Why Is Sleep So Important for Recovery?

Well being
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People recovering from accidents, injuries, illnesses, and major health crises are encouraged to take measures to protect their health. Whether it’s recovery from a common cold or healing from cancer treatment, it’s important to take conscious steps to improve health in one’s day-to-day life.

For people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, these same principles apply to them. Drug and alcohol addiction takes a harrowing toll on the body, causing significant damage. And the longer one uses substances, the more damage is caused, and the more mindful they must be in their recovery.

People in recovery need to be focused on creating a healthy and fulfilling life going forward. As luck would have it, not only do healthy habits help heal the body from past drug use, but a commitment to healthy living also helps the individual create a better, happier, more fulfilling life. When these circumstances are in place, relapse is much less likely to occur. With a commitment to daily health habits, the individual effectively creates the best chances he or she can have for a happy, productive, and relapse-free life.

What Are the Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep?

Of all the commitments to health and better living that one can make while in recovery, getting a good night’s sleep every night is one of the most important ones. Most adults need about seven to eight hours of good, quality sleep each night. People who get plenty of sleep are able to experience benefits like:

  • Getting sick less often.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Lowering risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
  • Reducing stress and generally improving mood.
  • Thinking more clearly and performing better at school or work.
  • Getting along better with family, friends, co-workers, etc.
  • Increased ability to make good decisions.
  • Avoiding injuries.

These are just some of the benefits of sleeping well. And on a biological level, there is much that occurs while sleeping that is of enormous benefit to the body.

While sleeping:

  • The brain sorts and processes information.
  • Hormones flood the body, promoting healing, growth, repair, and other functions.
  • The nervous system rests and recharges, reducing nervous tension, slowing heart rate, etc.
  • Cortisol, a stress hormone, reduces during sleep.
  • Muscles relax, heal, and rest up, preparing for another day of activity and use.
  • The immune system releases cytokines, chemicals that fight inflammation, infection, and trauma.

That is just a brief look at the biological and physiological benefits of getting a good night’s rest. There are plenty of others.

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What Happens if One Does Not Get Enough Sleep?

Just as plenty of sleep is met with a host of health benefits, not getting enough sleep results in a range of harmful effects. Studies show that a significant percentage of Americans do not sleep enough. About 60 percent of American adults report having sleep problems a few nights per week, and 40 percent report experiencing daytime sleepiness. When people don’t sleep enough, they experience things such as:

  • Endangered Safety. Researchers estimate that about 6,000 fatal car accidents are caused every year due to drowsy driving.
  • Weight problems. Not sleeping enough has a direct effect on cravings for sweet, salty, and starchy food. Consuming such foods to excess can lead to weight gain.
  • General health issues. Lack of sleep leads to a less active immune system, an almost 300 percent increase in risk for type 2 diabetes, and a 36 percent increase in risk for colorectal cancer. Lack of sleep can also lead to high blood pressure, a 48 percent increase in risk for developing heart disease, and a 300 percent increase in risk for catching a cold.

It also helps to consider how one feels when they do not receive sufficient rest versus how one feels when they do receive sufficient rest. How does a parent manage a career or children while sleep-deprived? Certainly, most people are not able to function as well when they are lacking sufficient rest. Not only for recovering addicts but also for the general population as a whole, getting enough rest is critical in maintaining one's responsibilities and daily functions.

Sleep and Addiction—Why Must Recovering Addicts Get Enough Sleep?

Recovering addicts must get enough sleep because addiction recovery is an ongoing, healing process from drug and alcohol addiction. Furthermore, good sleep has a direct effect on helping people avoid relapse. Quoting researchers Kirk Brower and Brian Perron, “Research has linked sleep disturbances to the risk of relapse among persons who are recovering from an alcohol addiction. Given common neurobiological and psychosocial processes in sleep and addictive behaviors, we hypothesize that the link between sleep disturbance and relapse risk observed among alcohol addiction generalizes to all other types of psychoactive substances.”

Getting enough sleep helps a recovering addict heal his or her body while in recovery, but doing so also helps keep them focused on their recovery, on sobriety, and on a drug-free life.

Does Sleep Help if a Relapse Occurs?

In the event of relapse (a return to drinking or drug use after some time spent sober), no amount of sleep will do the trick of helping an individual cease using drugs. While getting plenty of sleep at night always has its own, intrinsic benefits, someone who has relapsed onto drugs and alcohol will need to seek help at a residential drug and alcohol treatment center to break free from their resurgence in drug use or drinking.

Once in treatment, the individual needs to adopt healthy sleep patterns and maintain those. As discussed earlier, getting consistent and plentiful sleep every night is beneficial in many ways, including healing the body, boosting immune response, recharging metabolism, enhancing memory and learning, etc. But none of these benefits matter until the individual gets off of drugs. And that’s where drug and alcohol treatment centers come into play.

If you or a loved one is currently using drugs and alcohol, please seek help at a qualified drug and alcohol rehab center as soon as possible. Please do not wait until it is too late, and do not waste time exploring proper sleep, diet, and nutrition, or other health approaches. Those will not be sufficient in halting the dwindling spiral of addiction. Instead, contact Narconon today for more information on a full and comprehensive approach to addiction recovery that works.


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.