion. After a few days of sticking to a routine you will find your body knows when bedtime is approaching and begins to prepare well in advance. Sticking to a regular sleep-wake cycle, even at weekends will have a huge impact not just on how quickly you fall asleep, but also on the quality of your slumber. For more on healthy pre-bed routines, check out sleepadvisor.org for up to date and evidence-based advice.

Get outside and exercise

Nothing is better for improving sleep than exercise. Individuals who engage in any form of regular daily activity sleep better than those that don’t. It’s as simple as that. This can be anything from a jog around the block to a relaxed yoga session in your bedroom. The important thing is to get moving. When we exercise the body releases endorphins that improve our mood. It also reduces the levels of the cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’ in our system. Meaning we feel brighter and more relaxed and thus more able to sleep. Getting outside to exercise has the added benefit of exposing our body to daylight and helping to calibrate our circadian rhythms. Something very important for regulating our feelings of drowsiness and alertness. Humans also have a profound connection to nature, countless studies have found that simply observed beautiful scenes and watching wildlife can have a huge impact on our mood. So why not go for a jog, or even just a walk, in the park. Your sleep will thank you.

Try CBT

Bedrooms are supposed to sanctuaries of peace and tranquility. But it’s not unusual for individuals in recovery to actively fear sleep. Why? Well, because when the lights are out and the house is quiet, there’s no escape from the swirling thoughts, guilt and worries. It’s at night when the chattering voices of doubt are the loudest. There are a number of ways to try and calm this troubled mind. One is simple to only go to bed when you are actually tired, as we discussed above engaging in regular exercise will help that. But sometimes no matter how exhausted you are the avalanche of thoughts will keep you awake. When that happens it often helps to get a little help. CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a psychotherapy technique that involves a therapist sitting down with a patient to talk through and help them identify and recognize recurring negative feelings and patterns of behaviour. Once identified CBT then looks for ways to mitigate these thought patterns. For some individuals in recovery suffering from sleeping disorders, CBT has provided a huge amount of relief.

Meditate

Therapy of course doesn’t work for everyone, another possible way to calm the chattering ‘monkey mind’ is to meditate. The process of sitting down each and every day and focussing on your own thoughts for as little as 10 minutes can have a profound impact on many individuals. Over time meditation has been proven to actually rewire the brain. Through a process known as neuroplasticity, meditation is able to help individuals break out of negative thought patterns. Daily meditation helps trigger what’s known as the body’s relaxation response, a deep deep physiological shift in the body that’s the opposite of the stress response. Well, there you have it – four ways to try and improve the odds of a good night’s rest whilst in recovery. It’s going to be tough but even just recognizing and acknowledging the need to prioritize sleep will have a profound impact. The rewards of better sleep truly are enormous. Good luck!

by Sarah Cummings