The Connection Between Poor Sleep Quality, Depression, and Substance Use

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The Connection Between Poor Sleep Quality, Depression, and Substance Use

Many people who struggle with depression have abnormal sleeping habits. These individuals typically sleep for many more hours than necessary, sometimes even in the middle of the day. This behavior is often their way of shutting out the world around them and finding mental peace, although only temporary. Others may struggle to get enough quality sleep, frequently struggling with insomnia and lying awake for hours, unable to fall asleep. These issues with poor sleep quality can worsen one’s depression. 

Furthermore, many people who struggle with depression also turn to substance use as a way to cope with their pain. In fact, having a sleeping disorder can make one more vulnerable to developing a substance use disorder. Substance misuse can further impact one’s sleep quality and overall mental state. Thus, there is a direct connection between all three components, sleep, depression, and substance use. 

Understanding the Vulnerabilities Associated With Poor Sleep Quality

Sleep is essential for our mental and physical health. We need good quality sleep not only to have the energy to get through our days but for many mental processes as well. Poor sleep can affect our mood and the patience we have with others. Poor sleep quality can impair our ability to focus and interfere with our performance at work or school. Sleep issues can also increase one’s vulnerability to stress and mental health problems like anxiety and depression. 

Lacking quality sleep can skew one’s judgment, making a person more impulsive and more likely to make poor decisions. Poor sleep quality can make someone more likely to do things they typically would never do and engage in certain risks, including substance misuse. 

The Disruption of Dopamine Production 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter inside the brain. Often known as the “happy chemical,” dopamine plays a role in a person’s ability to experience pleasure. We experience dopamine naturally in our day-to-day lives. For example, you may experience a dopamine rush when spending time with family or friends, spending time out in nature, or taking a bite of your favorite food. 

Dopamine also plays a role in our ability to fall asleep. However, through excessive substance use, dopamine production can be disrupted. This is especially true when someone misuses powerful drugs for an extended period of time. They may come to find that they can no longer experience joy and pleasure from natural circumstances anymore. This is because their body is only producing dopamine when they are engaging in substance misuse. In addition, their body’s circadian rhythm has been disrupted, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. As a result, the individual may constantly find themselves feeling tired and groggy. 

Fixing Sleep Cycles in Recovery

When someone seeks professional help for a substance use disorder, they will go through the detox process and begin their initial stages of treatment. Getting good quality sleep, especially in early recovery, is crucial. In fact, poor quality sleep can even make someone more likely to experience a relapse. 

How is someone supposed to get good quality sleep when their dopamine production and sleep cycles have been disrupted? There are several different options for correcting this problem.

Let Your Doctor Know

Make your treatment provider aware of any sleep issues you may be having. There are natural supplements that you may consider taking to help you fall asleep. Your treatment provider may also recommend a prescription sleeping medication that you would only take temporarily as your sleep cycle repairs itself. 

Get Exercising

There are a lot of other things that you can do on your own to help make sure that you’re getting good quality sleep during this time. Getting plenty of exercise throughout the day is often one of the best things you can do. Exercising will physically tire you out, allowing you to fall asleep easier. If you find yourself lying in bed struggling to sleep, consider getting up and doing some quick exercises such as jumping jacks or sit-ups. 

Avoid or Limit Screen Time

Another good idea is to avoid looking at screens right before bed, as hard as it may be. The light from your phone or television can stimulate your brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Instead of scrolling through social media, consider reading a chapter of a book before bed. 

Some other things you may want to consider include:

  • Practicing yoga or meditation before bed
  • Listening to calming music 
  • Using a white noise machine 
  • Getting blackout curtains for your bedroom to keep light from coming in
  • Using essential oils, especially lavender 
  • Silencing your phone to limit possible disruptions throughout the night 
  • Taking a relaxing bath before bed
  • Making sure the air temperature in your bedroom is comfortable 
  • Drinking a cup of non-caffeinated tea before bed

Sleep, depression, and substance misuse are all connected in different ways. People with depression often have abnormal sleep patterns. People with abnormal sleep patterns are more vulnerable to substance use disorders. Recovering from a substance use disorder is all the more difficult without good-quality sleep. In recovery, there are ways to ensure you are still getting good sleep. Some prescription medications or supplements may help. You can also make sure you’re getting plenty of exercise throughout the day and avoiding using your phone right before bed. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, our team at The Kimberly Center can help. Call (855) 452-3683 today to learn more about the different types of treatment that we offer. 

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