Coping with Insomnia in Recovery

Recovery is about finding balance and understanding that sleep is sacred; insomnia is not.  Recovery is not just about freedom from addiction, but it is also about taking a broader, all-encompassing view of your health and behaviors.  While making your way down the road to recovery, focus on mental, physical, and spiritual health in equal measure.


One critically important part of this process is sleep. The human body in order to rejuvenate, regenerate and recharge,  needs four to five consecutive REM cycles, which typically occur in the Delta stage of sleep. Your body and mind need sleep and it will eventually fall asleep naturally, only if you let it.  The body needs on average eight hours a night of quality sleep to experience the five types of brain waves necessary to achieve REM sleep.   The five brain waves or frequencies are:

  1. Beta (waking state)
  2. Alpha (falling asleep)
  3. Theta (asleep)
  4. Delta (deep sleep)
  5. Gamma (deepest state)

Naps do a body good, but you won’t achieve the necessary cycle count.   Work towards eight to nine hours of quality sleep a night.  Because without sufficient sleep, you won’t have the strength or the positivity to face the rigors of everyday life, much less life in recovery.


Unfortunately, many people experience sleep problems in the early days of recovery. Insomnia is a common side effect of detox and withdrawal, whereas the return to regular, restful sleeping patterns is one of the clearest signs that your treatment is working.


But until that return to regular, restful sleep occurs, there are some steps you can take to stave off insomnia.

Recommendations for achieving quality sleep:

  • Make sure you have a comfortable place to sleep—a bedroom that’s dark and cool, and pajamas that are loose and comfy.
  • Stick to a sleeping schedule.  Go to bed when you want to. Wake when you have to.
  • Disconnect from your phone, laptop, or tablet at least an hour before bedtime. If at all possible, don’t keep these devices in your bedroom.  No screen watching 20-30 minutes before bedtime.  The retina will think it’s daylight and not send signals to your brain to relax.
  • Do something to relax before bed—like a hot bath, some gentle yoga poses, or simply curling up with a book. Meditate.
  • Exercise during the day. Even a little bit of physical exertion can make you ready for bed in the evenings, but not too close to sleeping hours.
  • No eating or drinking two hours before bed lest you’ll need to get up and use the bathroom.  A small cracker or the like just before bed is OK, especially for those with blood sugar stabilization challenges.
  • Pair a conditioned stimulus (native American flute music is my favorite)  with feelings of being exhausted. Play that stimulus for 30 days.  AFteAfterch time, your brain will be signaled to sleep even when you’re not tired.
  • Avoid caffeine, processed foods/sugar, alcohol or prescription sleep drugs.
  • Wean yourself off of herbal teas that make you tired.

Time and clinical treatment will help you get your sleeping schedule back on track—and in the meantime, we hope these tips will be helpful.     The goal is to sleep like a baby without any inducement. And yes, it IS possible at any age.


If you or a loved one struggle with substance abuse or addiction, contact Get Real Recovery today.


Co-authored by Dana-Claire Cornelius, Director of Marketing Administration, GRR

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