Sober Sleeping Tips

Table of Contents

  1. The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Sleep Troubles
  2. Misconceptions about Sober Sleep
  3. Putting Sleeping Tips into Action
  4. How Lifestyle Impacts Sleep
  5. Improved Sleep for Improved Health

Sleep is an important aspect of well-being and sleep disturbances are common among individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder. Sober sleeping tips can be helpful for ensuring a successful recovery.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Sleep Troubles

In a 2012 report in Sleep Medicine Reviews, scientists from the University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the University of Arizona reviewed the results of the research concerned with the relationship between substance abuse and sleep. They reported that studies have shown that substance abuse not only causes disrupted sleep; sleep problems can also increase the risk of relapse to drug use. The authors additionally reported that studies have shown that substance use can produce circadian rhythm disturbances, which can result in irregular sleep patterns. 1

Given the relationship between substance abuse and sleep disturbances, individuals in treatment for substance use disorders may experience insomnia during the recovery process. Fortunately, there are ways to achieve healthy sleep while maintaining sobriety from drugs, alcohol, and potentially addictive prescription sleep aids. These sober sleeping tips can provide a guideline for ensuring restorative sleep during recovery.

Misconceptions about Sleep

Alcohol and Sleep

When discussing sober sleeping tips, it is important to address misconceptions about sleep. One such misconception is that alcohol is a sleep aid. In a research report in a 2007 publication of the Journal of Addictive Diseases, scientists affiliated with the University of Michigan advised that individuals with sleep problems commonly use alcohol to self-medicate and improve their sleep, making them more susceptible to developing an addiction to alcohol. In addition, sleep disturbances are also common during recovery from alcohol abuse, according to the University of Michigan researchers. 2 For some, it may seem that alcohol is necessary for falling asleep, but there are ways to ensure healthy sleep habits without drinking.

Cigarettes and Sleep

Aside from using alcohol to promote sleep, another misconception is that cigarettes relax the body and help with sleep, when, in fact, the research suggests otherwise. In a 2006 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, a team from Johns Hopkins University assessed the sleep quality of smokers and compared it to that of non-smokers. Study results showed that the smokers tended to take more time to fall asleep, and they spent less total time sleeping when compared to individuals who had never smoked. In addition, smokers tended to spend less time, on average, in deep sleep. Interestingly, former smokers and never smokers demonstrated no differences in sleep quality, suggesting that giving up smoking can promote restful sleep. 3

Sleep Deprivation

Finally, beyond misconceptions surrounding alcohol and cigarette use for promoting sleep, a common belief is that skimping on sleep isn’t anything to be concerned about, but the reality is that the effects of sleep deprivation can be harmful. A 2003 study in the journal Sleep found that restricting sleep to 4 or 6 hours per night for two weeks impaired mental performance and was just as damaging as two nights with no sleep. 4 Based upon the findings of this study, missing just a few hours of sleep per night can significantly weaken cognitive functioning, which could increase the chances of relapse. Therefore, prioritizing quality sleep is an important part of the recovery process.

Putting Sleeping Tips into Action

There are plenty of misconceptions about healthy sleep but putting sober sleeping tips into place can promote restful sleep during the recovery process. The authors of the 2007 report in the Journal of Addictive Diseases have discussed non-pharmacological treatments for sleep disturbances among patients addicted to alcohol. They advised that some research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can improve sleep disturbances during recovery. 2 Treatment programs that contain cognitive behavioral therapy components can therefore assist not only with recovery from addiction but also with sleep disruptions.

Therapies for Improved Sleep

The report in the Journal of Addictive Diseases also described the benefits of relaxation therapy techniques, such as thought stopping and progressive muscle relaxation, for the treatment of insomnia during recovery from addiction. 2 Clients who have ongoing sleep disturbances may benefit from incorporating such techniques into their treatment plans.

Sleep Hygiene Helps

The report also addressed interventions that contain education regarding sleep hygiene. Such interventions can complement the other components of treatment to improve sleep, and they teach about the importance of exercise, a healthy diet, a consistent sleep routine, and a cool, comfortable sleep environment. 2 Incorporating sober sleeping tips from sleep hygiene programs can promote restful sleep.

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Lifestyle Factors Contributing to Healthy Sleep

Researchers have discovered the benefits of specific lifestyle factors for promoting healthy sleep. Certain lifestyle habits, such as creating a consistent sleep schedule and following a routine that includes regular exercise, can promote optimal sleep.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can be especially useful for achieving restful sleep without drugs or alcohol. Authors from Boston University reviewed the results of 66 studies concerned with the relationship between physical activity and sleep, and they published their findings in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. They concluded, based upon the results of the reviewed studies, that regular exercise is beneficial for increasing sleep time and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep; exercise has also demonstrated benefits for sleep quality. 5 Regular exercise is a drug-free method for falling into a slumber and achieving restorative sleep throughout the night.

Sleep Schedules

Scientists have also found consistent sleep schedules to be beneficial. In a 1996 study in the journal Sleep, scientists working for the University of Arizona found that when study participants maintained a regular sleep schedule, their daytime sleepiness reduced, and alertness increased. They also experienced greater sleep efficiency when compared to participants who didn’t maintain a regular sleep schedule, meaning that they spent a greater portion of their time in bed actually asleep. 6 Creating a sleep schedule that involves going to bed around the same time and waking up at the same time each day can therefore promote restful sleep during recovery.

Therapy Used to Improve Sleep

Lifestyle alterations, such as creating a consistent sleep schedule and incorporating regular exercise are two strategies for achieving healthy, restful sleep without drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. Other interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation therapy can also be beneficial for people who do not respond to general sleep hygiene techniques or lifestyle changes.

Improved Sleep for Improved Health

Sleep disturbances are relatively common among people who suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol, and they can make abstinence more complicated. Despite common misconceptions, abstaining from sleeping pills, alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes can actually improve sleep and increase one’s chances of success during the recovery process. Developing healthy sleep habits not only promotes restful sleep; it can also prevent sleep disturbances or insomnia from serving as a roadblock to lasting sobriety. By implementing sober sleeping tips, anyone can overcome the sleep challenges that commonly occur during recovery.


  1. Sleep Medicine Reviews
  2. Journal of Addictive Diseases
  3. American Journal of Epidemiology
  4. Sleep
  5. Journal of Behavioral Medicine
  6. Sleep

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