Everybody gets tired to varying extents. Being tired can take a significant toll on your body, mind and spirit. It can also often contribute to feelings of depression. We all need to relax as well as make sure we are getting the right amount of sleep, especially in recovery. We have all heard the expression “you will never die from lack of sleep. Well truth be said, lack of sleep may not be fatal, but insomnia, for the person in recovery, can lead to relapse which can be fatal or at minimum lead to a negative outcome which could have been prevented.
Insomnia is all too common among so many of us today. It is a double edged sword for both the person in active addiction as well as the person in early recovery.
It is a specific problem for those in an addiction whose sleep is constantly being disrupted by the brain altering effects of the chemicals being ingested. Our sleep habits are governed by what are called circadian rhythms. These are cyclical patterns in the brain that regulate our neurological activity during the nighttime hours allowing us to sleep. Drugs and alcohol impact every natural process in our bodies including these circadian rhythms.
Though sleep is one of the first things to come back into place in early recovery as the brain repairs, typically within 60 to 90 days, this time can be especially difficult. Similarly, in early recovery, it is not uncommon to still be disconnected from our feelings. Oftentimes we may feel uncomfortable but may not recognize the origin of that feeling. We may ignore tiredness at times or be so disconnected from our feelings that we misinterpret fatigue for fear or irritability or sadness or a multitude of other emotions. The first important step is to not ignore or even to recognize that we are tired.
During these first 3 months as a person moves to a restoration of more positive sleep functioning it is very easy to look to the use of sedatives and hypnotics to “fix” the insomnia. Knowledge, patience through mindfulness and awareness, and life skills play an important role in riding the wave through this period of insomnia and conquering this trigger.
So, let’s take some time to review some of the facts we have identified above about why being tired REALLY does effect recovery.
- During active addiction your body’s natural sleep rhythms are disturbed.
- Sleep disturbances are common in early recovery and are part of the post- acute withdrawal process.
- Your sleep requirements may change in transition from addiction to recovery.
- Your body must re-establish regular sleep cycles in the absence of drugs and alcohol and this may take several weeks to months
- Most sleep problems resolve themselves without medical treatment
- You should avoid any temptation to self- medicate with prescribed or over the counter sleep aids unless it is supervised by a physician trained in addiction medicine
Some key tips for dealing with tiredness in early recovery are:
- Set a consistent time for going to bed
- Create a good sleeping environment
- Avoid daytime naps
- Get exercise early in the day and not before bedtime
- Eliminate or reduce the intake of caffeine
- Avoid large late meals
- Minimize activities other than sleeping in your bed such as watching TV. eating, reading etc.
- Learn and utilize relaxation techniques, visualization, relaxation, mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises.
At PRO-ACT’s Recovery Centers, we offer many programs which will support the development of healthy practices of meditation, mindfulness, stress reduction and yoga, all of which will help you with the issue of insomnia and/or being tired in early recovery.
The Philadelphia Recovery Community Center is offering a 9 week class on Stress Reduction and Relaxation on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 –November 4-30
The Southern Bucks Recovery Community Center has Yoga on Monday evenings at 6:30 two times per month and a quarterly four week series on Wholistic Recovery which includes mindfulness meditation. Tuesday mornings at 10:30 there is also a Stress Management group.
The Central Bucks Recovery Resource Center has a Health and Wellness group which meets every Monday evening form 7:30- 8:30 which also addresses meditation, yoga and stress management.
All of the above listed programs are great opportunities for you to learn ways to ride the wave of insomnia and feeling tired in early recovery (or at any time) and develop new practices for healthy living. For more information on any of these programs contact our PRO-ACT volunteer coordinators: In Philadelphia John Carlson at 215-923-1661 and She-Ria Bethea at 215-223-7700 x102; in Southern Bucks call Karen Burke at 215-788-3738 x100 and in Central Bucks contact Rick Petrolawicz at 215-345-6644 x3151
Lena Marder MCAT, ATR-BC, LPC, CCDP-D
Bucks County Coordinator of Recovery Support Services
The Council of Southeast PA, Inc.