woman experiencing insomnia

How to Deal with Insomnia in Sobriety

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

“Sleep is the cousin of death”, or so Nas said. It is accurate that too much sleep can be unhealthy for the body and mind, but then again, so is not getting enough of it. Spending our time with Mr. Sandman is like everything else in life, a balance has to be maintained for maximum efficiency.  Our mind and bodies require it to continue at a rational state day in and day out.

Next, we stop a moment and introduce sobriety into the mix. The whole topic of rational thought processes and hours spent pipe dreaming has just taken a whole new twist. It’s one thing when you have a sleep deprived person while they’re in active addiction- they’re thoughts are already deranged and in a different reality. Then we initiate the lack of sleep and recovery equation. We’re talking about experiencing insomnia in sobriety.  This is a whole other ball game.

Go On…

Being sleepless can be fun to an extent, but for only so long. I was notorious for staying up all night, getting a few hours of sleep, and then starting over and repeating the next day. It’s one thing to be a feverish night owl like myself, but when you have the actual sleeping disorder- it can be a bit tougher to lay your head on a pillow and conch out for the evening. We all know that skipping out on a decent slumber will put us in a hazy almost weakened state the following day. Our minds don’t process things at an up to par speed, and physically we are heavier to the ground. Just like the precious smart phone glued to our hands, we too must recharge.

We go through the twelve steps and get away from the chemicals so as to better our lives. The idea we try to implement is to start being better people and turn over a new leaf. Once we get the narcotics and booze out of the picture, our minds begin clearing up slowly. We detoxify all the garbage out of our minds and we start seeing life in a new veracity. Yes, the psychosis and delusional state start to fade away. Health starts becoming a priority, so a balanced diet and regular nap schedule are brought into the mix- or so is the ideal blueprint. Often, we eat junk because it’s quick and easy during the bustling of our everyday madness. Okay well, one thing at a time I suppose. The deficiency in ZZZ’s is a lot more important to focus on.

It starts to boil down essentially to the fact that having less sleep will cause us to be more prone to making bad decisions. Our minds start working at half capacity toward outside stimuli, that and our body is out of sync. This is not ideal, so we look for what can be done to help said problem. Insomnia in sobriety obviously limits the idea of taking different sleeping pills. There are a few that are acceptable in the realms of recovery, but even those skate on the thin line of highly debatable. My take would be that taking sleeping pills is more suitable during earlier recovery. Once an adequate amount of time begins to establish itself, there should be other methods used over pharmaceuticals.

man trying to sleep and count sheep

As testified earlier, my biological clock is just wired unfortunately for me, to be mostly alive and alert in the late hours of the dark night. So for years, I had dealt with this issue I happen to be preaching about. Staying in a consistent state of being loopy eventually wore me down to having to try and do something about my state of mind I was experiencing as a result.  I’ll start with one of my favorite methods picked up, this was exercise. I started lifting weights and doing some sort of cardio every day to expend a large amount of energy. The difference it made was incredible. Every day when the sun would go down, I would still have this obnoxious state of energy but it was definitely subsidized a good bit. Crawling into bed at night time began to seem like much more of a luxury. Picking things up and just setting them back down isn’t for everyone, which is understandable, but some sort of heart beat invoking activity is just plain good for you anyway. Releasing that energy will do wonders.

Another commonly overlooked thing is what we’re putting into our bodies. I’m not necessarily referring back to the healthy diet commentary either. I’m talking about the vices that most of us cling to for dear life in sobriety- coffee and cigarettes. Caffeine and nicotine each play a gargantuan role in our overall health and sleeping patterns. They affect blood flow and are both mood altering substances. As the night progresses, it is wise to slow the consumption of both these things for they will decrease the chances of your eyes staying shut.

One more additional technique I work on frequently to battle insomnia in sobriety is deep breathing and the meditative response that comes with it. Taking the time to put the world on pause and almost mentally counting sheep with your breath doing all the work. The deep rooted and consistent inhales and exhales help to unwind the brain waves running rampantly through our thick sleepless skulls. This increases blood flow in certain areas of the brain and allows everything to center. As more oxygen is delivered one full breath at a time. Drawing in a deep gasp of air and counting with it as you release it slowly out your lungs. This breath work will relax you while being synonymous with finding your soul.

Insomnia Getting the Best of You?

Sleep is not for the weak, it’s required for us to think sensibly. More cases than not, we end up on social media staying up way past our bed times. Day after day of this can wear even the strongest down. If you or a loved one happens to be struggling with staying sober through sleep deprivation, causing your choices to come back and haunt you- call us at 844-489-0836 or visit www.firststepsrecovery.com. We would love to speak with you about your sobriety infused sleeping options.

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