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Learning to Sleep

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By Preston Satchwell

sleepFor those who struggle with addiction, “just go to sleep” is as frustrating a statement as “just stop using.” Many have the desire for a full night’s rest, but lack the education and resources on how to accomplish this. In the Psychoneuroplasticity (PNP) sleep program, we offer the tools to turn this pipe dream into a very real dream.

“Sleep medication usage has decreased 40% at Origins Recovery Center since implementing the sleep program.” –Beverly Skloss, Corporate Director of Nursing

In today’s world, bad sleep habits are widespread. Some of these habits, such as eating a heavy meal late at night and gazing into the blue light of our television, computer, or phone screens, are often confused with relaxation. These bad habits come about because most of us were never taught how to sleep properly. The bedroom lights were turned off and we were left to fulfill a seemingly simple task; however, instead we found our minds swinging from thought to thought like a monkey through the trees of a jungle. Throwing drugs and alcohol into the mix can create an even bigger sleep disturbance issue. A lot of hard work with the 12 Steps lies ahead for those in recovery. Therefore, sleep troubles are an unwanted distraction on the road to recovery.

Our goal is to equip our patients with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep naturally. To achieve this goal, we must unlearn the detrimental habits, and learn the beneficial habits.

Gillian Flynn wrote that “Sleep is like a cat: It only comes to you if you ignore it.” Through the development of certain techniques, the PNP center takes a different approach. We make an effort to be mindful of our sacred sleep throughout the entire course of the day. Days and nights often blur together in addiction and sleep is easily disrupted and fragmented. Developing a consistent sleep pattern can help end the fragmented sleep cycle and reset the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Everyone will develop his or her own unique rituals within the realm of sleep hygiene that help to achieve this goal. These may include things like meditation, increased daylight exposure, working out earlier in the day, making sure to only eat large meals well before bedtime, reading stories before bed, using the restroom before bed, only being in bed when it is time for sleep, and simply being mindful of cues from the body that it is time to go to sleep.

Unfortunately, many are also overwhelmed by stressful thoughts and anxiety before sleep.

Most of our patients have struggled for so long that they have acquired anticipatory anxiety around the very subject of sleep! This leads to things like shallow breathing and conjured images of stress and worry. Instead of breathing from the chest, like so many do, we train the patient to take deep breaths from the diaphragm. While proper breathing lowers anxiety levels, counting these breaths gives the mind something calming to focus on. From here, the patient is trained to go into a progressive muscle relaxation and rid themselves of any tension or discomfort. After they have reached a state of relaxation, they are then guided into safe place imagery. In this process, they use all of their senses with their imagination to find a place of comfort and serenity. It has been researched that musical selections with a tempo between 60 and 80 BPM, a regular rhythm, low pitches, and tranquil melodies are another profound tool for sleep and tend to aid in the process of imagery. Many other remedies can also be found here such as changing the diet, aromatherapy, and sleep inducing frequencies.

Overall, the sleep program adds yet another cutting edge element to the entire Origins Recovery experience.

Those who are in recovery are well aware that “The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us.” Poor quality sleep can cause lower thresholds to irritation and anger, as well as affect insight and judgment. With this in mind, sleep plays an unexpected, but critical role in the recovery process. With one less medication to rely on and pay for, with one more failure turned into success, our patients leave with not only the tools to recover from addiction, but also the rejuvenation that restfulness can offer, to fully enjoy that recovery.

“The innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

-William Shakespeare