Coping with Insomnia During Withdrawal

Opiate or alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, uncomfortable, and painful. One common symptom is insomnia, which tends to linger.

Withdrawal insomnia can include one or more of the following:

Withdrawal is physically taxing and good, restful sleep can help limit the severity of your other opiate detox symptoms, as well as help promote healthy habits and decrease the chances of relapse.

The Healing Properties of Sleep

How to Sleep During Withdrawal

Creating a good sleep process for yourself is an important step. Insomnia is a common post-acute withdrawal symptom that can last much longer than normal withdrawal, so it’s best to start as early as possible by prioritizing sleep. The more disciplined you are, the quicker your insomnia and potentially all of your withdrawal symptoms can disappear.

1. Seek Professional Help with Withdrawals

Going to a Suboxone clinic or alcohol detox dramatically improves all of your symptoms, including your sleep. For example, medications like Suboxone for opioid addictions will improve all withdrawal symptoms making sleep much easier. Or, a doctor may prescribe a few days of sleep medication. It’s not ideal to rely on sleep medications long-term because they become habit-forming and the sleep is not as restorative, but it may be an option on the most intense days.

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2. Establish a Sleep Routine

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. Your body will fall in line if you stick to the schedule.

Wind down before bed with quiet activities, like reading or doing anything that will relax you before going to sleep. Try to limit your television watching before bed. If you do watch TV, keep it light. Maybe watch a comedy that puts you in a good mood.

You can also try drinking a warm cup of caffeine-free tea before bed. Meditation or yoga can also put your mind at ease.

And, stay active during the day. Creating a daily routine not only keeps your mind occupied, but it can make you more tired at the end of the day and help you get to sleep.

3. Be Careful with Naps

Naps aren’t always helpful.  Avoid taking any long naps, and limit to 20 minutes maximum. If it’s already after 2 PM, it’s too late for a nap, because it could ruin the sleep patterns you’re working hard to build.

Naps are also better proactive than reactive. So, nap on days where you know you won’t get as good of sleep rather than days after you already missed sleep. And, limit time in bed to form the association of sleep with the bed.

4. Reserve the Bed for Sleep

“If you have insomnia you should train your brain that your bed is only for sleeping and sex. Don’t lay in your bed watching TV, be on your phone or even just relaxing during the day. Train your brain that bed is only for sleep and do any other relaxing activities on the couch or chair in another room. That way, your brain only sees the bed for its intended purposes and helps to associate sleeping with laying in your bed.”

Monica Roberts, Ed.D LCPC at Symetria Recovery

5. Set the Right Mood

Our sleep schedules are naturally synced with light. Try to keep it bright during the day and less so in the evening, and fully dark as you sleep. Turn your phone light to the lowest setting if using before bed, but try to avoid screen-time whenever possible.

And, keep the room cool. Your body temperature naturally decreases by a few degrees when you sleep, and a cooler room can help you avoid waking up from being too hot.

6. Choose Drinks with Care

Caffeine is common in recovery. But, keep in mind that twelve hours after you drink it, a quarter of the caffeine can still be in your system. That’s like drinking a quarter of that coffee or energy drink right before you go to bed and expecting to fall asleep. You can still have caffeine, but try to cut it off before 10 AM.

If you’re withdrawing from alcohol, staying away from alcohol is obvious. It may feel like the sedative effects of alcohol will help get to sleep, but your sleep quality will be much worse and the sleep will be shorter than without alcohol. Alcohol is known to throw off REM sleep cycles and produce disrupted sleep. You will wake up feeling better without using alcohol.

Melatonin is OK

Melatonin is produced naturally in the body to help tell your body it’s time for bed. If your clock is off, melatonin in liquid, pill or gummy form can help. The downfall is that if you rely on it too much, your body may stop producing melatonin naturally.

Many Melatonin Doses Are Too High

Different Bottles of Too High 10-12 mg Melatonin

Many U.S. melatonin products have way too much per dose because consumers perceive that more means better. Instead, try to take the lowest dose that still works for you (around 3mg should be fine). It’s not meant to put you to sleep, but to as an aid to your other sleep hygiene habits.

7. Learn to Still Your Mind

Instead of trying to control racing, stressful or random thoughts, try to have no thoughts. If a thought comes to your mind, don’t get frustrated or run with that thought. Let it gently float away until you’re back to having no thoughts. If you’re having trouble, focus on your breathing. Don’t fight against your mind, but quiet it peacefully.

Learning to still your mind is the most transformative mental health exercise. Unlike chasing happiness, it teaches you how to feel peace regardless of your circumstances. It makes you more resilient against relapse and also helps you get to sleep quicker.

Combining these sleep hygiene tools and recommendations will help you establish good sleep habits and can even eliminate sleep issues. Early recovery is the perfect time to make these changes part of your nighttime routine. Once you develop good sleep patterns, it is much easier to stay consistent.

Still Have Questions?

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Peter lamp
Peter lamp

I was an IV heroin / fentanyl user most of my life. I am now 15 days clean, currently on 8mg of Suboxone. I cannot sleep well at night. I’ve been taking a few milligrams of melatonin before bed. Is that okay? What else can you suggest? I still get the chills a lot.

Shaine
Shaine
Reply to  Peter lamp

Man… I am a week clean from fentanyl an I can’t sleep for nothing. I hate it.

Boots
Boots
Reply to  Shaine

Hang in there it gets better. The first part sucks and there’s really not too much you can do about it. It gets better and your life will be better.

Ysenia
Ysenia
Reply to  Shaine

I am 1 month clean and after day 11 of no sleep, I just wanted to die. I’m still not able to sleep, maybe 2 hours tops every other night. It sucks.

Beverly
Beverly
Reply to  Ysenia

I’m going threw the same thing it’s been a month clean of subs still not right my nervous system feals so messed up my legs crawl all night gabapentin has helped sone

Ysenia
Ysenia
Reply to  Beverly

Omg me too! I thought it was something I was taking, like my legs just feel like they want to take off. I still can’t sleep.

Hannah clark
Hannah clark
Reply to  Beverly

I’m glad gabapentain is helping, ( don’t read next part of vonable right now) but be careful with it, im currently withdrawing for it right now because I stopped harder things, and just try and follow your prescription. You are doing great and keep going!

Bev potter
Bev potter
Reply to  Ysenia

I am now 4 months clean off suboxon it was prescribed twenty years I am doing better gabipentan some kratom but not to much and a lot of me refusing to go back still get restless legs at night sometimes but it’s not anything like the first month I think my nerves are just healing good lick and prayers to everyone with this curse stop now it only gets harder each day you take a opioid

Mark
Mark
Reply to  Shaine

Knowing you are beating your addiction is the prize. It’s hard but remember it took you a long time to get addicted so once you getby the first week it gets easier. You can do this..

Sharkey
Sharkey
Reply to  Peter lamp

Congratulations Peter!! That alone is a awesome accomplishment! Hang in there brother, You are on the right track and when You get past that “finish line” I promise You will feel the cleanest, highest high that rivals any high You’ve ever felt before.It’s not easy but, as I’m sure You are aware, anything worth a damn in this life always seems so much sweeter after You realize it was YOU that made up You mind and put in all the hard work to get there. Stay the course, keep You eyes/mind on where YOU want to be, the rest of You will follow. Stay positive!

Paul
Paul

How long can I feel like I’m physically withdrawal even with no opiate in my system 30 days

RyanB
RyanB
Reply to  Paul

if you were a long time user of opoids, you may continue to get withdrawals for another month yet. I’m currently on them too and have been for the last 4 or so years due to hip rotting. I’m currently having suffering withdrawals right now due to not realising its a public holiday and cannot pick up my medications. So it very much does suck, I understand that.

Word of advice though, if you’re still struggling, try and get your doctor to prescribe you bupernorphine for the withdrawals. Those really helped me in the past. Lowest dose would work for you as you’ve already gone 30 days without the opoids to begin with.

Best of luck.

BobL
BobL

I’ve been on Suboxone for about 8 months after a 1.5 year heroin problem. Now I just want to be free of it all. I’ve read that exercise and drinking lots of water helps with subox w/d symptoms but getting sleep is tough. Most of the time taking the smallest amount of subox (about 1-2 mg?) is enough to help, along with Tylenol PM and a 3mg Melatonin.
Problem is, even that small amount of subox is still keeping me hooked as I’m trying to wean off it. Gotta figure this out…

Joel
Joel
Reply to  BobL

I highly recommend zquil to sleep.. It definitely works!!

Bev potter
Bev potter
Reply to  BobL

I got off subs but it was hard I also only taken small does but it keeps your opiod receptors covered and so the withdrawals still bad also your body has turned off strong pain signals etc when they come back awake it’s so uncomfortable but I am 4 months clean after 20 years I can’t say it was easy I can only say I can now see how much it was killing me I still having effects not withdrawal but just my body trying to heal from the poison. Stop if you can it’s not a harmless drug it’s a cover up for causing so many of use a addiction to a drug the country produced and sold then tried to sell a solution that is the same drug wrapped in a new package

Symetria doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the field.

Kosten, T. R., & Baxter, L. E. (2019). Review article: Effective management of opioid withdrawal symptoms: A gateway to opioid dependence treatment. The American Journal on Addictions28(2), 55–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajad.12862

Vyazovskiy, V. (2015). Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: explaining the benefits of sleep. Nature and Science of Sleep, 171. https://doi.org/10.2147/nss.s54036

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