“The night is the hardest time to be alive and 4 am knows all my secrets.”
- Poppy Z. Brite, U.S. author
4 am knows all my secrets, that’s for sure.
In fact, there was many a night when I readily gave up everything, all the deceit, the blatant lies, and the thefts (yes, I stole, even from loved ones, as many addicts do) in the hope it would bring me some peace, because, maybe, just maybe, peace would bring sleep. But it was rare that my mind would clear enough for that to happen.
That was in the early stages of my recovery when everything felt brand new, totally different sometimes, but, it seemed to me, already tarnished in some way by what had gone before - all that had gone on before.
I sought the advice of one of the speakers from a nearby AA meeting (the AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous, but I’m thinking that everybody knows that by now), where I’d regularly been attending ever since I left the alcohol detox center in the next state over from my parent’s home. She was more than happy to share a coffee in a nearby restaurant after the meeting that night, and what she explained to me made perfect sense.
Her advice was practical and heartfelt at the same time - newly-sober recovering alcoholics should always seek advice from those who have a few miles down the road of cleanliness and sobriety under their belt. This article is based on what I learned from that 9 pm conversation over two large lattes and two slices of slightly inedible blueberry pie.
I told her I honestly felt as stale as the pie. She laughed and then, once I’d explained my reasoning for my bad case bleary-eyed insomnia, gave me the value of her experience, as they say…
Nearly all addicts have disrupted sleep patterns, and it can take a while, even a few months for them to adjust to falling asleep without alcohol or other sedatives in their system. In reality, when an alcoholic is actively drinking, falling sleep is really more akin to just plain, old passing out.
Her advice, which I followed word-for-word thereafter, is pretty much this: “4 Tips for Dealing with Insomnia in Early Sobriety,” and I sincerely hope it helps you as much as it has helped me.
Really Preparing for Sleep
Preparation, real preparation, for a good night’s sleep is more than just a cup of warm milk before hitting the hay - it actually is something that begins much earlier in the day. There are a number of things you can do throughout your day that will ease your journey into sleep come nightfall. These should really include all of the following:
- Exercise, as vigorous as you can manage, for at least 30 minutes every day (whether you want to or not)
- Do not catnap, dognap or power nap at all during the day
- No more caffeine after lunchtime (seriously), and
- Enjoy what you could call a “sleep-friendly” diet, meaning a good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, B vitamins (B3 and B12 is particularly good for ex-drinkers), and magnesium, which you can find in whole wheat, spinach, almonds, cashews and peanuts, avocado, and dark chocolate, to name but a few
Transforming Your Sleeping Area
Serenity and tranquility - that’s the effect you’re looking for. So, to create the best possible place for true, peaceful rest, please do the following:
- Take out anything that resembles entertainment, such as televisions, computers, mobiles, and tablets - all of these may prove too tempting if sleep is slow coming. However, there’s nothing wrong with a good book as a way of naturally tiring your eyes (just a chapter or two, no more).
- Get the lighting right - mood lighting is how it’s referred to; the soft glow of a nearby lamp can help to create that sense of serenity you’re missing.
- Get aromatherapeutic (yes, that is an actual word - I checked), such as a few drops of lavender, sandalwood or chamomile.
- Take out any sounds or lighting that could be considered intrusive (anything that might keep you awake, in other words), and invest in blackout curtains, comfortable earplugs, even a white noise machine - yes, they do work.
Using Relaxation Techniques
There are many relaxation techniques that are simple to learn, and will naturally help you by relaxing your entire body. A great and easy example of this is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves systematically contracting and then relaxing each muscle group, working from your toes all the way up to your body. Simple and very effective.
Additionally, you could really go for it (in a calm way, of course) by enrolling in mindfulness classes - I actually learned this meditation technique in the detox and rehab facility, and it’s incredibly useful before sleep, and for other times during the day too.
Practicing a Personal Sleep Ritual
Human beings, as much as we’d like to think of ourselves differently, are terrible creatures of habit - we love them. For any recovering addict, good habits are vital, and getting to sleep regularly and improving your sleeping pattern is one that will improve your recovery without fail. So, practice a personal sleep ritual every evening. This could include a warm bath, a drink of calming tea, listening to relaxing music, and, of course, brushing your teeth. Whatever you decide upon, stick to it, each and every night, and it will create a number of natural signals to wind your body clock down, ready for sleep.
Night, Night & Sleep Tight…
So there you go - “4 Tips for Dealing with Insomnia in Early Sobriety,” which were shared with me, and which have now been shared with you. By following this practical and sound advice of really preparing for sleep, transforming your sleeping area, using relaxing techniques, and practicing a personal sleep ritual, you’ll soon be looking forward to good, refreshing sleep, each and every night.
Do you have any advice for those struggling with insomnia? Especially during early addiction recovery? Please, feel free to share as I have done by leaving any comments and thoughts below. Thanks. Lastly, night, night, and sleep tight.