Why Sleep is So Important in Recovery and Tips to Get Better Rest

The blissful peace of slumberland provides the necessary rest and recovery the mind and body needs. But, how many of us actually get the required amount of rest to adequately function?  Preventing relapse is one of the prime reasons sleep is vital. Researchers believe that up to 60% of alcoholics will relapse within five months from insomnia. Alcohol might help you fall asleep faster. It is an ineffective way to treat insomnia, and it is dangerous to your recovery. Without proper rest, the body and mind cannot function at full capacity.

Stages of Sleep

There are two types of sleep – rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has four stages that provide different functions. Throughout the night, individuals cycle through all stages.

  • Stage 1: the transition from wakefulness to sleep. This is typically a light sleep lasting several minutes. This stage allows your heartbeat, breathing, eye movements to slow, and muscle movements. Have you ever felt yourself twitch during sleep? It is likely in this stage that you can feel your muscles slightly moving.
  • Stage 2: a light sleep before entering a deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing have slowed, and your muscles are relaxed even further. Body temperature drops, and brain activity slows with bursts of electrical activity. This is the stage that most sleep time is spent.
  • Stage 3: this is marked by deep sleep in more extended periods during the first half of the night. Waking you up might be difficult, and brain waves are even slower during this phase.
  • REM Sleep: usually happens during the first 90 minutes after falling asleep. The eyes move rapidly, and brain waves are mixed frequency resembling that of wakefulness. Breathing is faster, and the heart rate is near that of the waking stages. Dreaming occurs mostly during REM sleep. Your arm and leg muscles will be temporarily paralyzed. The temporary paralysis prevents dreams from being acted out.

Sleep Regulation

Sleep is regulated by circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the sleep/wake cycle or internal clock regulating the periods of alertness and sleepiness. Our patterns of sleep/wake cycle begin as early as 4 months of age. Melatonin, the naturally occurring sleep chemical in the brain, helps establish the permanent circadian rhythm at around 3 months of age.

Light therapy can help reset the circadian rhythm. Timing is crucial. When waking up in the morning, exposure to sunlight can help motivate you to combat sleep inertia. In the evening, reducing the brightness of the light can signal that it is time to wind down.

 Electronic devices like computers, televisions, and smartphones emit blue light. Blue light is responsible for blocking melatonin. If you must use these devices, try using them on night mode.

Tips to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

  1. Avoid alcohol. First, you do not want to risk the hard work you have already put into your recovery. Second, alcohol is ineffective in providing a restful night’s sleep.
  2. Food can either help or harm your sleep. For instance, caffeine, especially later in the day, can hinder sleep. Other foods that impede a good night's sleep are sugars, refined fats, and spicy foods. Foods that help promote sleep include:
    • Almonds – contain melatonin, along with nutrients like phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and riboflavin.
    • Turkey – is high in protein, contains vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, phosphorus, and selenium. Turkey also contains tryptophan, which releases melatonin. Do you get sleepy after eating turkey dinner on Thanksgiving? It could be because of the tryptophan.
    • Chamomile tea – contains an antioxidant called apigenin. Apigenin binds to receptors in the brain that may help improve sleep quality. Additionally, chamomile tea helps reduce inflammation associated with a chronic disease like cancer and heart disease.
    • Kiwi – packed full of vitamins and minerals like vitamins C and K, folate, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. It is believed that kiwis interact with serotonin in the brain to help promote sleep.
    • Tart cherry juice – is packed full of vitamins A and C, manganese, and antioxidants. Tart cherry juice also has melatonin to help improve sleep quality.
    • Fatty fish – like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel contain many vitamins and nutrients like vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids. This combination can help with sleep by increasing serotonin production.
    • Walnuts – contain over 19 vitamins and minerals. Walnuts are exceptionally high in magnesium, phosphorus, copper, melatonin, and manganese. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids to help with heart health.
    • Passionflower tea – is rich in antioxidants that boost immune health and reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease. This tea also contains apigenin, like chamomile tea. More research is needed to determine the ability of passionflower tea to improve the overall quality of sleep. One study noted that participants rated their sleep quality significantly better when drinking this tea.
    • White rice – has a high glycemic index, a measure of how quickly a food increases blood sugar. High glycemic index foods have shown promise for promoting sleep. However, because of the lack of nutrients, moderation is best.
  1. Exercise – can help regulate circadian rhythms and increase relaxation. Right before bed is not an ideal time to exercise; about 3-4 hours before bedtime seems to have the best effect for sleep. All you need is around 15-30 minutes daily to experience the sleep benefits.
  2. Ambiance – the vibe of where you sleep matters. Do you have comfortable sheets, pillows, blankets, and a good mattress? How about the color of your room? Blue has shown to be calming and peaceful and one of the best color choices for a bedroom. Try to avoid bright colors as they can tend to have the opposite effect.
  3. Meditation – there are many ways to meditate. You can do some deep breathing and focus solely on the breath. If you choose a guided meditation, find one that resonates with you. Another option is a body scan. For a body scan, first, take some deep breaths, then start tightening muscle groups from the top of your head, working down to your toes. Once complete, notice any remaining tension and focus on tightening and relaxing those muscle groups.

Try not to lie awake for longer than 30 minutes in bed. If after 30 minutes, you are still not sleeping, get up and do something that might help induce sleep. After trying some of these suggestions and sleep continues to be problematic for you, please reach out to your medical or mental health professional. The Ho tai Way – Recovery for Women is here to help you get the sleep you need for your recovery success.

Contact our admissions department to learn more about your addiction and how to get back on track with sleep. Call (714) 581-3974.