Insomnia or irregular sleep is common in early addiction recovery, and unfortunately, lack of proper sleep can be a major trigger that can quickly lead to relapse if left unaddressed.  A study published in the October/November issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that the frequency of insomnia is five times higher in people in recovery than in the general population, and that newly clean and sober addicts who presented with insomnia were much more likely to relapse than others who were sleeping well.  Reasons for recovery insomnia or sleep difficulties vary; for some, their addiction itself helped them sleep while they were using, and for others, stress about staying sober and their drastic, often sudden lifestyle changes when getting sober may be what’s keeping them up at night.  Also, addiction can seriously interrupt an individual’s circadian rhythms, which for a time will also be something that keeps them from sleeping well.

Regardless of the reason, lack of sleep can be detrimental and even dangerous to people in early recovery. When we are overtired, our thinking is clouded and our decision-making skills are not at their best.  Furthermore, lack of sleep can make us moody, or inspire anxiety or poor control over our emotions.  This is a risky area for anyone in recovery, so it’s extremely important to get not only enough sleep each night, but the right kind as well.

Sleep Stages

While you are asleep, your body and mind go through specific stages of sleep.  If you are sleeping in a healthy manner, your body will go through about five 90-120 minute cycles of these stages in an eight-hour period asleep.  If you sleep less than you should, have trouble falling asleep, or have difficulty staying asleep, you may not progress through these cycles in a complete or healthy way.  This can effect the replenishment of your immune system, the production of growth hormone, and the regulation of glucose metabolism, among other things.

The stages are simple and easy to understand.  In stage one, you are not quite yet fully asleep.  Your muscles begin to relax and your breathing begins to slow down.  You can wake up easily in this stage.

The second stage of sleep, often referred to as “beginning of sleep” or “light sleep,” continues the muscle relaxation and slowdown of breaths begun in step one.  Your temperature begins to drop and your heart rate slows.  You can still be easily awakened during this stage, but your body is preparing for deeper sleep.

During the third stage of sleep, generally called deep sleep, your brain waves slow further, your temperature and breathing continues to decrease, and your muscles are fully relaxed.  There is no eye movement, and you are unaware of outside stimuli.  It’s much more difficult to wake up people who are in this stage.  It’s during this period that the body repairs physical aspects of the body such as muscles and tissues, and growth and immune function are stimulated.   You are also building up energy for the next day during stage three.

The fourth stage of sleep is the most exciting, from a dreamer’s standpoint.  It is during this stage that your brain again becomes more active.  Your breathing and heart rate increases.  Your closed eyes begin to dart in all directions as if you were awake and were actually seeing things in front of you.  This is REM sleep.  This type of sleep is important for learning and memory, and this is when your brain processes all the information from the previous day, and inserts it into your long term memory.

All four of these stages are important and it is vital that our body and mind have the opportunity to go through all of them to encourage and support our optimum mental and physical health.   The appropriate and desired length of these stages varies by age.  For example, infants spend almost 50% of their time asleep in REM sleep, but by adulthood that percentage drops to 20%.

How Sleep Helps You Heal

Sleep helps you heal both physically and mentally in so many ways.  From a physical standpoint, much of the work going on inside of you happens during stage three, or deep sleep.  During this period, your brain triggers the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth, helping you recover from injuries.  Also, during deep sleep your body is working to make more white blood cells to attack viruses and bacteria.  Since your heart rate slows while you are sleeping, your heart gets to take a break; and your heart also benefits from the release of stress hormones during this time, which in turn decrease inflammation linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.   And, as an added bonus, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people ate an average of nearly 300 fewer calories per day when they were well rested, so solid sleep is good for your waistline too.

On the mental side of things, sleep has been proven to actually make us smarter.  During REM sleep, your brain is deciding what information to keep, and what information to toss.  By sorting these things out during your nighttime hours, you are more able to think clearly during the day.  And, ample sleep puts you in a better mood, too.  A study in the journal SLEEP demonstrated that people who sleep seven to nine hours a night had fewer symptoms of depression than individuals who slept more or less.  And, sleep boosts your creativity, because a well rested mind is more easily able to uncover unconscious thoughts, thereby improving our decision-making capabilities.

Clearly, getting proper sleep is important, and it is imperative that our bodies cycle through these stages for our health.  So, what do you do if you are having trouble sleeping in early recovery?  Don’t waste any time – seek professional advice immediately.  Speak to your therapist about your issues and ask for suggestions on ways to improve the quality of your sleep.  Also, talk to your medical doctor about your concerns. He or she may suggest you undergo a sleep study; during this diagnostic process, you will sleep at a clinic and using various tools, doctors will analyze your sleep to try to get to the root of the problem.  Since you are in recovery, your doctor may wish to also consult with your therapist for input, and together they can help you develop a plan to get back to sleeping well, and moving forward on your recovery, strong and well rested.

At Clear Sky Recovery, we treat the whole person.  Using ibogaine treatment, we are able to help our clients get to the root of their addiction, transform their experience, and come out on top.  It’s possible that after an ibogaine experience at our facility that you will sleep well, having worked out the problems in your past during your detox.  However, if worry that you will have trouble sleeping after you are discharged, we are happy to help you address this in the aftercare plan you create with the licensed clinical psychologists on our staff.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, we are here to help.  Our intake specialists are standing by to tell you about our clinic in Cancun, Mexico, and to help you learn about the ways in which ibogaine can help you.  Please contact us today.