Asana Recovery

Holistic Methods to Treat Insomnia in Recovery

Mindful MeditationIf you’re struggling with sleep in early recovery, you’re not alone. Sleeplessness and restless sleep are one of the most common symptoms of early recovery – although they also affect about 6% of the general population. However, sleep problems like insomnia range form 25-72% in persons with substance use disorders – which often results in using more drugs or alcohol to attempt to get to sleep. That can go on to affect the quality of your life, your ability to recover, and your likelihood of relapse. In fact, one study shows that poor sleep quality results in a significantly increased likelihood of relapse.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to go to a doctor and ask for a sleeping pill if you’re trying to quit drugs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to your doctor. You should talk to your doctor, share concerns about drug use, and ask for alternative options and solutions. Chances are high that they’ll recommend you have a short-term sleeping aid anyway – which will help you get enough sleep while you take other steps to improve your quality of sleep – but with higher monitoring and management to ensure you don’t start abusing your pills.

You can also try these holistic methods to treat insomnia in recovery or try them at the same time.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Reassociation Therapy are very common treatment options for insomnia. However, they may not help you get to sleep immediately. For example, CBT works to modify your beliefs and mindset around moving to bed, helping you to get into a mindset that results in sleep when you get into bed.

This is often mixed with stimulus control and reassociation therapy, which help you to associate the bedroom with rapidly going to sleep. That often involves removing distractions from the bedroom. For example, no screens or phones allowed in the bedroom. Changing the room, removing decorations, and otherwise simplifying your bedroom can also help you to associate the bedroom with sleep.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is increasingly used as a holistic and non-pharmaceutical intervention for sleep problems including insomnia. However, this method does not have any immediate effect and requires ongoing practice. The idea of mindfulness meditation is to relax and to focus on the present, which means you reduce worry, you stop being caught up in negative thought loops, and you put yourself in a better mindset to sleep. This means that spending 20-30 minutes in a mindfulness meditation before bed may help you to sleep better.


biofeedbackBiofeedback is a technique that is used to teach people to understand how stress affects their bodies and then introduces techniques and tactics to mitigate and control that stress. Biofeedback normally involves several days of a course followed by relaxation training and follow-up on the biofeedback training. The idea is to help you understand what’s keeping you awake, why, and what you can do about it.


Regular exercise can help you to sleep in several ways. The first is that it promotes physical rather than mental fatigue, meaning you’re better-able to fall asleep. The second is that it improves oxygenation during the day, meaning you’ll be alert and more able to use energy during the day. And, it will, over time, improve neurotransmitter and endorphin availability in your body, helping you to regulate functions like sleep.

Here, 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day is more than enough. You’ll also want to ensure that you do that exercise in the morning or early afternoon.

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Sleep Restriction

man sleeping using sleep restriction methodSleep restriction is a tactic used to emergency improve sleep without pharmaceutical interventions. Here, you spend several days at a drastically reduced amount of sleep. For example, you may only be allowed to sleep for 2 hours per day for the first two days. Afterwards, sleep is gradually increased until you’re sleeping the amount you want. This is typically combined with other interventions.

Bright Light Therapy

Bright light therapy can help to keep you awake and alert during the day so that you can more easily fall asleep at night. This therapy is almost always combined with other treatments and may include changing lights in your home or work as well as your alarm.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where you learn to go through your body and check muscles and relax them. This is similar to mindfulness in that it requires you to focus on the present and to relax your body. Therefore, it can help you to fall asleep instead of staying up because of worry, stress, or tension.

Other Options

There are many options to improve sleep. However, most of them are about interventions rather than the holistic approach of creating a good environment to sleep in. However, you can:

  • Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day
  • Take care of your sleeping space so that it isn’t distracting or depressing
  • Remove light sources from your bedroom such as screens and ensure you have good curtains
  • Create a bedtime ritual where you stop doing anything about 30 minutes before you intend to sleep
  • Don’t use the bedroom for anything but sleeping
  • Take medication with low abuse potential such as Ramelteon or Doxepin to supplement your early holistic treatments
  • Manage stress in your life so that you have less to be anxious about. E.g., tackle stressful things as early as possible, create strategies to deal with things, and practice accepting what you can’t change.
  • Take stress management courses or therapy to improve how you deal with stress

A holistic approach to improving insomnia usually means improving your life, your health, and reducing stress. It’s also important that you go to a doctor to have your insomnia diagnosed, because insomnia can be a side-effect of medication, sleep apnea, and other potentially dangerous health problems that you will want to treat if they are a problem. In fact, many people with insomnia actually struggle with sleep apnea, which also reduces quality of sleep, resulting in permanent fatigue.

Eventually, it’s important to talk to your doctor, talk about any interventions you want to try, and then follow up on advice to try to improve your sleeping pattern. Here, you’ll also want to ensure that you include your recovery in the discussion, so your doctor can help you make the right decisions. Good luck.

Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detoxresidential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.