Sleep is an essential part of maintaining our health and well-being. For those in recovery, adequate sleep is as crucial as food and water. Without it, our cognitive function, memory, energy, and mood are affected. Perhaps most importantly, a lack of sleep can increase the risk of returning to use.
How Prevalent Are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders are common. According to The American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep disorder. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Yet, 37 percent of adults aged 20 to 39, and 40 percent of 40 to 59 year olds report short sleep duration, getting less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with as many as 30 percent of adults suffering with it in the short term, and 10 percent suffering with chronic insomnia. The next most common sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, which affects 25 million adults. The effects of sleep deprivation can be devastating. Driving while feeling sleepy is responsible for 1,500 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries annually in the United States.
Sleep Disorders and Addiction
Studies have shown that people with substance use disorder (SUD) are five to 10 times more likely to have sleep disorders. Often they use substances to self-medicate: tranquilizers to promote sleep or stimulants to stay awake. Even if sleep wasn’t a problem before recovery, researchers have found, insomnia is common in early recovery and may even predict returning to use.
It is no surprise that people in early recovery suffer with insomnia. The reality of drug use can be difficult to face: the harm, the emotional wreckage, and life without the aid of substances to soften the realities of life. If that isn’t tough enough, the substances once relied upon to promote sleep are now out of bounds.
There are plenty of natural ways to assist in getting to sleep, such as regular exercise, and eating well. Having a bedtime routine can also help. Try turning off electronic devices an hour before bed, removing the television from the bedroom, relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and meditation, and herbal supplements. Some doctors say that cannabis can be used as a safe and effective treatment for insomnia.
Cannabis for Sleep Disorders
Dr. Dustin Sulak is a renowned integrative medicine physician based in Maine and nationally considered to be an expert on medical cannabis. Asked about the use of cannabis for sleeping disorders, he says:
“Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment for sleep disorders, not only due to the sedating qualities of certain types of cannabis, but because it can address the most common underlying causes of sleep disturbance: pain, anxiety, depression, restlessness, and many other physical symptoms.”
Sulak goes on to say, “After a comprehensive review of the scientific literature in 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found moderate evidence that cannabis is effective for improving sleep in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.
“In my clinical experience,” he continues, “I’ve never observed a more universally effective treatment for decreasing or resolving nightmares associated with trauma and PTSD. When used appropriately, it’s likely that cannabis, unlike most sleep medications, improves the quality of sleep and does not have a negative influence on one’s progression through the various stages of healthy sleep.”
Is Cannabis Right for Your Addiction Recovery?
As with anything in recovery, you have to find what works for you in consultation with your physician.
Remedy Recovery supports the use of cannabis when it’s recommended and prescribed by your doctor. Research supports our belief that cannabis can be a vital tool as an exit drug from self-harming drug use as well as supporting the process of recovery. We understand that sleep is critical to recovery. Remedy has a full sleep analysis program for all clients to maximize the benefits of sleep, that may or may not include cannabis.