Many people in early recover report sleep disturbances or even being unable to sleep at all. According to University of San Francisco researcher Nicholas Rosenlicht MD, “Treating sleep disturbance in early recovery may have considerable impact on maintenance of sobriety and quality of life.” According to the research this can also work in reverse as well, and anyone who has sleep disturbances is generally more likely to start abusing alcohol or drugs. Treating recovering substance abusers with drugs to help with sleep is not usually recommended, in fact these are the ones who should try to avoid any medications unless they are absolutely essential.
Instead of using drugs to help with insomnia and sleep disturbances which increase relapse risks many substance abuse specialists are using cognitive behavioral therapy, and this has been shown to be effective in most patients. Researchers believe that CBT works because it targets the specific processes which help to promote insomnia in the first place. Treatment methods include having the individual keep a sleep diary, answer questionnaires, engage in daily processes which promote better sleep habits, and others. The individual may restrict their sleep, never spend time in bed unless they are asleep, and minimize stimulating foods, beverages, and activities close to bedtime. Nicholas Rosenlicht MD explained “Treatment of insomnia after abstinence represents an important treatment target and an integral part of any recovery plan.”