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Addiction and Sleep Deprivation: A Vicious Cycle

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Insomnia and other sleep problems can be difficult for anyone to handle. When drug or alcohol abuse is added to the mix, the combination of conditions can create a vicious cycle that is hard to break on your own. Substance abuse and sleep deprivation make each other worse when they occur at the same time, and one condition often triggers the other. Not only is insomnia a common consequence of addiction, but it also affects people undergoing drug or alcohol treatment.

Insomnia and Substance Abuse
Sleep disturbances are closely linked to drug use and drug abuse; they’re also associated with alcohol abuse and alcoholism. For many people, the vicious cycle begins when they attempt to self-medicate an episode of insomnia. Alcohol, a depressant by nature, is a common choice to help people sleep. Unfortunately, drinking can actually disrupt healthy sleep rhythms, and people often find that the initial sleepiness they feel from alcohol use is replaced by fitful sleep during the night.

Individuals who abuse stimulant drugs are also likely to experience sleep disturbances. Cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA increase energy levels and sharpen mental focus, but they can make it hard for your body to rest.

People who self-medicate their insomnia with alcohol or drugs find themselves caught in an endless loop of substance abuse and sleep deprivation. For example, a person who uses alcohol to fall asleep will likely experience disrupted sleep. As a result, they may drink more alcohol in an effort to get relief.
A Threat to Recovery
People who have entered treatment for drug or alcohol addiction are often surprised to experience insomnia during the process. One study of recovering alcoholics indicated that 75 percent of these individuals suffered sleep disturbances during the period immediately following detox. These sleep issues can persist throughout the early weeks of recovery.

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Without intervention, ongoing insomnia and other sleep problems can increase the risk of a relapse. It’s essential for addiction treatment centers to address the issue of sleep disturbances in their treatment plans.
Treatment Options
When a person is dealing with both substance abuse and sleep deprivation, prescription medication is never the first treatment option. Many rehab programs incorporate cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) into their treatment plans. CBT has been proven to be an effective tool in treating insomnia. This type of therapy helps patients understand why they’re not sleeping well.

In addition to substance abuse, other contributing factors might include anxiety, caffeine or even a person’s bedtime routine. CBT also helps patients adjust their attitudes about sleep.

Many people find that they had unrealistic expectations about how much sleep they actually need to function well. In addition to CBT, biofeedback offers another drug-free way of treating insomnia. Biofeedback helps participants become more aware of their bodies and more able to control some of their physical responses.

Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on any person’s life, but it is especially crippling when it’s paired with addiction. Although insomnia is common during both addiction and recovery, it can be effectively managed with the right treatment. If you’re struggling with these disorders, you can break the vicious cycle and get your life back on track.

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