The Importance of Sleep in Early Recovery
you just hate it when you go to bed after a long day, only to toss and
turn for an hour before you finally fall asleep? Are you one of those
people who keep waking up throughout the night and looking at the clock
to find it’s been an hour or less since you last woke? Have you been
tempted to have a few drinks before bed, because it always helped you
sleep before? You aren’t alone.
Research has shown that a large
number of people suffer insomnia during early sobriety, and that
disrupted sleep can increase the chance of early relapse. This
difficulty sleeping can last for weeks after you take your last drink.
While it is frustrating, not to mention tiring, to spend the night
wishing you could sleep, there are things you can do to help ease you
The first, and most important thing, is DO NOT DRINK.
Not only would you be endangering your future sobriety, but in the
dependent individual, alcohol does not significantly improve the length
or quality of sleep. Insomnia is part of alcohol withdrawal, so
learning to deal with it without drinking is an important step in your
recovery. Here are a few ideas to help you beat your insomnia without
Your Bedroom is for Sleeping – Create a
relaxing environment in your bedroom. Having a TV or computer in your
room sends the subconscious message that the room is for activity, not
rest. The exception, naturally, is intimate activity. Avoid taking
work to bed. If you can’t avoid having a computer in your room, try to
position it so that any lights are not directly across from you and make
it a habit to turn off the monitors or shut it down an hour or more
Avoid Stimulants in the Evening –
Caffeine, cigarettes, and even sweets can rev your system up, making
sleep an elusive creature. Try not to eat too close to bedtime, and
choose relaxing beverages such as caffeine-free herbal teas or warm milk
in place of a last cup of coffee.
Dim the Lights –
Dimming the lights in your house 2-3 hours before bedtime signals your
body to start producing melatonin (see further down for information on
this hormone), which in turn makes you sleepy.
Meditating or doing breathing exercises for fifteen minutes before
bedtime can help calm your mind, reducing the stress you take with you
to bed. If you journal at night, do so before you meditate, and try to
release any negative energy you may have stirred up with your writing. A
major factor in insomnia is the inability to “shut down” our minds.
Taking the time to relax and focus on the present before bed will help
to put your body into sleep mode.
Hide Your Clock – Anyone
who has had trouble sleeping knows what it’s like to wake up repeatedly
to stare at the time. Turn your clock so that you can’t see the
numbers. Watching the clock creates other mental activity which can
keep you awake.
Don’t “Try” to Sleep – Believe it or not,
attempting to will yourself to sleep can actually keep you awake. If
you are guilty of this, try listening to relaxing music or a recorded
meditation while in bed. If you don’t fall asleep within 10-15 minutes,
get back up and go into another room (you want to associate your
bedroom with falling asleep quickly!). Read a book or meditate. The
same with waking in the middle of the night; if you don’t fall right
back to sleep, get up and do something quiet for a few minutes. Do not
eat, smoke or exercise and don’t fall asleep on the couch.
Set Your Alarm
– Wake up at the same time every day, regardless of the amount of sleep
you have had. This helps train your body to recognize a regular
sleep-wake cycle. Don’t nap during the day. Try to go to bed at the
same time as well, though you may be getting up frequently at first.
Again, training your body to get sleepy at a certain time will help you
A Word About Melatonin – Melatonin is a
natural hormone produced by the pineal gland. It is called the “Dracula
of Hormones,” because it will not be produced in bright light,
including bright house lights. Melatonin supplements are available, and
may be used to assist in sleep. There is no hard evidence that
supplements will increase sleep, but it is not harmful.
suggestions should help you overcome your insomnia without relapse. If
you still have trouble sleeping after 4-6 weeks of sobriety, you should
check with your doctor about other treatments. Remember, I am responsible for myself and for my actions. Take control of your sleep and learn to rest easily.