Sleep is a basic human need that is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health. Many people roll over, night after night, wondering, “why can’t I sleep?” Difficulties sleeping can come from many sources, such as stress, mental health issues, poor diet, sleep disorders, and addiction. Many of these issues can go together and cause difficulty sleeping. We’ll focus on the combination of sleep disorders and addiction, how each can adversely impact life, and ways you can treat both a sleep disorder and addiction. First, let’s discuss some common sleep disorders.
Many different types of sleep-wake disorders can adversely impact life.1 Insomnia is the most common. Other common sleep-wake disorders are obstructive sleep apnea, parasomnias, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get back to sleep after waking up too early.2 Insomnia can cause many issues, such as sleep deprivation, difficulties concentrating, low energy, and irritability. Symptoms of insomnia can affect health, work performance, and quality of life. However, insomnia doesn’t have to be an ongoing problem and simple changes to daily habits can often help.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused by abnormal breathing during sleep. People who struggle with sleep apnea experience multiple pauses of breath while they sleep. This causes a lower quality sleep and can have many negative health consequences. Common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep. This is a common condition and there are many treatments available for those who live with sleep apnea.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that involves daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. People with this disorder find it difficult to stay awake for long periods. This can have many negative health effects and seriously disrupt regular life. Narcolepsy is a chronic condition with no cure. However, some medications can be taken as well as lifestyle changes that can help with symptoms of Narcolepsy.
Sleepwalking is a behavior disorder that begins during sleep and results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while still mostly asleep. This is a disorder that’s more common in children than adults. It is also more likely to happen if there is a family history of the disorder or if someone is sleep deprived. Treatment isn’t always required for this condition, but if sleepwalking episodes occur frequently or are more intense, then it may be a good idea. Many treatment options are available to help manage this disorder.
Restless leg syndrome is a condition that involves an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, often caused by an uncomfortable sensation. This often happens in the evening or night when sitting or lying down. This condition can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep and it can interfere with other daily activities. Making certain lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms. There are also medications available that can help with this disorder.
When sleep paralysis occurs, it causes a feeling of being conscious but unable to move.3 Sleep paralysis occurs between the stages of wakefulness and sleep. During this transition, you may feel like you are unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people also report that they feel pressure or choking during this moment. Sleep paralysis is often caused by underlying conditions such as mental health issues, sleep deprivation, narcolepsy, the use of certain medications, and addiction. This means that there is usually no treatment for sleep paralysis itself, but for the underlying conditions that are causing it to occur.
Some people who experience sleep paralysis may not know what is actually happening when it occurs. Sleep paralysis can put some in a hallucinogenic state for a moment where they feel like they’re dreaming about being unable to move. This is accompanied by visions of demons or evil spirits or “sleep paralysis demon” and it can be a traumatic experience for people.4 The vivid hallucinations of a sleep paralysis demon is usually caused by underlying factors such as past trauma, excessive worrying or fear, and mental health issues. Working through the underlying issues can help ease the symptoms and keep this from being a recurring problem.
Stress can affect the mind and body in many ways, such as causing trouble sleeping or being a cause of a sleep disorder.5 You may have heard the phrase “losing sleep over something” used before; having something in your daily life weighing on you can cause you to lose sleep or have lower quality sleep at night. When this happens consistently, sleep deprivation will add to the stress, thus making it important that the initial cause is addressed to get a healthy full night’s sleep.
Work can often be one of the main causes of stress in life. Stressful jobs can be taxing on your mental health and lead to less or lower quality sleep at night. This can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia due to excessive stress. While it isn’t always easy, managing a proper work-life balance is very important for mental health and being able to get a restful night of sleep.
Addiction can affect sleep in many different ways. Stimulant drugs often keep people awake longer or cause trouble sleeping due to the extra energy and stimulation that is produced by those drugs.
Addiction can also cause large amounts of stress because it can cause problems in your family or social life. Addiction can also cause problems at work or school, and it may lead to legal or financial issues down the line. All this added stress can negatively impact sleep.
Lastly, excessive drug use can alter brain chemistry over time. This altered chemistry could lead to sleep disorders, especially when drug use stops. Difficulty sleeping is often one of the main withdrawal symptoms that occur during recovery.
Drug use and addiction can also be caused by trouble sleeping or sleep deprivation. Numerous things can stand in the way of a good night’s sleep. Lots of ongoing stress, mental health issues, or poor daily habits can all contribute to poor sleep. Whatever the cause, some may turn to self-medicating to help them get through the day when they aren’t well-rested. An example of this is when people take stimulant drugs to deal with being excessively tired all the time. While these stimulants may seem like they’re helping with symptoms and increasing productivity, these drugs can be very addictive. This can lead to the development of dependence on the drug to feel like they’re functioning normally. Self-medication with prescription or illegal drugs is very dangerous and can lead to many negative consequences.
Both sleep disorders and substance use can negatively impact the mind and body in many ways. The combination of the two can have an even larger impact. This can make you feel lethargic, unmotivated, have difficulty concentrating or processing information, and make it hard to remember things. All these negative effects can leave you feeling drained and cause trouble at work or in your family or social life. To fix these negative effects both the sleep disorder and the substance use disorder will need to be addressed, as working on one of the issues won’t fix the entire problem. A lack of complete treatment and recovery often leads to relapse or other negative consequences.
When going through the recovery process, it can often be a stressful and draining time. This makes it even more important to get good sleep during this time. Sleep helps the body and mind heal and recover during the night. Proper sleep leads to better cognitive function, increased energy, and a more positive mood. These effects can be very beneficial to treatment and for motivation during this time.
The National Sleep Foundation guidelines recommend that healthy adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.2 Babies, young children, and teens need more sleep for growth and development. People over 65 should also get 7 to 8 hours per night.
Practicing proper sleep hygiene can help you get better sleep. Common tips for maintaining good sleep hygiene include:6
The Russian sleep experiment hoax involves an internet story about a 1940’s Russian sleep experiment under the improbable name “Orange Soda.”7The story goes that Soviet researchers wanted to test keeping five people awake for fifteen consecutive days with an experimental gas-based stimulant.
However, this isn’t an actual record of a 1940’s experiment, it was a fictional story that someone made up and posted online. This type of internet storytelling is also known as a “creepypasta”. Some people read the details of this online post and thought it was real information about a 1940’s experiment that went wrong. This is why it is now called the Russian sleep experiment hoax.