Sleep is a natural state and must occur daily. It is as natural and essential as eating. It is a response to fatigue. While you sleep, the body tissue, brain, blood and skin cells are renewed. Infections are fought. The immune system — white blood cells — are strengthened. No one can live without sleep. Most people sleep an average of seven and a half hours per day. You may require more or less. How much sleep you need depends on your genetics and your health. While recovering from illness and addiction, you may require more sleep.
Too little sleep causes a lack of concentration, poor judgment, and a decrease in your decision making skills. You can become increasingly irritable, have memory loss, depression, and experience stress. Research also shows that too much sleep can cause similar effects as too little sleep. They include irritability, lack of concentration, and poor judgement (Lavery, 1997).
When you were taking drugs, you ended up losing sleep and the negative effects of both sleep loss and drug taking were compounded. Now, it’s time to reverse those effects. What you need is balance, not too little and not too much sleep. Depending on the type and degree of your addiction, your patterns of waking and sleeping may have been severely disrupted. You may be more susceptible to illness. You may feel exhausted in your mind and body. Your will power and self control may be weak. Lack of sleep may have negatively impacted your daily patterns such as work, eating, exercise, and interacting with others. Your recovery is jeopardized until you develop a healthy sleep pattern.
During recovery the common sleep problems are: increased time to fall asleep, frequent waking up, difficulty getting to sleep, poor overall sleep quality, and sleep deprivation or not enough sleep (Gordis, 1998).
For everyone, certain things make it harder to get quality sleep such as (Lavery, 1997):
• Lack of daily physical exercise.
• Lack of mental activity.
• Lack of motivation and fulfillment in your life.
• Anxiety and depression.
• Using alcohol or drugs.
• Noise, temperature changes and light exposure.
Here are a few simple ways to begin to improve your sleep (Lavery, 1997):
1. Establish a regular time to get to sleep and to get up. Regularity is very important to getting your body back in synch with its rhythm. Get up and go to bed early. Going to bed or getting up late interferes with your body’s natural rhythm and you won’t be able to get enough sleep.
2. Eat a balanced diet. Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eat lightly or not at all before bedtime and avoid alcohol and drugs.
3. Be physically active during the day. Quality exercise and quality sleep go hand in hand.
4. Make the area where you sleep restful. Ensure it is quiet, able to be kept dark when you are sleeping, well aired, and at a comfortable temperature. Keep your room neat and clean
with a comfortable bed and clean bedding.
5. Create relaxing bedtime rituals. Listen to calming music, take a warm bath or meditate.
Sleep patterns can be disrupted during immediate recovery for some people and may last up to two years. If you have sleep problems, use the above suggestions, get additional tips on the internet, read some books on sleep, and be persistent in keeping to your sleep routines.