We’ve all heard that sleep is a vital component to a healthy immune system and proper brain function. Sleep is especially important for those recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction because of its ability to improve cognitive performance and reduce the risk of relapse. But what about withdrawal insomnia?
It’s common for people who are going through detox and early addiction recovery to have trouble sleeping. And dealing with this insomnia can be difficult because, in most cases, prescription sleep aids should be avoided due to their addictive properties and harmful side effects.
So, what can people withdrawing from drugs or alcohol do to get better sleep without turning to prescription medication? First and foremost, these individuals should be exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, and practicing good sleep hygiene. If the combination of these healthy routines does not improve sleep quality, they might consider trying melatonin.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is the messenger (neurotransmitter) that lets our brains know it is time to go to bed. Normally, our brains recognize sunset (darkness) as a signal to release melatonin into our bloodstream. Then it binds to a group of receptors that control or regulate our internal sleep/wake patterns, known as our circadian rhythms.
In addition to being a naturally occurring neurotransmitter, melatonin is also available as an over-the-counter supplement in most natural food stores and pharmacies.
How can Melatonin Help People Sleep During Detox?
The version of melatonin we create naturally in our bodies helps with sleep function. The version we find in pill form can also be of some help in attaining more restful sleep. However, with the pill form, there are some cautions and precautions that should be noted.
Melatonin Vs. Prescription Sleep Aids
All prescription sleep aids come with potential significant side-effects, including addiction and dependency, as well as short-term memory loss, burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs, constipation, diarrhea, difficulty keeping balance, dizziness, increased risk of depression, and the list goes on.
Some sleep aids come with a much higher risk than others, but all should be taken only for the very short-term when needed, and should be avoided if possible. However, some people’s sleeping patterns are so compromised that sleep aids are required for a few days to allow their body and brain to rest and to heal during the detoxification process.
Melatonin supplements are undeniably safer than the prescriptions. However, severe cases of insomnia may not respond as well to melatonin as they would to prescription medications, because melatonin pills tend to not have as strong an impact on one’s sleep. Melatonin pills also come with some side effects and warnings.
The original intended dosage of melatonin is between .3 and 1 mg, yet most melatonin pills on the market are in considerably higher dosages. Long-term use of melatonin can increase a person’s risk or severity of depression. And, like prescription sleep aids, your body can develop a dependency or tolerance to this supplement. However, melatonin is not clinically addictive.
Lastly, melatonin in pill form typically has about a 2-hour window of effectiveness in the body. So, if you take a pill an hour before bedtime, the effects wear off approximately an hour after going to bed.
Other Options to Consider for Better Sleep
L-Tryptophan is the amino acid your body uses to manufacture its naturally occurring melatonin. If you believe you require long-term use, L-Tryptophan will be a better option for several reasons.
- You are boosting your body’s naturally occurring version of melatonin.
- By supplying your body with what it needs to make its own melatonin, you can have melatonin release throughout the night, rather than the short window of effectiveness seen with the pill form.
- L-Tryptophan has less dependency risk and less risk of depression than both melatonin and prescription sleep aids.
Have more questions about melatonin, prescription sleeping pills, or withdrawal insomnia? Get in touch with The Shores Treatment and Recovery for help navigating your long-term sobriety.