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How To Get Proper Sleep in RECOvery

Sleep is vital and allows our brains to shut down and regroup each day. Those who don’t get enough sleep will feel the effects. Keep reading to learn how you can get the rest your body needs to succeed at recovery.

What Happens When You Sleep

Between dreaming and waking, there are several stages that your body goes through. The two most fundamental stages of sleep are REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. 

During non-REM sleep, there are three small stages that your brain will process through before it gets to REM sleep. In Stage 1 of non-REM sleep, your body will switch from awake to asleep. This lasts for several minutes and allows your body to slow down and cool. Your brain waves also slow slightly. In Stage 2 of non-REM sleep, your heart and breathing will slow as your muscles relax deeply. Your brain waves slow but still flash with electrical activity. You spend the most sleep time in Stage 2. In Stage 3 of non-REM sleep, you are sleeping at your deepest, and it may be very difficult to wake you. Your heartbeat, breathing, and brain waves are at their slowest as well. 

In REM sleep, the brain picks back up, as does your heartbeat and blood pressure to near-awake levels. Your body becomes temporarily paralyzed as dreams play out in your head — this is to stop you from acting your dreams. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, scientists believe that memory consolidation occurs between REM and Stage 3 non-REM sleep. 

13 Ways To Get a Good Night’s Sleep

When it comes to sleep, 13 may be a lucky number. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests these 13 tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Have a sleep schedule. Make sure that you stick to a sleep schedule with a bedtime and wake-up time that doesn’t vary too much, even on weekends. 
  2. Exercise earlier. Although exercise will help you sleep better (and it’s great for you!), try not to exercise too late in the evening. NIH recommends not exercising for at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed. 
  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. These addictive substances that help you wake up will likely keep you awake long into the night. Try to cut nicotine and caffeine out if they are present in your life. If you need caffeine, try drinking it only in the morning, stopping after 1-2 cups by noon.
  4. Avoid alcohol. As if you needed another reason not to drink alcohol in recovery, alcohol has been proven to disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to lack of sleep. Even if you’re tired, alcohol doesn’t let you sink down past that Stage 1 or Stage 2 non-REM sleep. You need Stage 3 non-REM and REM sleep to feel rested the next day.
  5. Avoid large meals or beverages right before bed. Food is energy for your body, but that energy will keep you awake during the night. Indigestion or the need to urinate can also interrupt your sleep. 
  6. Avoid medicines that disrupt sleep. If this is possible for you, avoid medicines that will make you drowsy or alert. Be sure that you are using your medicine as prescribed and talk to your doctor if any issues arise.
  7. Skip the afternoon nap. If you’re a night sleeper, try not to take a nap after 3 PM. Naps after 3 PM make it harder to fall asleep at night. 
  8. Relax in the evenings. Read a good book, listen to music, or spend time with your family. Relaxing activities like these help calm your brain before bed. 
  9. Take a hot bath. Baths are calming by themselves, but the drop in body temperature after a bath can put you right to sleep. 
  10. Optimize your sleeping environment. This means a comfortable place to sleep with no distracting TV, phone, computer screens, no bright lights or loud noises, and a cooler temperature. 
  11. Optimize your daylight exposure. Daylight (for night sleepers) and exposure to sunlight helps regulate sleep patterns. Try to spend 30 minutes minimum outside each day. 
  12. Don’t lie awake all night. If you’re awake in bed, get up and do something relaxing until you get tired again. Lying there will only give you anxiety about the need to go to sleep. 
  13. Talk to your doctor if you can’t sleep. If you still can’t sleep, there may be an underlying condition or reason why you can’t sleep. Talk to your doctor if this happens to find out what they can do to help.

Getting a good night of sleep is especially important if you often work odd hours or change your schedule. To perform your best and maximize your brainpower, doctors recommend 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep time every day. If this is not possible, try using some of the strategies above to get higher-quality sleep and maintain healthy habits. If you’re having trouble managing your sleep schedule or you don’t like to sleep due to nightmares or overthinking, you may need to consult a doctor or therapist. If you feel like your struggles with addiction or recovery affect your sleep, RECO Intensive is here to help. At RECO Intensive, we understand how important sleep is to overall health and decision-making, especially in recovery. Our professional staff and experienced alumni will create a customized plan for your recovery and help you try to get that sleep you need. Call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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