Cumbria Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service
Sleep is one of the most important factors in physical and emotional health, wellbeing and healing. Due to the importance of healing and recovery, as well as REM sleep requirements, we may need to sleep more if we are recovering from substance misuse. The ultimate aim should be to sleep for as long as possible, preferably without
an alarm clock waking us up. However we know that this is not always possible. What you can do, is take steps to ensure that we get the best night’s sleep we can.
We should aim for between 8-10 hours sleep, or as much as is needed. Sleep will be most beneficial if we can minimize interruptions and sleep right through. It will also be most beneficial the closer our sleep cycle is to our circadian rhythm. Ideally, we should aim to be going to bed for 9pm, however if this is not possible due to other factors, we should aim to be in bed by 11pm at the latest. We need to adapt the time we go to bed, based on the time we need to be up by. So if we know that we need to be up by 5am, it may be wise to aim for a 9pm bedtime at the latest.
Here are some tips for encouraging a good night’s sleep, free from interruptions;
1. Finish eating all meals and snacks at 7pm.
2. Drink sufficient amounts of water and liquid throughout the day, but aim to finish all fluid intake by 8pm at the latest. (preferably 7pm)
3. Finish all caffeinated drinks consumption by 4pm.
4. Ensure a regular intake of whole foods, rather than refined foods, to ensure balanced blood sugar levels. Ensure that we eat a sufficient amount at each meal to satisfy our needs.
5. Ensure the evening meal contains plenty of carbohydrates, e.g. brown rice, pasta, millet, barley, oats or potatoes. Carbohydrates help us produce lots of melatonin in the evening, which makes us sleepy and thus deep sleep.
6. Exercise on a daily basis. This could be walking, running, yoga, tai chi, cycling, going to the gym. Regular exercise helps reduce stress hormones which can keep us awake, and boost serotonin and melatonin production, which help to improve sleep.
7. Develop a bed-time routine, e.g. 1 hour before bed-time, turn off all television, stressful or loud music or music with a beat, computer screens and telephones. Change clothing, lower the lighting, perhaps have a warm bath if desired. Use relaxation to help you unwind if necessary.
8. Write a journal before bed. An overactive or restless mind will mean we need to spend more time in REM sleep as a result. If we can write down our concerns before bed, we may get a more refreshing and relaxing sleep. 9. Use deep breathing techniques such as the 7/11 breathing technique if you are struggling to sleep. This will promote your body’s natural relaxation response.