In recovery, self-care is a daily point of focus. Eating healthfully, getting to the doctor regularly, and generally taking care of yourself to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, play just as big a part in staying sober as undergoing treatment and staying actively engaged with your support system.
That said, restorative sleep is a significant source of renewal and repair for your body as well as your mind. When you are rested, you are better able to manage stress, manage impulse control, and make clear-headed decisions that make it easier to stay sober.
Are you getting enough sleep that is restorative, allowing your body the time it needs to repair itself each night? Here are 10 signs that you may be missing out on some reparative shuteye and potentially putting your recovery at risk:
- The hunger is real
Studies show that when you do not get enough sleep to power your body throughout the day, you reach for more snacks in an effort to boost your energy levels. Additionally, lower levels of leptin – a hormone that is released when it’s time to stop eating – occur when you do not get enough sleep.
- Irritation levels are high
When you are tired, you are less capable of handling the stressors that come your way or things that you may not otherwise perceive as stressors. This can make it more difficult for you to interact positively with anyone, from your neighbors to your coworkers to your closest friends and family, and it may contribute to difficulties you experience in your personal life.
- Bleary and bloodshot eyes are the norm
Sometimes you can see the signs of missed sleep literally on your face. Puffy eyes, dark bags under your eyes, and bloodshot eyes can all indicate a night of poor sleep or a long time without any sleep at all.
- Colds and infections often knock you down
If you get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, you may be three times as likely to catch a virus, according to research. When you don’t feel good, it can contribute to irritability, erratic eating habits, and other issues associated with lack of sleep that can in turn increase your risk of relapse.
- Your emotions often get the best of you
When you get tired, you may not only be more likely to be irritable or easily angered but you may also be more likely to break down in tears when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This can be a trigger in and of itself, or it can contribute to the development of difficulties at work or at home that can become triggers for relapse.
- Focus and task completion do not come easily
It is not easy to get anything done when you are tired. Even the simplest things can be hard to complete as just about anything can distract you from completing the task. More complicated projects are almost impossible to finish when you are not getting enough sleep, and in some cases, it can even lead to accident or injury due to careless mistakes, depending on the project.
- Impulse control is low
When you do not have enough sleep, you may also struggle with impulse control. This means that you may be more likely to make unhealthy eating choices, say things more harshly than you otherwise might, or pick up a drink or get high before you even realize what you are doing.
- Memory lapses are common
When you don’t get enough sleep, you are more likely to make promises and then forget, put things on your to-do list and not do them, or otherwise have lapses in memory that throw off your day and make it more difficult to have functional relationships. Additionally, a recent study found that when you don’t get enough sleep, you may actually create false memories, complicating the process of living a healthy sober life that much more.
- You frequently fidget
Though it is common for people who do not get enough sleep to also not get enough exercise due to feeling fatigued, it is also common for them to be fidgety. The act of fidgeting itself is not unhealthy – in fact, it may even be good for you – but because it is a sign that your brain is trying to signal your body to wake up, it can also be a sign that you are not getting the sleep you need.
- Cravings for drugs and alcohol are high
When you are not getting enough sleep and you are dealing with higher levels of stress, emotional discomfort, and difficulties in your life, you are more likely to think nostalgically about your days in addiction, glossing over all the hard parts and glorifying your life back then. Cravings can increase significantly as a result, making a lack of sleep a real harm to your ability to stay sober.
Are you struggling with getting enough restorative sleep at night? No need to turn to medications that can be addictive. Rather, you can:
- Get good exercise early in the day to tire yourself out but avoid overstimulation before bedtime.
- Get treatment for underlying issues of trauma and anxiety that may make it harder to fall or stay asleep.
- Create a dark, quiet sleep space where you will be uninterrupted.
- Use white noise, aromatherapy, sleep masks, and other tools to create a calm environment and a sense of relaxation at bedtime.
- Have a nighttime ritual that helps you to get ready for bed (e.g., warm shower, hot herbal tea, restorative yoga, and more).
Are you prioritizing restorative sleep in your life?