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Sleep in Substance Use Disorder Recovery

by Will Long

April 1, 2023
man sitting by hospital bed in the sun after waking from sleep

The Critical Role of Sleep in Substance Use Disorder Recovery

Recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex and multifaceted journey that requires attention to various aspects of a person’s well-being. Among these, sleep emerges as a critical yet often overlooked factor that can significantly impact the course of recovery. Understanding the intricate relationship between sleep and addiction is essential for developing effective treatment strategies and promoting long-term recovery.

Sleep and Substance Use: A Two-Way Street

The connection between sleep and SUD is bidirectional and multifaceted. Substance use can lead to disruptions in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep, fragmented sleep, and altered sleep architecture. On the other hand, chronic sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, can increase the risk of substance use as individuals may self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to cope with sleep difficulties.

Sleep Deprivation and Relapse Risk

Sleep deprivation is a significant concern in addiction recovery. Withdrawal from substances, including alcohol and opioids, can exacerbate sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, night sweats, and vivid nightmares. Poor sleep quality can contribute to the discomfort of withdrawal and may trigger cravings and relapse.

The Neurobiology of Sleep and Addiction

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure, plays a central role in both addiction and sleep regulation. Repeated misuse of drugs that significantly increase dopamine, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can lead to sleep deprivation. This reduction in dopamine sensitivity contributes to impulsivity and heightened vulnerability to drug-seeking behavior.

Improving Sleep Quality for Better Recovery Outcomes

Research shows that chronic sleep disturbances are associated with increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mood instability. Poor sleep quality also impairs cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, and decision-making. By improving sleep quality, individuals in recovery can strengthen their ability to cope with challenges and acquire new coping skills.

The Role of Melatonin in Sleep and Recovery

Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, plays a key role in regulating the sleep cycle. It can help reduce sleep onset latency, increase sleep efficiency, and increase total sleep duration. As a natural sleep aid, melatonin may be useful for individuals in recovery to improve sleep quality and prevent relapse.

Practical Tips for Improving Sleep During Recovery

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule: Consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock.
  • Create a conducive sleep environment: Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Limit exposure to screens before bed: Avoid screen time at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Incorporate relaxation techniques: Practices such as deep breathing and meditation can help prepare the body for sleep.
  • Stay active: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality and reduce stress.


In conclusion, addressing sleep disturbances is paramount to enhancing the recovery process and supporting long-term sobriety. By integrating sleep-focused interventions into addiction treatment programs, individuals can choose recovery over addiction and lead healthier, happier lives.

Learn More

If you or a loved one is seeking help for addiction, Landmark Recovery is here to support you on your path to recovery. Choose recovery over addiction and take the first step toward a healthier, happier life. Call us at 888-448-0302 or visit our website Landmark Recovery for more information.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.