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How are you sleeping these days? 

If you are like a lot of folks, there is a good chance that the answer to that question is “not that well.” Maybe you have trouble falling asleep. Maybe you have trouble staying asleep. Maybe you have trouble waking up in the morning. Maybe you find yourself exhausted in the middle of the day.

Maybe you are experiencing some or all of those things. That is not great news no matter who you are. But if you are a person in recovery from a substance use disorder, sleep issues can be particularly problematic. Quality sleep, after all, is so foundational to ongoing sobriety that we dubbed it one of the “big three”—alongside regular exercise and healthy eating—cornerstones of recovery.

Given that reality, it is important to have a plan to ensure you get the sleep you need. Decisions you make throughout your day can impact how you sleep at night, and having a plan can help you make better choices all day long.

Let’s take a look at ways to improve your sleep so that you are effectively supporting your sobriety.

Daytime Tips for Quality Sleep

You have probably already guessed what our first daytime tip for improving the quality of your sleep will be: Reduce your intake of caffeine. A good rule of thumb is that once you arrive at lunchtime, it is time to switch from caffeinated drinks to beverages without caffeine. You may have gotten into the habit of powering through your afternoon with an extra cup of coffee or tea or an energy drink. But that can disrupt your efforts to get to sleep later. If you can shift your habits so that you are getting enough sleep, you might find you don’t need that afternoon pick-me-up anymore.

We have two more daytime tips that might not seem as obvious. First, keep an eye on what you eat late in the day. Fatty, fried, or spicy foods are not particularly helpful when you are seeking restful sleep. On other hand, complex carbs and a range of other foods can help support sleep.

Next, try to spend some time in the sun each day. Soaking in sunlight may not seem like an activity related to sleep, but sunlight helps your body regulate your circadian rhythms—that is, it helps your body differentiate between day and night. When your body recognizes nighttime as separate from daytime, it can be easier to sleep.

Nighttime Tips for Quality Sleep

There are a variety of things you can do in the evening that can help you fall into a deep and restful sleep each night, and we will detail several of them below. But first, we want to identify what may be the single most important thing you can do: Set a regular bedtime (and waking time) and stick to it each day—even on weekends. Doing so helps your body understand that it is time to sleep (and time to get up), and that helps you get into a healthy routine.

Other things you can do in the evening to support your sleep include:

  • Shutting down your screens a couple of hours before your bedtime (the light from screens can disrupt your ability to sleep)
  • Making sure your sleeping space is uncluttered, cool, and dark
  • Creating a winddown routine for yourself (it might include any combination of things: a relaxing bath, a cup of herbal tea or warm milk, some light stretching, writing in a journal, practicing mindfulness, and more)
  • Listening to calming music, white noise, or sleep stories to help you drift off

But again, if you are only going to make one change to your sleep routine, you should strongly consider sticking to a regular bedtime for best results. Your body, brain, and sobriety will all be supported when you do so.

We should also note that a person in recovery should be very cautious with sleeping medications like Ambien. Make sure your doctor knows your history of substance use—and then make sure you follow their directions to the letter if they prescribe medication to help you fall asleep.

Wake Up and Get the Help You Need

Have you been dragging your feet when it comes to getting treatment for a substance use disorder? Maybe you are sort of sleepwalking through life as drugs or alcohol upend your health, your relationships, your job and finances, and more. If so, it is time to wake up and get the essential help you need.

You can find that help at French Creek Recovery Center, located in Meadville, Pennsylvania. We provided personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. We will see you through medically supervised detoxification and rehabilitation and on into a continuum of care designed to help you start your recovery journey with confidence. Do not sleep on your need to get life-changing help for your substance use disorder.