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Understanding the Connection Between Insomnia and Addiction

Most people struggle to fall or stay asleep from time to time. Irregular work schedules, too much caffeine, anxiety, and other things can keep us up at night when all we want to do is go to sleep. Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 4 people in the United States experience symptoms of insomnia each year.

Certain things can make insomnia worse–including addiction. People with addiction often struggle with insomnia, and there seems to be a link between these conditions. Understanding this connection can help you identify a problem and seek the treatment you need to recover.

If you or someone you love lives with insomnia and addiction, the help you need is available at the Mandala Healing Center. Our holistic treatment programs can help you identify and heal the roots of your substance use disorder so you can live the healthy lifestyle you choose.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder affecting millions of people every year. The primary symptom of insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep for an adequate time. People may experience different aspects of insomnia, such as waking up too early in the morning and not being able to fall back asleep or lying awake for hours after going to bed.

There are two kinds of insomnia: chronic insomnia and acute insomnia.

Acute insomnia

Acute insomnia occurs when someone experiences just a few nights of troubled sleep. People are more likely to develop acute insomnia when they are anxious or excited about something that will happen soon, during a significant life change, or because of seasonal time changes. Most people will experience at least one period of acute insomnia in their lifetime.

Chronic insomnia

Chronic insomnia is a longer-lasting form of insomnia that causes people to have trouble sleeping at least three nights per week for a minimum of three weeks. Often, there is no identifiable cause of chronic insomnia as there is with acute insomnia. Chronic insomnia can sometimes be a condition of an underlying medical or mental health condition.

What Causes Insomnia?

Many things can cause insomnia: stress, significant life changes, lifestyle or habits that don’t support good sleep, and more. Emotional and psychological issues are most often to blame for many people’s cases of insomnia, but diet, lack of exercise, excess caffeine, and other practical things can impair people’s ability to get good sleep.

The most common causes of insomnia include:

  • Excessive stress
  • Poor sleep hygiene (lack of a regular bedtime, too much screen time before bed, uncomfortable sleeping environment, etc.)
  • Travel
  • Irregular work schedule or working shifts
  • Eating too close to bedtime
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Medications
  • Sleep apnea and other sleep-related conditions
  • Caffeine or nicotine too close to bedtime

In many cases, simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your sleep quality. However, people with substance use and addiction often struggle with sleep and may require more intensive treatment to address insomnia and addiction simultaneously. 

The Connection Between Insomnia and Addiction

For many years, mental health and addiction practitioners wondered about a connection between insomnia and addiction. Research shows that people with sleep disorders are up to 10 times more likely to meet the criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD). But why are these two conditions so interconnected?

There are several potential causes for this connection between insomnia and addiction. First, people with insomnia–especially chronic insomnia–may be more likely to use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their sleep problems. For example, someone may drink heavily before bedtime or use sedative drugs to try to get to sleep at night after struggling with insomnia for some time. 

Another theory is that people with sleep disorders may come to depend on addictive medications, such as Ambien and Lunesta, to go to sleep. These drugs can be used safely for short periods but may cause physical and emotional dependence with heavy or ongoing use.

People may also develop insomnia after becoming addicted to stimulant drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine, or they may experience sleep disturbances during withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.

Treatment for Addiction and Insomnia

Comprehensive addiction treatment includes treatment for all aspects of a person’s substance use, including mental health conditions that may contribute to insomnia. During a substance use disorder treatment program, people receive support and treatment and are connected to resources that can help them continue recovery after rehab.

Typical treatment plans include:

  • Individual, group, and family counseling
  • Behavioral and cognitive therapies
  • Medications
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Holistic therapies like nutrition support, massage, exercise, and art therapy
  • Aftercare planning

People who struggle with insomnia and addiction will receive the medical and mental health care they need while learning how to manage the symptoms of their addiction and avoid relapse. 

Participating in a holistic treatment program can help people learn to cope with insomnia without turning to drugs or alcohol and develop healthy behaviors that promote better sleep and overall wellness.

Get Help for Insomnia and Addiction Now

If you or someone you love lives with insomnia and addiction, you are not alone. Reach out to the team at the Mandala Healing Center now to explore our effective, nurturing treatment programs or schedule an intake assessment.