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Sleep is Essential to Mental Health and Recovery—Part One: Nighttime Tips

September 10, 2022

When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep?

If the answer is last night, that is wonderful news. It is such a pleasure to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

But we are guessing that the answer may not be last night. Or the night before. Or anytime this week. 

In fact, it is possible that you truly cannot remember the last time you easily drifted off to sleep or woke up feeling rested. Maybe the various stresses and obligations in your life cut into the hours you spend sleeping. You may even have become accustomed to feeling tired all of the time—perhaps to the point where you don’t even really think about it anymore. You just muddle through each day doing the best you can and then grab a few hours of sleep before doing it all again.

A lot of us find ourselves going through life this way. But quality sleep is essential to our mental health and to supporting recovery from a substance use disorder. So we would all be well advised to prioritize regularly getting a good night’s rest.

 

You might agree that getting enough sleep is a good idea, but you may also be at a loss as to how to accomplish it. Not to worry. We have some ideas.

Getting the Night Right

woman lying down can't sleep mental health

It probably will not surprise you that many of the things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep are connected to nighttime. Here are some important things to keep in mind at night.

  • You will be best served by having a consistent bedtime—and a consistent time to wake up. Your body and brain will internalize this schedule, helping you fall asleep at night and get going in the morning.
  • You should set the screens aside well before your bedtime. Screen time has been shown to undermine sleep time, so while it might be tempting to do some scrolling through social media, check your email, or watch a movie on your phone before bed, doing so can make it hard to get the rest you need.
  • Creating a nighttime routine can ease you into a good night’s sleep. You might set aside 30 minutes to write in your journal or read a book (probably nothing too scary or thrilling). Or you might do some yoga or mindfulness meditation. You might find that a relaxing bath and a cup of herbal tea help you get ready for bed. There are lots of options, so you can set a routine that works well for you.
  • Set up a sleep-friendly environment. You might think that it doesn’t matter if your sleeping space is cluttered. After all, your eyes will be closed, right? But just as decluttering can be good for your mental health in general, it can also help promote quality sleep. You also want your sleeping quarters to be dark, cool, and quiet. Make sure your bed is comfortable (when was the last time you replaced your mattress?) and that your pajamas are, too. 
  • Don’t toss and turn. Sometimes it can just be hard to drift off. When you are having trouble getting to sleep, your best move may be to get up for a bit. Keep the lights low and try a quiet activity like reading or journaling (remember: no screen time). When you start to feel drowsy, you can return to your bed. You will likely have better luck falling asleep.
 

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, make sure you are following your doctor’s instructions. Sleep apnea is dangerous in a number of ways, including making it more likely that you will fall asleep during the day at a critical moment, like while you are driving. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it is essential that you wear your mask each night to ensure that you keep breathing while you are asleep—or talk with your doctor about potential alternatives if you find the mask bothersome.

Saving the Daytime for Next Time

In addition to these nighttime tips, there are plenty of things you can do during the day to make it more likely you will have a restful night. We will share more details in an upcoming blog entry. For now, we want to reiterate that getting the rest you need is important to supporting both your mental well-being and your recovery. Get a good night’s sleep, and you will start to experience benefits that will improve your overall quality of life—and make it less likely that you will be tempted to return to drugs or alcohol.

Night or Day, We Are Here to Help

At Farley Center, we are ready and able to help you overcome a substance use disorder—and to address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may also be in play. When it comes to substance use disorders, the old saying is true: If you snooze, you lose. 

The time to get help is right now. We are ready when you are.