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What to Know About Substance-Induced Sleep Disorders

Substances like alcohol, drugs, and medications can drastically impact sleep schedules. Often, individuals begin taking these substances as a perceived way to relax and enhance sleep. However, they often end up having the opposite effect. Different substances can impact processes of getting to sleep, staying asleep, sleeping too much, or behaving oddly during sleep.

Types of Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders come in four genres: insomnia, daytime fatigue, parasomnia, and mixed. Insomnia means that a person has a hard time getting to sleep at night, finds themselves awake frequently, and often, not feeling well-rested in the morning as a product of the difficulty. Insomnia is typically the most frequently discussed type of sleep disorder. Daytime fatigue is fairly literal; it means being tired during the day or even indulging the fatigue and sleeping routinely during the day. Parasomnia refers to odd behaviors during sleep, and a mixed sleep disorder might present as a mix of the previous three with no majority of symptoms in any of the three categories.

Why Don’t Substances Help?

Alcohol, drugs, and medications all interfere with the human body’s natural abilities to relax and to energize itself at predictable times during the day and night. With these circadian rhythms out of balance, a person may be more likely to continue taking a substance or even to increase the dose with the hope of countering the effects. Ironically, they may not realize that the substance they are ingesting with the purpose of remedying sleep is actually the culprit for inhibiting it. As a person takes increasingly larger doses of the substance, the body acclimates and builds tolerance so that the substance becomes decreasingly effective.

What Can You Do?

The best course of action if you suspect you have a sleep disorder is to seek advice from a medical professional. After you are diagnosed and prescribed an individualized course of treatment, you can use consistent routines, exercise, nature, relaxation, and nutrition to your advantage. Routines provide the body with predictable times for being awake and asleep so that it can practice self-regulation without substances. Exercise and being outside in nature allow the body to readjust to normal circadian rhythms more quickly. Nutrition helps to ensure that sleep is not inhibited by being too full or not being able to digest efficiently due to excess fats or simple carbohydrates.

Substance-induced sleep disorders can have a devastating impact on life. Understanding how they work and what you can do to remedy them can make all the difference.