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Recovering Addicts and Insomnia: Holistic Tips for Better Sleep

Any one of us can experience insomnia and other problems relating to sleep.  Recovering addicts and insomnia often go hand-in-hand.  When such conditions persist, they are referred to as chronic conditions, and it is estimated that about 40 million Americans suffer from chronic insomnia and sleep-related disorders. That is a lot of people. All too often, the “solution” is to take any of various drugs. These drugs range from over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids to heavy, addictive anti-anxiety and antipsychotic medications.  For a recovering addict, this type of medication is not a good solution:

  • Over-the-Counter: OTC sleep aids such as Nytol, Sominex, Unisom, and ZzzQuil usually consist of an antihistamine (allergy or cold medication) and can also include acetaminophen ( the active ingredient in Tylenol and other medications). Side effects include drowsiness the following day, dizziness, forgetfulness, loss of balance, dry mouth and throat, constipation, urinary retention, and blurred vision.
  • Sleep Aids: The prescription “sleep aids” or “hypnotics” like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata have a list of side effects that include impaired driving ability, memory loss, sleepwalking, erratic behavior, delirium, hallucination, unconsciousness, dependence, addiction, and injury from falls or other accidents. The drugs are also linked to depression and suicide.
  • Benzodiazepines: Other drugs prescribed for sleep problems and anxiety are called benzodiazepines or “benzos” and include Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion, Valium, and Librium. Reportedly meant to reduce anxiety, they are associated with side effects such as nausea, fatigue, cognitive impairment, confusion, depression, amnesia, insomnia (yes, you read that right), skin reactions, aggressive behavior, dependence, addiction, suicide, and violent behavior. It is very dangerous for anyone using benzodiazepines to abruptly stop taking them without medical supervision due to potentially fatal seizures and other withdrawal symptoms.
  • Antipsychotics: Another class of drug is called antipsychotics or “major tranquilizers” and includes Zyprexa, Abilify, Risperdal, and Seroquel. These drugs are intended for people with psychological disturbances, yet are also prescribed, oddly enough, for insomnia and sleep problems. Like benzodiazepines, they act upon the brain chemistry of the user. They do not only “make you relax.” Side effects of antipsychotics include blood disorders, drooling, fainting, fever, hives, sexual dysfunction, spasms, convulsions, muscle rigidity, paralysis, tardive dyskinesia ( a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements of face and jaw), akathisia (sensation of intense restlessness and inability to remain still).

Drugs Do Not Solve the Problem

Even antidepressants get prescribed for insomnia and conditions other than depression. It is also common for people to abuse painkillers like OxyContin (oxycodone) or Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) in an attempt to help them sleep. It is also very common for a person taking psychotropic drugs to wind up dependent upon or addicted to several drugs simultaneously.

Addiction to prescription drugs now often requires careful inpatient or outpatient medical supervision to help a person safely detoxify.

Virtually all of the drugs used for sleep – per prescription or otherwise – are classified as central nervous system depressants. Certain drugs are also known as sedatives or tranquilizers. They can be quite dangerous and lead to respiratory depression (shutting down of the respiratory organs) which can be fatal. Alone or mixed with other drugs they can result in tragic consequences. Another common “solution” is to drink alcohol, another depressant.

A mild sedative may be advisable under certain circumstances, in a controlled setting, and for a finite period – particularly when a person is having difficulty sleeping and is enduring mental or physical pain. This is because the lack of sleep will only exacerbate the situation; the best remedy then is for the person to sleep simply.

Recovering Addicts and Insomnia: Holistic Solutions Work

The widespread use of sleeping pills and addictive depressants is not helping the millions experiencing insomnia or sleep disorders. The drugs merely mask the problem. They do not solve it. Due to the nature of drugs in general, they sooner or later make the problem worse.  A natural approach is much safer. In the case of recovering addicts and insomnia, these drugs can lead them to relapse.   It is best to seek alternatives such as holistic approaches to the problem.

Some holistic remedies that are great for recovering addicts and insomnia include:

Many sleep problems, allergies, and even supposed neurological disorders are the result of nutritional deficiencies. Just try subsisting on a steady diet of highly-processed foods, fast food, junk food, foods packed with chemicals, etc. and don’t be surprised if you feel exhaustion and anxiety – or both at the same time. Millions of Americans do just that and wonder what is wrong.

When you get to the supermarket, you don’t have to go straight for the sugar cereal, chips, soda, cookies, TV dinners, frozen and processed foods. You can get fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats. A sensible nutritional plan will often result in the disappearance of unwanted conditions. Drink plenty of water as well.

Sugar and Caffeine:
Stop eating sugar and using massive quantities of caffeine. These alone can keep people awake. Caffeine is an addictive stimulant. If you are addicted to coffee, energy drinks, etc. try tapering it off slowly if not entirely. Abstain in the evening. Processed sugar gives people fatigue-inducing highs and lows in addition to being just plain bad for you. To curb your sweet tooth, stock your kitchen with fresh fruit. Other suggestions: almond butter on apple slices or toast, using honey or stevia instead of sugar, and making smoothies from fresh fruit, vegetables, and superfoods.

Many sleep problems and even mental problems are the results of little to no activity. If you have an office job and you don’t exercise, you are killing yourself, and I don’t mean that figuratively. Zero exercise invites higher cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and other ailments. Just one symptom of lack of exercise is insomnia or fitful sleep. Perhaps it is your body telling you it wants to move. Even light exercise is better than none.

Take a Walk:
The simple action of taking a walk can work wonders. This is not specifically an exercise step. You can walk for exercise, and that is fine. But taking a walk is also a mentally corrective action. It shakes the dust out of your head so to speak. Just walk down the street or around the block and look around your environment. It’s ridiculously simple, yet extremely beneficial – and can help you sleep.

Tryptophan and Melatonin:
Desynchronosis is medical jargon for jetlag. It means your circadian rhythms are out of whack. A circadian rhythm is the approximately 24-hour repeating cycle of sleep and wakefulness. These cycles are connected to certain physiological processes. When you travel to different time zones, these processes get thrown off their usual timetable, resulting in symptoms like insomnia, fitful sleep, grogginess, and temporarily slowed cognitive abilities.

Two natural supplements that people use for jetlag and similar problems are tryptophan and melatonin. Tryptophan (also called L-tryptophan) is an essential amino acid that the body converts to melatonin (a hormone which regulates the circadian rhythms). Both are available as supplements for their calming effect.

Calcium and Magnesium:
Calcium and magnesium, often taken together, are frequently used for the calm they produce. They can be taken as a hot beverage, and they also have the effect of soothing aching joints.

Herbal Teas:

Many people swear by their chamomile tea and other herbal mixes before bed nightly to help them wind down and relax.

The full range of B-vitamins, in particular, vitamin B-1, is known to help remedy the depression and anxiety that can contribute to insomnia and poor sleep. Warning: Always take vitamin C and calcium when you take B-1 to protect your teeth (yes, your teeth).

Certain foods contain tryptophan and other compounds that help induce relaxation and sleep. These include grapefruit, bananas, dates, figs, almonds, yogurt, oatmeal, flax seeds, tuna, and turkey. Why do you feel tired after Thanksgiving? In addition to overeating, it could be the turkey.

Holistic Remedies:
There are quite a few holistic remedies for easing your mind and relaxing your body – including, but not limited to:

  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Acupressure
  • Hot stones massage
  • Music therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Sauna/Steam Bath
  • Reiki (Japanese massage with spiritual roots)
  • Cognitive Therapy
Life Remedies:
You have certainly experienced lying in bed looking at the ceiling as thoughts swirl around your head and sleep is not imminent. Putting order into your life can help tremendously. You have a lot going on; specifically, you have a lot that is INCOMPLETE. Start by writing down all your unfinished tasks and then proceed to get them done one at a time. You should feel your mind easing up. Other things you can do include describing your ideal life and drawing up a plan to get there, cleaning and organizing your living space, and doing things that captivate your interest.

These holistic remedies can help you realize a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment – and help you relax and sleep so you feel rejuvenated.

If you would like more information about recovering addicts and insomnia, call our toll-free number today.

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