Longing for a Good Night’s Sleep
Do you know the old Cole Porter song “Night and Day”? The song is all about how the singer is longing for the person they love:
Whether near to me or far
It’s no matter, darling, where you are
I think of you
Day and night
Night and day
It’s a lovely song, to be sure. But imagine for a moment that the singer isn’t pining for their lover. Instead, they are longing for a good night’s sleep. After all, sleep is essential for just about everything. Sleep supports our physical health and our mental health—and is extremely important for people who are in recovery from a substance use disorder.
If you are the kind of person who tosses and turns every night instead of getting deep, restful sleep, you probably understand the experience of longing for what we are talking about. If you just can’t get to sleep, the odds are very good that you are thinking about sleep…well…day and night/night and day.
As it would turn out, those are also the best times to do something about your sleeping issues. Here are some ideas—some for the day and some for the night—to help you improve the amount and quality of sleep you get each night.
What to Do & What Not to Do During the Day
- Keep the caffeine to a minimum. How many cups of coffee or tea are you drinking each day? How many cans of caffeinated soda? If you are taking in large amounts of caffeine throughout the day, you are setting yourself up for trouble when you head to bed. Too much caffeine leads to poor sleep, which in turn leads to too much caffeine—and round and round you go.
- Get a daily dose of sunshine. Heading outdoors each day to soak in some sun (with proper precautions, of course) is important for supporting sleep after the sun goes down. Getting out in the sun, even for a short time each day helps keep your circadian rhythms regulated—which is a fancy way of saying that your body needs to know the difference between day and night. Can’t get outside? An artificial light that mimics the sun’s rays can be helpful.
- Consider skipping the nap and weekend sleep-ins. When you’re constantly tired, it can be sorely tempting to grab a nap when you can or to turn off the alarm clock over the weekend. But these disruptions to a regular sleep routine can actually undermine your efforts to get the sleep you need on a consistent basis. We won’t begrudge you the occasional nap or lazy Saturday, but try not to make a habit of it.
- Stick to complex carbohydrates at night. What you eat affects how you sleep. In the evenings, it is important to avoid food that is heavy, fatty, fried, or spicy—and the closer to bedtime it is, the more important it is to make good food choices related to getting the rest you need. Complex carbs like low-fat cheese, milk, or yogurt can actually help promote sleep.
What to Do & What Not to Do at Night
- Don’t toss and turn. Sometimes it takes a little time to drift off. But if you’ve been in bed for a half an hour and you are still awake, your best move may be to get up for a while. A restful activity you can do in low lighting can help move you toward sleep. When you feel the drowsiness setting in, head back to bed.
- Get the environment right. A clean, cool, comfortable space is extremely important for promoting sleep. Good pillows, a mattress in good repair, and comfortable sheets, blankets, and pajamas are also essential. The room should be dark and quiet, though soft music or a white noise machine can be helpful for some people. Reserve this space for sleeping—and make sure it’s a spot where you can consistently feel at ease.
- Stick to a routine. Having a regular nighttime routine helps your body and mind realize it is time for sleep. Set a regular bedtime (and waking time) and stop using your screens a couple of hours before that time if you possibly can. Screen time is known to undermine our ability to sleep, so better activities before bed are a must. You might read or write in a journal or take a warm bath or meditate. Any of these options and many more will get you away from the screens and into the right mindset for rest. Pick your favorite and stick with it.
A Note About Sleep Aids
There are, of course, medications designed to help you get to sleep. But these drugs can be problematic, especially for a person in recovery. An honest conversation with your doctor is in order if you try the above suggestions and don’t see any improvement in your ability to get to the rest you need.
We Won’t Rest Until We Help You Get Sober
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you need to get help right away. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we have the expertise and experience necessary to help you reclaim your sobriety. And we are committed to providing the strategies, resources, and support you need to start your recovery journey with confidence.
We will also address any co-occurring mental health disorders that might be related to your substance use disorder—and which might be contributing to issues around sleep. You can rest assured that we will treat you with compassion and respect as we help you reclaim your sobriety—and your life.