No one ever expects to develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Even though this is the case, in the United States alone, over 20 million people struggle with substance use disorder. A SUD can affect many aspects of a person’s health, including their sleep. Continue reading to learn about the different effects of substance use on sleep.
What Causes Sleep Disruptions?
Sleep is as important to your health as the food you eat, the water you drink and the air you breathe. Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Without sleep, your brain can’t function properly and inhibits your ability to concentrate, think clearly and process memories.
Some substances that can disrupt sleep include:
Some prescription, nonprescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can cause sleep problems include:
- Blood pressure medicine
- Some antidepressants
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- Nicotine (like in cigarettes)
- Medicines with caffeine (like Excedrin or NoDoz)
- Some cough medicines
- Allergy or asthma medicine
Insomnia is a sleeping disorder in which you have trouble falling and or staying asleep.
Some symptoms of insomnia include:
- Sleepiness during the day
- Problems with concentration or memory
Insomnia can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute insomnia usually lasts from one night to a couple of weeks. Chronic insomnia will last anywhere from three nights a week to a month or more. There is also primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia occurs when the condition is not connected to another health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia is when the condition is connected to a health condition such as a substance use disorder.
Studies have found that those who suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD) are five times more likely to have insomnia. This also includes those trying to recover from a SUD. This often occurs when the individual is going through physical withdrawal but can occur for years after recovery. Insomnia is also a leading cause of relapse.
Those who also suffer from insomnia may take it upon themselves to self-medicate. Self-medication can lead to further complications and further disrupt the individual’s sleep cycle.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, usually because of an uncomfortable sensation. This condition often occurs in the evening or at night when you are sitting or lying down.
Some symptoms of RLS include:
- Sensations that begin after rest. The sensation typically begins after you’ve been lying down or sitting for an extended time, such as in a car, airplane or movie theater.
- Relief with movement. The sensation of RLS lessens with movement, such as stretching, jiggling your legs, pacing or walking.
- Worsening of symptoms in the evening. Symptoms occur mainly at night.
- Nighttime leg twitching. RLS may be associated with another, more common condition called periodic limb movement of sleep, which causes your legs to twitch and kick, possibly throughout the night, while you sleep.
There has been a strong link between those with a substance use disorder and developing RLS symptoms. Research also suggests that those experiencing a sleep disorder associated with restless leg syndrome are more prone to developing substance use issues primarily with alcohol.
Hypersomnia is a condition in which a person has trouble staying awake during the day. It is often a result of sleeping disorders such as insomnia and restless leg syndrome (RLS).
Some symptoms of hypersomnia include:
- Feeling unusually tired all the time
- The need for daytime naps
- Feeling drowsy, despite sleeping and napping – not refreshed on waking up
- Difficulty thinking and making decisions – the mind feels ‘foggy’
- Memory or concentration difficulties
- An increased risk of accidents, especially motor vehicle accidents.
While hypersomnia is often a result of insomnia and RLS, substance use often intensifies the symptoms of hypersomnia. Those who have a SUD can also sleep substantially at night, experience increased drowsiness during the day and may nap excessively.
Find Help at Seneca Health Services
For less restless nights, it is best to avoid substance use altogether. If you cannot stop thinking about alcohol or drugs, you should contact one of our trained behavioral health professionals. Reaching out is hard, but we want you to know that our team of psychiatrists, medical providers, social workers, therapists, nurses, case managers and other professional staff at Seneca Health Services are here to help. We will listen to you, support you and will not provide any more or less treatment than what is needed.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Seneca office nearest you.
Greenbrier County, West Virginia: (304) 497-0500
Nicholas County, West Virginia: (304) 872-2659
Pocahontas County, West Virginia: (304) 799-6865
Webster County, West Virginia: (304) 847-5425