The Dangerous Relationship Between Addiction and Insomnia

The correlation between addiction and insomnia is a significant one, and it affects millions of people. It can also go both ways. For some, insomnia can lead to getting to sleep by any means necessary, including sleeping pills, illegal narcotics, or even drinking. This, in turn, can lead to the development of a substance abuse issue and addiction. On the other side of that, many drugs cause insomnia, and many of those substances are common substances of abuse that a person might be addicted to, meaning that their addiction is ultimately leading to their insomnia.

In this blog, we will take a look at both sides of the equation. We will look at how suffering from insomnia can ultimately lead to substance abuse and how a substance abuse issue can result in the development of insomnia as a side effect. We’ll also explore if there are drugs that cause insomnia.

What Is Insomnia?

Chronic Insomnia

Before we can fully understand the connection between insomnia and addiction, we first need to understand what exactly insomnia is. Many people assume that if someone has trouble getting to sleep that they suffer from insomnia. It goes way deeper than that though. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects millions of Americans. Not only can it prevent someone from being able to get to sleep, but it can also make it difficult to stay asleep. It could even cause someone to wake up earlier than they wanted and prevent them from getting back to sleep.

Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia

There are two types of insomnia, both of which can significantly impact a person’s overall mood, ability to function, and even psychological state. The first type is acute insomnia. Acute insomnia occurs infrequently and tends to be influenced by events going on in a person’s life, such as anxiety or worry as a result of a life event. This is by far the most common type of insomnia and the type that pretty much everyone has experienced at least one time in their life. 

The other type of insomnia is chronic insomnia. This type of insomnia occurs regularly, at least three nights a week, and can last for extended periods of time. Unlike acute insomnia, chronic insomnia often stems from psychiatric issues and a reason often can’t be pinpointed. 

What Are Some of the Common Causes of Insomnia?

While the causes of chronic insomnia can be difficult to pinpoint, there are many common reasons why someone might suffer from acute insomnia. The most common causes are stress or anxiety stemming from something going on in the person’s daily life. There are also many other reasons that someone might suffer from insomnia, many of which they might not even realize are causing it. Some of those include:

  • Drinking caffeine too late in the day
  • Travel or work schedule
  • Poor overall sleeping habits
  • Eating too much too late in the evening
  • Underlying mental health conditions
  • Certain medications
  • Other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea

When it comes to certain medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, insomnia can end up being a side effect, even if it’s not directly listed. Some common medications that can lead to the development of insomnia while taking them include:

  • Certain blood pressure medications
  • Some antidepressants
  • Allergy medicine
  • Asthma medicine
  • Medications that have caffeine in them
  • Nicotine
  • Sudafed

What Is the Connection Between Addiction and Insomnia?

Dangerous Relationship Between Addiction and Insomnia

As we briefly touched on above, the connection between addiction and insomnia is two-fold. There are those who suffer from insomnia and then develop an addiction as a result of trying to find ways to get to sleep. There are also those who are suffering from addiction who develop insomnia as a side effect of the substance that they are addicted to. Let’s take a deeper look at both of those here.

Insomnia Leading to Addiction

Think back to a time when no matter how hard you tried you just could not get to sleep. Chances are it was pretty miserable. Now imagine having that feeling basically every night for months on end. There will come a point where you will be so miserable that you will get to sleep by any means necessary. As a result, you might turn to sleeping pills or even other types of drugs or alcohol in order to get to sleep. After finding success via one of these substances, you might continue to use them in order to continue sleeping.

 Over time, though, your body is developing a higher tolerance to these substances. This means you will need to take more and more of them in order to get to sleep. This can ultimately lead to an addiction. The most common drug that someone who suffers from insomnia might find themselves getting addicted to is a sleeping pill such as Ambien or Lunesta. They might also find themselves turning to even harder substances too such as alcohol. They might drink so much that they simply pass out.

Can Alcohol Cause Insomnia?

While on the surface, substances such as sleeping pills and alcohol might seem like they are solving the problem, they are ultimately doing much more harm than good. In addition to the possibility of developing an addiction to these substances, the sleep that those who are relying on these substances are getting isn’t even good sleep. When you take a depressant such as a sleeping pill or you drink a lot of alcohol you are much more likely to wake up as the substance begins to wear off and leave your system. Additionally, your sleep cycles take a hit, meaning that while you might be sleeping, it isn’t the “good” sleep that your body needs in order to feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning.

Addiction Leading to Insomnia

For many substances of abuse, insomnia is a common side effect of the addiction. In fact, many experts believe that there is a direct correlation between the two in the brain. The thinking goes that since the lack of sleep will put a person in a state of “hyperarousal” that when they are in that state they are much more likely to use and abuse drugs. Even if a substance doesn’t directly result in the development of insomnia it can still affect the way a person sleeps. This can ultimately lead to things such as:

  • Not getting a good night’s sleep
  • Less time asleep
  • Suffering from severe daytime sleepiness
  • Nighttime wakefulness

For those who abuse stimulants such as cocaine, this can be particularly dangerous because the more tired you feel, the more you will want to take said stimulants in order to feel more awake during the day, thus causing the addiction to ultimately get worse.

Can Withdrawal and Detox Lead to Insomnia?

Treatment Options for insomnia and addiction

When a person decides to go into treatment and begins the detox process, one of the side effects of withdrawing from the substances of abuse can be insomnia. This not only takes a physical toll on the person’s body but a mental one as well. Additionally, since the person is in treatment, they can’t just go back to taking the substance in order to get rid of the side effects. 

This is just one of the many things that make the detox process such a tough one. It’s also one of the many reasons why a person should never attempt to self-detox. They should always do so under the supervision of trained professionals at either a medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also offers detox. Some of the substances that have a higher rate of insomnia development during the detox and withdrawal process include:

  • Opioids
  • Cocaine
  • Stimulants
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription drugs

What Are My Treatment Options?

For those who are suffering from both insomnia and addiction, otherwise known as co-occurring disorders, the good news is there are ways for you to get help. One of the most successful treatment methods is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. During cognitive behavioral therapy, you essentially are taught to reprogram your brain to eliminate the thoughts and behaviors that ultimately led to both addiction and insomnia. Other alternative therapies have also proven to be effective including yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation therapy, exercise, acupuncture, and aromatherapy. 

Are You Taking Drugs That Cause Insomnia?

If you or someone you know is suffering from insomnia and also a substance use disorder, it’s important to get help before it is too late. At Coastal Detox, we understand the connection between insomnia and addiction which is why we offer treatment programs specifically designed to treat co-occurring disorders such as those two. Contact us to learn more about the different treatment options that we offer and how you can get on the road to recovery today.

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