A study just came out in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, showing that people in early recovery have a hard time going to sleep. “Treating sleep disturbance in early recovery may have considerable impact on maintenance of sobriety and quality of life,” according to Dr. Nicholas Rosenlicht of University of San Francisco and colleagues.
The short version — if you are newly sober and have a hard time going to sleep, you have a higher risk of relapsing. What adds to the problem is that many alcoholics and addicts use drugs and alcohol as a way of going to sleep. I like to call it “passing out” rather than going to sleep. The study says “alcohol is a well-documented cause of sleep disruption with toxic effects on several neurobiological systems, and may contribute to lasting sleep problems even during abstinence”.
The tricky part is that you don’t want a newly sober person taking sleep medication. It might provide a better night rest, but it doesn’t coordinate well, with a lifestyle of abstinence.
Yesterday, I was chatting with a child psychiatrist. She gave me some handouts, she knew I would appreciate as I first time Mom. Coincidently, one was titled “Sleep Hygiene Guidelines”. It’s kind of a funny title, but basically, it was some good “old-fashioned” tips about getting your child to sleep.
So I will share with you what I learned. These are tips that are just perfect for the newly sober person. Heck, they are good for anyone.
1. Avoid daytime naps – I’m not saying that naps are bad, but they are not advised if you are having a hard time going to sleep.
2. Use your bed only for sleep. Avoid watching TV, talking on the phone, reading or any other activity in your bed. This is so you can have a good mental association with the bed, as a place where you go to sleep, and stay asleep.
3. Once you jump int bed, if you can’t fall asleep, get up after 20 minutes. Sit quietly in a chair with a dim light (behind you). Read something super boring or try reading “12 Steps and 12 Traditions”. When you start feeling sleepy, go back into bed. It is important not to turn on the TV, a bright light or a computer. Those activities wake up the brain, by shining a light on the retina of the eye.
4. Avoid caffeine after 12 noon. Be aware, that some items contain caffeine that you might not be aware of like — decaf coffee, chocolate, ice cream, diet pills, pain relievers and energy water.
5. Physical activity early in the day can help you sleep better at night. However, exercise too close to bedtime can give you energy and keep you awake at night.
6. A bath or shower at night can be very relaxing and help soothe you into sleep. Even washing your face with warm water can be calming.
7. Eating a large dinner too close to bedtime, can be a problem. It’s better to have a light snack at night.
8. A cup of hot milk with a teaspoon vanilla and up to a tablespoon of honey is an old fashion folk remedy. Note: some alcoholics choose not to use vanilla extract, since there is a small amount of alcohol. Amazon sells alcohol-free vanilla.
9. Get up at the same time every day.
10. Stay up no more than one hour later on weekend nights than on weekday nights to keep sleep regular.
11. This is the part for children, but I really think it’s cool. As an excellent stress reliever as well as a unifying family activity, about an hour before bed, turn off all electronics and start to get ready. Straighten and pick up clutter. Make a short to do list for tomorrow. Little children need to have their bath, have a short bedtime story and get tucked into bed. Organize and pack up your healthy meals and snacks to take with you in the morning. Older kids and adults will check that they have any paperwork or other needed items packed and ready.
12. Listen to some sleepy music.