Lillian tossed and turned in an unfamiliar bed. Her eyes strained from the lack of sleep from the past 48 hours. She was questioning if giving up opioids was even worth it. All she felt were intense cravings and extreme fatigue with no relief. There was no feeling that this was the “best choice she had ever made” – which is what she expected. Instead, she had stared at the dark ceiling above her head each night for the past two days, hoping for sleep. Possibly, she thought, it was just the exhaustion getting to her. If she couldn’t sleep, then thinking and worrying it was. She didn’t even know if she could figure out her life again after opioids. She wondered how her daytime treatment/therapy sessions could even help when she was too groggy to pay attention.
Everyone who seeks treatment for an opioid use disorder will experience some form of withdrawal, and insomnia is a common and debilitating side effect. In 2021, 1,465 people in Tennessee experienced an inpatient stay following an opioid overdose in Tennessee. At ReVIDA® Recovery, we know how overwhelming it can be to reclaim your life after an opioid use disorder. This is why we work with you to find a job, apply for aid, locate housing services, and navigate custodial proceedings. People like Lillian can find the relief they need in treatment for opioid use disorders. So, how and why does opioid withdrawal insomnia happen?
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What Happens to the Body During Opioid Withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal is the natural process the body goes through when someone stops their use of opioids after use for a long time. Withdrawals are usually the first step in recovery, and they are the body’s way of naturally removing opioids from its system. Some common symptoms might include:
- Runny nose
- Dilated pupils
- Intense cravings
Why Does Insomnia Happen During Opioid Withdrawal?
People experiencing insomnia typically have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and will wake up not feeling refreshed. It is often a symptom of opioid withdrawal and can provide frustration for the person experiencing it. It is often caused by your mind and body not allowing you to sleep. Also, opioids can sometimes aid with sleep, resulting in an irregular sleeping pattern when someone stops taking them.
The Symptom of Insomnia During Opioid Withdrawal
Most people experience difficulty falling asleep at night when they’ve stopped taking opioids. They may also find themselves awake at odd hours and unable to fall back to sleep. Some people might experience waking up too early or feel tired during the day. Others might not feel rested after a full night of sleep.
Lack of sleep creates feelings of irritability, depression, and anxiety, which can make recovery feel especially difficult during the early days. Lack of sleep also increases the likelihood of concentration and memory problems, so those in early recovery might find it hard to focus on work or important tasks. People with insomnia due to opioid withdrawal might also be more prone to making errors or experiencing accidents. Additionally, they may have ongoing worries associated with their sleeping habits, such as how much sleep they will get and whether or not they can function normally.
How Insomnia Can Affect the Progression of Opioid Withdrawal
If you or someone you care about is experiencing insomnia as one of your withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to talk to your treating physician. Without sleep, the body doesn’t heal as quickly, which could drag out the process of your withdrawal symptoms. This can cause a return to use, especially if the lack of sleep interferes with your life and responsibilities. Using opioids again might feel better than dealing with another sleepless night.
With proper sleep, withdrawal symptoms are far more manageable. Managing withdrawals alone is never as safe or effective as finding a treatment program that works for your unique needs. With treatment, you can find relief from insomnia and return to a better life in recovery.
Getting Help for Insomnia That Comes With Opioid Withdrawal
While insomnia from opioid withdrawal is uncomfortable and getting treatment might seem terrifying, recovery is possible for everyone. It may not feel like it right now, but soon, you can keep a natural sleep schedule without using opioids.
How to Overcome Insomnia During Opioid Withdrawal
There are several ways to overcome insomnia when experiencing an opioid withdrawal. Waking up and going to bed at the same time every day including weekends can be helpful. It is the best way to help your body reset its sleep cycle. It might take time, but your sleep will begin to improve. Spending time outside in the sun can also help you be awake during the day.
Avoiding caffeine, chocolate, sugar, and spicy meals before sleep or even after lunch can help overcome insomnia during opioid withdrawal. Also, avoid a heavy meal before bed. However, there are some things that you can eat throughout the day and at night that can help with overcoming insomnia. These include leafy greens and beans/legumes. Including potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B in your diet can also be helpful. Daily exercise can also help overcome insomnia symptoms and reduce anxiety. Remember: anxiety during opioid withdrawal is common, but it isn’t permanent. It will eventually go away, and you’ll feel healthy again.
While many tips and tricks help overcome insomnia, the best thing you can do is communicate with your clinician. If you are prescribed sleep medications by your medical provider during the withdrawal process, you should only take them exactly as instructed.
Tips on How to Sleep With Opioid Withdrawal
In the meantime, there are some things that you can do to help you sleep as you are experiencing opioid withdrawal. Instead of tossing and turning for hours, every 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity such as taking a hot bath or meditating. Wait an hour and try again. You can also create a soothing sleep environment by using noise-canceling headphones, setting your thermostat to 60-70 degrees, or using white noise. Try to avoid extra naps during the day, as it may make it hard to fall asleep. Regular exercise will also help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Avoiding blue light 2 hours before bedtime can also help your body naturally prepare itself to go to sleep.
Treatment for opioid use disorder is life-changing. Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms can result in people experiencing a return to substance use just to find a sense of relief. A return to use due to insomnia symptoms does not mean your life is over, but sometimes it can be hard to see it that way. At ReVIDA® Recovery, we will help you reclaim your life by understanding that sometimes you need additional support to prevent a return to use during those moments, which is why we will always welcome you back. We also offer same-day appointments so you can start your recovery before you change your mind. For more information on the withdrawal process or if you are ready to start your journey to recovery, call us today at 423-631-0432.
Is insomnia a withdrawal symptom of opioids?
Insomnia is a symptom of opioid withdrawal.
Can withdrawal symptoms cause sleep disturbance?
Withdrawal symptoms can result in sleep disturbance. These symptoms of sleep disturbance vary by the substance used and can result in insomnia, disturbance in sleep cycles, hypersomnia, and sleep latency.
Why can’t I sleep after taking opioids?
Taking opioids can make it difficult to sleep because it disrupts the sleep cycle specifically the areas of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep as well as deeper stages of sleep.