Substance use disorder (SUD) in adolescents affects their lives in many negative ways, including impacting their sleep. However, simultaneously, poor sleep can put adolescents at risk for substance use, addiction, and other mental health challenges. Improving sleep helps with symptoms of addiction in adolescents and is important to help them heal.
Helping adolescents get better sleep is challenging. However, with practice, adolescents can form new routines and a structure that supports their sleep goals. When adolescents understand the value of better sleep, they are more likely to prioritize the changes that help.
Impact of Addiction on Sleep
When adolescents use substances and struggle with addiction, their lives are disrupted. In particular, the circadian rhythm — the 24-hour clock that cues the body when to sleep, eat, be alert, and more — is affected. However, the impact on the circadian rhythm varies depending on the substance that is used. For example, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and opioids all have varying impacts on sleep. However, regardless of the substance, adolescents who are struggling with addiction of any kind are likely to have an altered sleep schedule as a result.
The category of stimulants covers a large range of drugs. This varies from commonly used substances like caffeine to highly addictive substances like cocaine. When an adolescent is using stimulants of any kind, they are jolting their body and brain awake. Due to the substance waking the body and brain up, stimulants used later in the day, even as simple as a coffee or energy drink, can disrupt an adolescent’s sleep that night.
Additionally, addiction to stimulants can create a pattern that fully disrupts sleep and adds to the difficulty of quitting. When an adolescent has used stimulants for a long time, one of the withdrawal symptoms that can cause continued use is sleepiness. Fortunately, with abstinence and improved sleep patterns, an adolescent can regain their natural circadian rhythm, and, over time, these withdrawal symptoms will fade.
Depressants and Sedatives
Some of the most commonly used depressants and sedatives are alcohol and marijuana. While it is known that both can help an adolescent fall asleep, the quality of sleep over time can suffer.
A research study published in 2019 considered the impact of both alcohol and marijuana as sleep aids on college students. Their findings indicate that alcohol, while being perceived by some as a substance that can help with sleep, had little to no difference. Additionally, individuals using marijuana as a sleep aid were able to improve sleep duration, but the quality of sleep was lower, increasing fatigue the following day.
While more research is needed to better understand these effects, depressants and sedatives are both addictive substances that can negatively impact an adolescent’s sleep.
As a primary drug used for pain management, opioids are a highly addictive class of drugs. Adolescents who struggle with opioid addiction will struggle with many difficulties that come with opioid use, including disrupted sleep. Opioids disrupt sleep by not allowing the brain to access rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In turn, this impacts an adolescent’s natural processing that needs to occur during REM sleep. Additionally, the lack of natural sleep patterns can create ongoing sleepiness and fatigue for adolescents.
How Sleep Impacts Addiction Recovery
In addition to addiction impacting sleep, sleep also impacts addiction and recovery in multiple ways. Therefore, by improving sleep, adolescents can manage their risk of relapse and overall mental health, making improved sleep an important part of treatment and recovery for adolescents.
Risk of Relapse and Future Addiction Difficulties
When an adolescent is struggling with addiction, treatment needs to include lifestyle changes that will stave off relapse in the future. Having an effective strategy surrounding sleep is one of these skills.
It is common and normal for an adolescent’s sleep to become disrupted by addiction. During treatment, they are likely to have disrupted sleep due to cravings and withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol. However, according to research, poor sleep quality makes it more difficult for adolescents to learn new coping and regulation skills that are vital in managing their risk of relapse. Therefore, by improving sleep, adolescents have a better chance of learning the necessary skills for a successful recovery.
Managing mental health is a primary necessity for adolescents who are struggling with addiction. Many practices help mental health, and getting an adequate amount of quality sleep is one of them, helping adolescents to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and more. Therefore, by getting enough sleep, adolescents are more likely to feel alert, awake, and ready for their day.
While they may have ups and downs, getting good sleep helps to maintain their mood and process challenges that occur in their lives without feeling the need to reach for substances to cope.
Substance use in adolescents has many negative ramifications, such as disrupting their sleep. Fortunately, when adolescents improve their sleep hygiene, it can help them to stay sober, care for their needs as adolescents, and develop healthy routines into adulthood. At Sustain Recovery, we use evidence-based treatments that integrate holistic modalities with clinical interventions. We understand that healing from addiction and mental health disorders is not a one-step process. As a result, along with other treatment modalities, we help adolescents build skills to improve sleep and overall quality of life. To learn more about our levels of care, treatment programs, and facility, call us today at (949) 407-9052 to speak with a staff member.