Making the commitment to do something proactive to overcome drug and alcohol addiction is an excellent first step, one that’s crucial to learning how to live a healthy and happy life without the crutch of addictive substances. But the road to recovery is often fraught with unexpected turns, not the least of which is attempting to cope with this decidedly different approach to living. Somewhere along the way, sleep often suffers. Yet sleep is critically important when you’re trying to heal. Here are some of the ways that quality sleep helps keep recovery on track:
Better Sleep Helps You Think More Clearly
When you’re sleep-deprived, cognitive function suffers, along with physical well-being. A study published in 2010 in Progress in Brain Research found that creative, innovative and divergent aspects of cognition appear to be degraded by lack of sleep. The study highlighted research that indicates sleep deprivation could particularly affect cognitive systems that depend on emotional data. Despite the fact that countermeasures such as drinking caffeine or engaging in certain types of physical exercise might restore alertness and attention, some higher-level cognitive functioning demands efficient and sufficient levels of sleep for maximum effectiveness. By taking steps to improve the quality of your sleep, you’ll also be enhancing your ability to think more clearly when you are awake — which helps speed the healing process.
A Good Night’s Sleep Boosts Learning Ability
How does getting a good night’s sleep affect the brain’s ability to learn new things? Research shows that acquisition, consolidation and recall, the three critical functions of learning and memory, are greatly affected by the quality of sleep you get on a consistent basis. Chronic sleep deprivation affects people in many different ways, but the findings are clear: A good night’s sleep has a profound effect on learning and memory.
Quality Sleep Improves Sexual Response
When researchers looked into how sleep affects female sexual response for a study published in the March 2015 edition of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, they wanted to know whether the duration and quality of sleep would play a role and to what extent. Their results showed that longer sleep was predictive of greater next-day healthy sexual desire, as well as genital arousal and the likelihood the female subjects would engage in partnered sexual activity. The findings were independent of fatigue and daytime affect. The bottom line is that good sleep’s important to maintaining healthy sexual functioning.
Restful Sleep Improves Mood
Mood swings aren’t uncommon when you’re in treatment to overcome drug and alcohol abuse or when trying to learn how to cope with a co-occurring disorder such as depression, anxiety, relationship issues or other difficulties. But you can try to prevent mood swings by striving to improve the quality of sleep you get on a regular basis.
Junk Food Cravings Less Likely
When you don’t get sufficient sleep, do you find yourself reaching for calorie-laden, high-fat, high-sugar or salt-rich food? In an attempt to compensate for a deficient night’s sleep, succumbing to junk food cravings is an unfortunate consequence that doesn’t pay off. In fact, it might worsen the problem: You have a bad night’s sleep, indulge in junk foods, have another sleepless night, and resort to cramming your mouth with empty calories and too much sugar all over again. For a study published in the August 2013 edition of Nature Communications, researchers looked into the correlation between sleep deprivation and the tendency to consume junk foods. They found that a lack of sleep altered brain activity and decision-making and led to overeating and obesity. It stands to reason, then, that aiming to improve the quality of sleep you get nightly will help cut down on the cravings for junk food.
More Motivated to Exercise
If just the thought of donning exercise garb and getting started with a workout routine gives you a case of the shivers, it could be because you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. A 2014 study looked at the amount of sleep and physical activity subjects reported getting and found that insufficient sleep predisposed subjects to avoiding exercise. Sleep timing, quality and duration are important considerations when you’re attempting to incorporate physical exercise into a daily routine, which is an important aspect of trying to heal from drug or alcohol addiction. By Suzanne Kane