Posted on March 5, 2018 by Laura Fuller
For 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.
In today’s world, bad sleep habits are widespread. People confuse many habits – such as eating a heavy meal late at night, watching television or spending time on our phones – with relaxation. In truth, most of us were never taught how to get a proper night’s rest. 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 nighttime disturbances. 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.
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. In addiction, days and nights often blur together. 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 rest.
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.
Once a state of relaxation is achieved, we guide them into safe place imagery. In this process, they use all of their senses with their imagination to find a place of comfort and serenity. Musical selections with a tempo between 60 and 80 BPM, a regular rhythm, low pitches, and tranquil melodies are another profound tool for sleep. These tend to aid in the process of imagery. Other remedies also exist. These include changing the diet, aromatherapy, and sleep inducing frequencies.
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.