counting sheepIt’s common to have problems sleeping in early recovery and insomnia can cause irritability, lack of concentration,  dizziness and poor judgment, to name but a few.  Any of these symptoms can put us at risk for relapse (and make us a pain in the ass to be around).

That being said, most of us have never given a good night’s sleep a second thought because  as practicing alcoholics and addicts, we were usually either sleep deprived or comatose.  I viewed ‘sleep’ as the time when I would inevitably pass out and waking up was merely coming to.  When I got sober, I heard all kinds of advice about looking after myself, physically, mentally and spiritually but this was a whole new concept (I’d been treating my body like a trash can, certainly  not a temple).  Thankfully, I was told to keep it simple and with that in mind here are a few tips that helped me get some drug and alcohol free shut eye:

  • Stick to a regular sleep routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and set an alarm to wake up at a similar hour each morning.
  • Avoid caffeine within 6 hours of going to bed. It might seem like a good idea to have 3 cups of coffee at the 8pm recovery meeting, but you’ll likely pay for it later.
  • Don’t drink too much liquid in the evening. Having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom obviously disturbs sleep but can also leave you unable to nod back off.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Keep your bedroom clean and clutter-less, if your room is free of clutter and mess, your mind will likely follow suit. Keep the temperature cool enough for a blanket and dark enough so that there’s no lights shining through the drapes or blinds. If you can’t fix the curtains try an eye mask.
  • Take a relaxing warm bath or shower before bed. The warmth from the water raises the body temperature and when the body cools,  we become sleepy.
  • Don’t watch TV in bed. TV can be too stimulating, try reading a book instead or listen to calming audio – ocean waves, rain, whale sounds etc. are much more conducive to sleep than the screaming and drama on Reality TV.
  • Exercise. This was a dirty word for me early on (see what I mean here) but the truth is, even a little exercise can help with sleeping and improving our mood in general. It’s better to exercise earlier in the day or at least give yourself 3 hours after exercising before going to bed, as it stimulates adrenalin.
  • If you can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes – get up. Most of us have ‘committees’ (constantly running minds) I prefer to call mine ‘hamsters’. When I can’t shut my head up, I get up out of bed and read for a while, or sit quietly and write about the day I’ve had (journals are a great recovery tool).
  • Share your bed with your spouse or significant other – no kids, no pets. To minimize the chance of getting a foot in your ribs or a bed hogging hound; keep the kids in their own rooms and pets outside of the bedroom.

It’s a good idea to remember that getting a decent night’s sleep is important for everyone, but to newly sober alcoholics and addicts, it can be the difference between serenity and an unexpected slip.

  1. A.FOB says:

    Good tips. I spent too many nights using the television to drown out the voices in my head and then wondered why my sleep was so restless. I need to go back to reading before sleep.

  2. Ric says:

    Georgia, I like the section dedicated to those new to sobriety. My blog offers career counselingfor people getting back to work or making a change. Keep up the good work.

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