Dealing with Insomnia in Recovery
Getting enough sleep is essential for recovering alcoholics and addicts, as insomnia and poor sleep can not only negatively affect your health but also can contribute to risk for relapse. The slogan H.A.L.T. reminds us of four common risk factors to watch for daily. “T” is last but not least! Tired? Are you sleeping enough and getting a good night’s sleep?
Alcohol affected your sleep and the quality of it. Whether you are in early sobriety or have long term recovery, research suggests that recovering alcoholics regardless of recovery time have a higher incidence of insomnia than the general population. The studies also suggested that difficulty falling asleep is more of an issue in recovery than staying asleep.
The Caffeine Factor in Insomnia
When newly sober, some recovering alcoholics and addicts start drinking lots coffee even if they were never coffee drinkers in the past. It is easy to justify the caffeine habit, which typically doesn’t end you up in jails or institutions, in contrast to the booze or other drugs you kicked. But in early recovery, a healthy sleep cycle is often one of the last things to finally normalize. When a sponsor hears from a newcomer that he/she is having trouble sleeping, the immediate reply is typically “how much coffee or soda are you drinking?” and “and how late in the day do you have your last cup?” Experience dictates to rule out this common and significant factor first, as caffeine is a known culprit to disrupt sleep!
The Depression Factor with Insomnia
Depression and insomnia often go hand in hand. Until recently, professionals had assumed the link between depression and insomnia was that the depression caused the insomnia. However, when they studied patients with both who were treated for the depression, they were surprised to find that depression relief did not result in insomnia relief. Newer studies actually suggest that treating the insomnia will in turn likely help relieve the depression for those who suffer from both.
Some research provides evidence that 55 to 60 percent of patients with depression who do not respond initially to antidepressant medication improve with the addition of tryptophan supplementation. In addition to insomnia, Tryptophan has been used in the treatment of depression either alone or in combination with antidepressants.
Diet for Healthy Sleep
Here is yet another health issue that can be helped significantly with the proper diet. Again - like with weight loss, mood, energy, etc – the key in eating is balancing your blood sugar. If you eat right throughout the day, you are more likely to get to sleep easily and sleep better through night. Frequent small meals throughout the day, made up of lower glycemic foods, will help balance your blood sugar and thus support your goal of insomnia relief. For more information on a healthy eating plan in recovery, check out these TLS programs that support healthy blood sugar in addition to other health benefits.
Meditation and Hypnosis for Insomnia
Meditation is known to provide all sorts of health benefits, including relief for insomnia and sleep problems. Research that investigated the effects of daily meditation on insomnia sufferers found that all of the following improved in the patients using meditation: sleep latency, total sleep time, total wake time, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency, sleep quality and depression.
Regardless of your amount of time in recovery from alcoholism or addiction, it is never too early to start incorporating some form of meditation into your daily life, especially if you are experiencing insomnia.
Guided meditations and hypnosis audio programs can also be very effective for those suffering with sleep problems. Hypnosis helps your mind and body relax, and can help your brain learn how to easily go into an alpha state (for healthy sleep) and utilize the subconscious to reduce worry and anxiety that tend to pervade the daily thoughts of insomnia sufferers.
You can seek out a local hypnotherapist, or save money by trying out an audio download online. Licensed hypnotherapist Steve G. Jones is a well-known expert whose very affordable recordings come highly recommended - check out Steve G. Jones's website to find an audio program specifically for insomnia.
Natural Supplement for Sleep Problems
You may have heard of tryptophan in terms of Thanksgiving, a holiday definitely not associated with insomnia! The real culprit behind post-thanksgiving dinner sleepiness is this essential amino acid present in the turkey, L-Tryptophan.
Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin production followed by melatonin - which aids in sleep. Serotonin is also the feel good neurotransmitter so supplementation with a quality L-tryptophan product has also been shown to improve mood. Note that you can also take tryptophan day and/or night. A dose before bedtime is ideal for helping those who have trouble falling asleep. A dose in the daytime can also help elevate your mood and will not make you sleepy. L-tryptophan also is useful in times of stress or grief, when quitting smoking, and when quitting drinking!
The other great thing about natural supplements like L-tryptophan to support a healthier sleep is that they are not “habit forming”. Obviously recovering alcoholics and addicts in particular ought to consider prescription drugs as the alternative and seek healthier options first, leaving medication as the last resort.
Sleep medications such as Ambien can be addictive, and is meant for short-term use only, so it is nice to have a natural solution that is safe to use long-term that addresses insomnia symptoms and also perhaps the underlying cause of the sleep problems.
Other Holistic Solutions for Insomnia
In addition to working the 12 steps, recovering alcoholics and addicts can take a proactive approach using natural methods like tryptophan to curb insomnia and thus strengthen relapse prevention and enjoy better health in recovery. If you suspect your neurological health is the root of your insomnia, consider looking into neurofeedback therapy. A neurofeedback program such as Braincore will utilize a QEEG to evaluate your brainwave patterns to identify any neurological patterns that can be resolved with a series of neurofeedback sessions.
To delve deeper into underlying causes of insomnia, you may also want to check out utilizing the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is easy to learn the basic technique to apply yourself to generally calm your system to help you fall asleep. If you work with an advanced EFT practitioner, you can delve deeper to use EFT to clear any underlying mind-body causes inhibiting your healthy sleep.
In summary, if you try just one natural remedy for insomnia check out trytophan. For a comprehensive approach to combat insomnia both physically and mentally, add in a little meditation during the day and listen to a hypnosis audio at bedtime. To address deeper patterns behind your insomnia, consider natural modalities to improve your sleep such as Emotional Freedom Technique and/or neurofeedback.