The opioid crisis started in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies recommended opioids for pain relief under the condition that they were not addictive. This resulted in increased rates of opioids being prescribed and the unintentional start of a nationwide epidemic. Once word on the street got out about its euphoric effects, opioids became more widely misused, and overdose rates began to rise. 

As recently as 2019, the opioid crisis has taken almost 50,000 lives in the United States. Those struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) involving prescription opioid pain relievers numbered over one million Americans in 2017. In addition, it is estimated that 21-29% of people who’ve been prescribed opioids for pain misuse them, while 8-12% develop an opioid use disorder.

In addition to its use for chronic pain relief, opioids are also prescribed to manage anxiety and sleep disorders like insomnia. 

 

Importance of a Good Night’s Rest 

Even if you don’t think your drug use is that serious, you might want to consider how it could be affecting your sleep patterns; that is, the duration, quality and timing of sleep. Sleeping well and regularly is essential to your mental and physical well-being. For example, a goodnight’s sleep enables you to think clearly and focus. It also aids in learning and memory consolidation. Quality and timely sleep are central to regulating growth, stress hormones, the immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure and other biological functions. 

However, being sleep-deficient can impair your ability to make decisions, problem-solve and control your emotions and behavior. Lack of sleep has been associated with depression, risk-taking behavior and even suicide. Research also suggests a relationship between sleep deficiency and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses. 

 

How Much Sleep Does a Person Need?

Although adults do vary in the amount of sleep they need based on level of activity, diet and other factors, in general, seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults aged 18-64. Adults older than 64 years old should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep. 

Losing a few hours of sleep here and there has been found to add up cumulatively, meaning it could take longer than you might have expected to “catch up” on sleep. Naps don’t always help either, as they can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which regulates bodily functions like metabolism. Signs that you may not be getting enough sleep manifests themselves throughout the day’s activities. For example, if you feel like you might fall asleep while talking to someone, driving or sitting in a public space, you may be sleep-deprived.

 

Opioids and Sleep

Opioids have been found to disrupt sleep patterns by interfering with the basic structural organization of normal sleep termed “sleep architecture.” This alters both stages of sleep, called rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep, resulting in a person not getting quality rest. Specifically, persons who use opioids chronically can experience instability in a deep sleep, decreased (REM) and frequent waking during the night. 

One study demonstrates that sleep disturbances in persons suffering from chronic pain may be made worse by opioid treatment. The patients reported increased symptoms of insomnia and fatigue, and those who were on high doses of opioids showed abnormal brain activity while asleep. The researchers cite another study that found that 85% of patients on morphine medication also suffered from sleep apnea. 

Even if you abstain from using, it may take months or even years in some cases to return to your natural rhythm. As a result, you risk relapsing if the problem continues. The connection between sleep and opioids is a growing area of research examining how sleep interventions may reduce the risk of relapse and lead to successful recovery. 

 

Opioids are a class of addictive drugs, legal and illegal, to treat chronic pain, anxiety and sleep disorders. While these drugs can effectively treat these conditions, they sometimes lead to a substance use disorder. Moreover, research suggests that opioid use for pain may worsen disrupted sleep patterns. For those trying to recover from opioid use, being sleep deprived can become a risk factor for relapse. Humans need a certain amount of sleep per night and at the right times. Developing poor sleep patterns can put you at risk for mental and physical deterioration. All of this may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to confront your fears alone. Addressing this as soon as possible only brings you closer to regaining control of your life again. At Authentic Recovery Center, we strive to get you back to living your best life. We are an inviting, home-like environment where compassionate clinicians and staff members work collaboratively with you to address your unique needs. To find out more about our medical detox and individualized therapies, call us at (866) 786-1376.