We who are recovering are sensitive creatures. Our harmony, balance, and state of mind are easily affected by the simplest disturbances and it is our life’s work to build a resilience against them. Sleep, however, is one of the few things it is difficult to sustainably work against. Going days on end without sleep is not healthy for our mental or our physical healthy. For years science emphasized getting a regular 6-8 hours of sleep per night with as little interruption as possible. In recent years, science has changed its mind and has found that 8-10 hours of sleep will give us more of the rest that we desperately need.
A few things are taking place when we go to sleep. Firstly, our minds have an opportunity to rest. When we stay awake for too many hours or do not get deep sleep, we have a difficult time functioning cognitively because our brain becomes, quite literally, exhausted. Second, our subconscious has an opportunity to process when we sleep. Dreams can be exhilarating, confusing, wonderful, and frightening. Though there are many opinions on what our dreams are truly made of, our dreams are actually the daily clean up of our minds as our subconscious tries to make sense of the millions of little things we didn’t consciously think of throughout the day. Thirdly, when we sleep our body has an opportunity to heal. As we sink deeply into sleep, the many functions of our bodies working behind the scenes get to work, healing, repairing, and strengthening our body. The reason we feel refreshed after a good night sleep isn’t just because we’ve slept. It is because we have actually rested in mind and body on many deep levels.
Not sleeping might have been part of our addiction or part of our routine of addiction during our active using. Going on a bender might have included staying up for days on end, pushing our bodies beyond their ability, and constantly inundating our minds with a variety of kinds of mind altering substances.
Learning how to create a nighttime routine, allow ourselves to sleep, and fall into deep sleep takes time in recovery as the body learns to heal. With time, we do heal and we finally catch up on the rest we desperately need.