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Insomnia and Substance Addiction



Insomnia is a huge problem for millions of people who suffer from it. Even worse, insomnia can be a symptom of substance abuse and addiction. 

What happens in the brain when you have both problems? How do they interact with each other and make things worse? 

Let’s take a look at what insomnia is, and how it affects your sleep cycle and overall health, then we’ll explore some common causes of insomnia in conjunction with substance abuse so that you can better understand if this is affecting you or someone you care about right now.


Table of Contents

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. It’s one of the most common sleep disorders, and it can cause daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and irritability. 

Insomnia can also lead to depression, anxiety, and other issues that make your life harder.

If you have insomnia, you may have trouble getting comfortable in bed or falling asleep even though your body is tired. 

This can happen at any time of day — during the day or night 

— but most people report having trouble with nighttime sleeping more often than daytime sleepiness.


Insomnia and Substance Addiction

Insomnia and substance addiction are both significant problems in the United States. 

Although there is a considerable amount of overlap between these two issues, they can be treated separately and have different causes.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night, while substance addiction refers to an ongoing dependence on drugs or alcohol. 

All people with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, but not all people who struggle with sleep qualify as insomniacs. 

The same goes for substance addiction: everyone who consumes drugs or alcohol becomes dependent on them eventually, but only those who repeatedly use substances beyond what’s required for relaxation will develop an addiction to them.


Types of Insomnia

Insomnia is a symptom of many different conditions and can be classified into several types. 

The most common type, which affects approximately 10% of the population worldwide, is primary insomnia. 

As its name suggests, this type of insomnia occurs alone; there are no other symptoms present besides difficulty sleeping. 

Secondary insomnia is a condition that causes difficulty sleeping as well as other symptoms such as excessive tiredness or pain. 

Examples include restless legs syndrome and chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis.


Primary Insomnia (PI)

Primary Insomnia, or PI, refers to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. 

To be diagnosed with this condition, you must experience one or more of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep
  • Trouble falling back to sleep after waking up during the night (you may wake up and be unable to get back to sleep)

If you have PI and also suffer from substance use disorder or a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, you must seek treatment for both conditions to improve your health and well-being.


Secondary Insomnia (SI)

Secondary insomnia (SI), also known as comorbid insomnia, is the result of a medical or psychiatric condition that causes sleep disruption. 

It can be present in nearly any type of sleep problem and is often misdiagnosed as primary insomnia.

Examples of conditions that causes secondary insomnia include:

  • Chronic pain syndromes such as back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia and migraine headaches
  • Caffeine use disorder (addiction to caffeine)
  • Depression or other affective disorders like anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Comorbid Insomnia

Comorbid insomnia is defined as a condition that is caused by the presence of another chronic condition. 

This means that if you have both insomnia and another condition, they are related to each other. 

The most common example of comorbid insomnia is sleep apnea, which happens when you have too much mucus in your throat or nose. 

When it becomes hard to breathe through your nose and mouth, you may start to wake up during the night because of this discomfort. 

This lack of restful sleep can lead to chronic fatigue as well as anxiety and depression—two major factors in substance addiction withdrawal symptoms!

Comorbid insomnia can make it much harder for people with substance addictions like heroin or cocaine addiction recovery because they’re already dealing with multiple issues at once (i.e, withdrawal symptoms). 

If left untreated, the comorbid condition could become worse over time—and eventually lead to more severe health problems down the road! 

To treat this type of situation effectively while also treating withdrawal symptoms from narcotics use by themselves will require careful attention given to each problem separately instead.


The Link Between Substance Abuse and Insomnia

If you’re struggling with substance abuse and insomnia, you’re not alone. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 25% of adults in the United States have trouble sleeping at least one night a week. 

But when it comes to insomnia and substance addiction, some research indicates that they may be linked together

—that is, if you suffer from either problem, you could be more likely than average to have the other one as well.

The most common substances associated with insomnia are alcohol, prescription pain medications (like Vicodin), sleeping pills (Ambien), and antidepressants or stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin used as ADHD medications. 

The link between substance abuse and insomnia is a vicious cycle: The more regularly you use these drugs or drink alcohol for sleep purposes (or any other reason), the worse your sleep becomes over time; this leads to increased anxiety during wakefulness periods which makes getting back into a bed difficult once again

—and so.

Any substance can cause these issues, but the most common are alcohol, pain medications, sleeping pills, antidepressants, and stimulants.

In addition to the physical side effects of chronic use of these substances (the hangover feeling after a night of drinking or the drowsiness that comes with taking pain medication), they also alter your sleep cycle.

As you fall asleep, your body produces melatonin — a hormone that helps regulate sleep patterns and circadian rhythm. 

Thankfully, insomnia is a treatable condition. If you think you have it, talk with your doctor today and work together to find the right treatment plan for your symptoms.

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