Getting Some Sleep: Effects of Substance Use Disorder on Sleep Quality

Apr 12, 2022

Sleep, who really needs it anyway? We all do! Do you remember that good, deep, drool-producing sleep you used to experience as a child? As we age, achieving this quality of sleep can be difficult. Stressors such as work, bills, relationships, and everyday life can make sleeping challenging at times. Adding alcohol or other substances to the mix further complicates things and makes that good, deep sleep even less obtainable. 

The use of alcohol or drugs can have unfortunate effects on sleep quantity and quality by disrupting sleep cycles and making it hard to fall and stay asleep. Many people who abuse drugs or alcohol report sleep disturbances or difficulties as a presenting symptom when seeking treatment. Others may develop substance use disorder (SUD) as a result of sleep difficulties. 

Importance of Sleep

Sleep allows our body to heal, learn, work, and even think. A good seven to nine hours of sleep for most adults serves as a reset and a recharge for the body. An interruption in just one night’s sleep can leave you feeling drowsy and less like yourself. While sleeping, we cycle through stages, including NREM and REM sleep. The appropriate transition between these two stages directly affects our daytime alertness and functioning. 

Long-term sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of medical complications such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep allows your body’s immune system to function correctly and fight off sickness and disease. Stress levels and mood are dependent on sleep quality as well. Have you ever felt confused or struggled with focus after not sleeping well? Sleep is imperative to a properly functioning brain, which controls everything!

Substance Abuse and Sleep

The relationship between alcohol or drug abuse and sleep is complicated. People who use substances tend to struggle with sleep, while people who struggle with insomnia may seek drugs or alcohol to aid with this difficulty. Issues with one can easily result in issues with the other, often resulting in an unfortunate pattern of drug or alcohol use and insomnia. Fatigue during the day can lead to seeking stimulants, while the inability to sleep at night can make substances with a more depressant effect tempting. Sleep difficulties are known to be present during active drug or alcohol use and following use. 

As mentioned, alcohol and drug abuse interfere with sleep and wake cycles resulting in trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and achieving good quality of sleep. Additionally, various brain functions can be disrupted depending on the substance used. Dopamine, widely known for its pleasure-evoking role, also plays an integral part in sleep and wake cycles as it regulates alertness. 

A Repetitive Cycle

Some may experience insomnia or sleep disruptions and turn to alcohol or drug use as a solution. Others may drink or use other substances frequently and, as a result, struggle with sleeping. Either way, substance abuse and sleep quality seem to go hand in hand. A study published by The Psychiatric Clinics of North America hypothesized that “continued substance use, difficulty reducing use, and relapse may reflect ‘self-medication’ to reverse the excessive sleepiness of the abstinence.” Withdrawal often creates a feeling of sleepiness or lack of energy, further increasing the risk of relapse. 

It is common for those who drink or use other substances to develop sleep problems as a result of their drug or alcohol use. For instance, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or using particular types of drugs can induce drowsiness at inopportune times of the day. This interferes with the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles. Similarly, more stimulating substances can result in bouts of sleeplessness or mania, disrupting the body’s natural sleep and wake cycles. 

Alternatively, those experiencing extreme insomnia or difficulty staying asleep may seek alcohol or other substances to allow them to sleep. While the intention may be to achieve short-term or temporary solutions to the problem, this can quickly become habitual. When this occurs, the body can become dependent on the presence of alcohol or drugs to fall asleep, increasing the risk of long-term dependence. 

The Good News 

It goes without saying that, first and foremost, discontinuing drinking alcohol or drug abuse is the key to quality sleep long term. Seeking treatment can be the first step to experiencing the level of sleep you might remember from years past. Poor sleep quality can be unavoidable with active alcohol or drug abuse and withdrawal but is treatable with a change in lifestyle and sobriety. While this change may take time and effort, experiencing life well-rested is possible.

Getting good sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being. Our quality of sleep determines how we function at work, in school, in relationships, and in daily life. Don’t allow alcohol and drug abuse to deprive you of the quality sleep you need and deserve. Renaissance Ranch can provide you with the services and treatment you need to recover and put an end to the habits and choices that are impacting your rest. Choose from a variety of programs and services created to address your specific needs. Put the sleepless nights and unproductive, fatigue-riddled days behind you by choosing to make a change. By choosing treatment with Renaissance Ranch, you are choosing to better yourself spiritually, intellectually, and physically. If you or a loved one is impacted by drug or alcohol addiction and could benefit from the caring culture of our treatment facility, call us today at (801) 308-8898. Healing begins with Renaissance Ranch.