Sleep and Mental Health: Tips for Restful Nights in Substance Abuse Recovery

Substance abuse recovery is an ongoing process that can take a physical and mental toll on the individual working towards sobriety. One of the biggest challenges that recovering addicts face is getting adequate sleep, which has a direct impact on overall mental health. Studies have shown that people who suffer from sleep problems are more likely to develop mental health disorders, while a lack of restorative sleep can also exacerbate existing mental health issues.

In this article, we will explore the relationship between sleep and mental health and provide you with some tips to help ensure better sleep during substance abuse recovery. By understanding how sleep affects our mental well-being and implementing strategies that promote restful sleep, individuals in recovery can improve their chances of achieving long-term sobriety and overall mental wellness.

The link between sleep and mental health

While the need for sleep is universal, the amount of sleep required for optimal mental health can vary from person to person. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. However, it is important to remember that individual sleep needs can differ. Some people may function well on six hours of sleep, while others may require a full eight hours.

Regardless of the specific number, there is a clear connection between sleep and mental health. A report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that “insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.” (source)

According to the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep plays a crucial role in mental health as it helps to strengthen our ability to learn, remember, and make decisions. Moreover, sleep is essential for maintaining emotional balance, empathy, and impulse control, and the regeneration of neurons responsible for these functions

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On the other hand, lack of sleep can significantly impair cognitive function, judgment, and emotional regulation. This can be particularly problematic for those in substance abuse recovery, as these are vital skills that individuals need to continue their sobriety and manage mental health.

Why do recovering addicts struggle with sleep?

There are several reasons why individuals in substance abuse recovery may experience difficulties with sleep. Some of these include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms: Depending on the substance, withdrawal can result in sleep disturbances as the body adjusts to the absence of the addictive substance. This can manifest in the form of insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or vivid dreams.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues: Substance abuse often co-occurs with mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to sleep problems.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: During active addiction, individuals may develop erratic and unhealthy sleep habits. These dysfunctional sleep patterns can persist even after an individual has achieved sobriety, making it difficult for them to establish a regular sleep schedule.

Tips for better sleep during substance abuse recovery

Create a sleep-friendly environment

Creating a good sleep environment can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet, and invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows. Eliminate any distractions, such as electronic devices, that emit blue light and could disrupt your sleep.

Establish a bedtime routine

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By establishing a bedtime routine, you help cue your body to prepare for sleep. This might include activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

Exercise regularly

Getting regular exercise during the day can help improve your sleep quality at night. Exercise promotes physical tiredness, regulates mood, and reduces anxiety, all of which can help facilitate better sleep. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can make it difficult to fall asleep due to an increase in adrenaline and body temperature.

Establish a regular sleep schedule

Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

Limit caffeine and nicotine intake

Both of these substances are stimulants that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Try to avoid consuming caffeine and nicotine for several hours before bedtime.

Seek professional help if necessary

If sleep issues persist, it may be beneficial to consult a medical professional or mental health therapist, who can provide guidance and personalized recommendations for improving sleep during substance abuse recovery.


Achieving restful sleep is crucial to maintaining good mental health, especially during the challenging process of substance abuse recovery. By understanding the connection between sleep and mental health and implementing strategies to promote better sleep, individuals in recovery can equip themselves with the tools needed to maintain sobriety and overall mental wellness. Remember, seeking professional help is always available if you continue to struggle with sleep issues, and can provide additional guidance and support.

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