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Addiction & Sleep Disorders

Last Updated on

Addiction & Sleep Disorders

Learning to Sleep Clean
Learning to Sleep Clean

Studies are piling up on the importance of sleep, and how lack of good sleep can affect weight, depression and yes, even addiction. Research shows that people with substance use disorders are 5 to 10 times more likely than the general population to have sleep disorders. What’s worse is that poor sleep is a cause of relapse.

Sleep problems are a risk factor for other psychiatric disorders, too. When people think of dual diagnosis, they usually think of substance abuse and a mental health disorder like depression or bipolar. Sleep disorders don’t make the list, but they are linked to both substance abuse and problems like depression. Lack of good sleep can contribute to numerous health problems, like weight gain and chronic inflammation, which can lead to heart disease.

Sleep problems also fall into that chicken-egg conundrum with addiction: Which caused which? It probably goes both ways. People with insomnia tried to improve sleep with alcohol, benzodiazepines or sleeping pills, and they eventually became part of the addiction. Many people think alcohol helps sleep. It may make you sleepy, but gives you poor quality sleep, so you wake feeling tired. Or, people abusing drugs or alcohol disrupted enough of their natural sleep rhythms and developed sleep disorders, which they tried to self-medicate with more drugs. That disruption makes sleep problems common (but treatable) during withdrawal.

Experts say that sleep problems can last for months after a person achieves sobriety. The persistence of these problems is a cause of relapse.

If you experience sleep problems at any time in or out of rehab, tell your doctor. There are many ways to treat sleep problems and not all of them are habit-forming. Both behavioral methods and non-addictive medications can help sleep problems. You may even have obstructive sleep apnea, where your breathing is disordered and disrupts sleep without you realizing it.  Part of rehab is returning order to your life—with people, work and your body, and that means waking and sleeping.

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