People may view their difficulties with insomnia treatment as a reason to use additional substances to induce sleep. Substance use further disrupts the sleep cycle and can worsen someone’s insomnia.

Drug Abuse as a Hindrance to Insomnia Treatment

Substance use may cause poor treatment adherence for many mental health diagnoses. Substance abuse during treatment for insomnia is particularly troubling. Substance use further disrupts the sleep cycle and can worsen someone’s insomnia. A lack of progress in treatment caused by substance use is likely to discourage the patient from continuing to treat insomnia. People may view their difficulties with insomnia treatment as a reason to use additional substances to induce sleep.

Effects of Substance Abuse on Insomnia Symptoms

Substances that create a feeling of relaxation, such as alcohol or opioids, may appear to help with sleep. Despite creating feelings of relaxation and helping a person drift off to sleep, substance use prevents deep, restorative sleep cycles. Some people may find that after falling asleep with ease after using drugs or alcohol, they wake throughout the night and won’t feel refreshed after sleep ends.

Other substances, such as methamphetamines and LSD, may prevent sleep altogether. A person who does not sleep at all while using substances and then excessively sleeps when coming down from a high is likely to replicate equally ineffective sleep patterns when not under the influence.

Insomnia and Alcohol

Many people associate alcohol use and insomnia due to the belief that alcohol can help with sleep. Approximately 20–25 percent of adults use alcohol to help them sleep. Alcohol may assist with falling asleep but prevents restful sleep. Even if alcohol is not used to assist with sleep, the substance may interfere with sleep quality if consumed within three hours of bedtime.

Chronic, heavy alcohol use may prevent deep sleep and inhibit the dream cycle. Heavy alcohol use can have serious consequences on sleep patterns. Insomnia and alcohol withdrawal often occur together. In some cases, when substances no longer inhibit the dream cycle and a person gets some sleep, they may experience extremely vivid dreams.

Marijuana Abuse and Insomnia

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. Many people believe that marijuana can help treat insomnia due to its reputation for inducing a calm state. However, studies show that marijuana impairs sleep and can alter a person’s circadian rhythm.

Insomnia and Stimulants

Stimulants, including prescription and non-prescription drugs, have the most significant impact on sleep. Stimulants inhibit sleep and depending on usage patterns can prevent sleep for multiple consecutive days. Some of the most damaging stimulants for sleep include:

Each substance associated with a pattern of staying awake for excessively long periods of time due to increased energy and motivation to participate in activities, followed by longer-than-normal periods of sleep. The excessive sleep when of the effects of stimulant drugs diminish is frequently non-restorative.

Drug Abuse as a Cause of Insomnia

Substance use often leads to unhealthy sleep habits, which may cause insomnia and is a common problem during early recovery from substance use disorders. Many people have trouble sleeping when first stopping substance use. The difficulty sleeping may trigger a recurrence of use. Whether substance use causes insomnia or vice versa, it is important to treat both conditions simultaneously.

Treating Insomnia with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors, which leads to altered feelings. This approach is helpful for both insomnia and substance use disorders. When treating these as co-occurring conditions, a person should view insomnia as a possible trigger for a recurrence of use. Acknowledging the importance of sleep and the impact insomnia can have on recovery can lead to better outcomes during treatment.

If you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse and insomnia, consider contacting The Recovery Village. Representatives are available to provide an over-the-phone assessment of whether you or your loved one’s use of drugs or alcohol could be causing unhealthy sleeping habits. Additionally, these knowledgeable phone representatives can help you with the appropriate treatment method to begin recovery from substance abuse.

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Editor – Devin Golden
Devin Golden has worked for various print and digital news organizations. Devin's family has been affected by addiction and mental health disorders, which is a large part of why he wants to help others who have either directly or indirectly been affected by these diseases. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Denise-Marie Griswold, LCAS
Denise-Marie Griswold is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist. She earned her Master's Degree in Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling from East Carolina University in 2014. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.