I love sleep. I am in a committed, long-term relationship with my bed, and now that I’m almost 4 months sober, things are going spectacularly well in my relationship with sleep. Back when I was drinking, though, I didn’t spend much time sleeping. I would typically stay up drinking into the wee hours of the morning, and even after I finally got to bed, no amount of sleep could chase away the exhaustion. It didn’t matter if I slept for eight or ten or twelve hours, I’d still wake up feeling completely drained. I didn’t know how to fall asleep sober.
Of course, the problem was the alcohol. Most of the time I wasn’t “sleeping,” I was “passing out.” If I drank less than usual, I would sleep fitfully and wake up in the middle of the night with terrible anxiety. Alcohol messes with your sleep in all kinds of interesting ways. This article from sleepfoundation.org sums it up nicely: Alcohol and Sleep One of the key points for me in that article is no matter how little you drink, it is still likely to affect the overall quality of your sleep.
Early sobriety comes with sleep challenges. This time around, I expected to experience insomnia as part of my withdrawal process, but the first time I tried being alcohol-free, the challenge of falling asleep sober caught me off guard. I was miserable and wondered more than once if it was really worth it to give up booze if I was never going to sleep again (at least, that’s the way it felt at the time). If you are still in this place, here is a great resource: Sleep Solutions- How to Get a Good Night Sleep When You Stop Drinking
It took about two weeks sober for my sleep to start settling into a normal pattern. Now that it has, I couldn’t be happier. I start thinking about bedtime around 7 pm, and I’m typically under the covers by about 8:30, 9:00 at the latest. I sleep soundly and deeply. I dream vividly, but the nightmares I so frequently had when I was drinking are a thing of the past. Sometimes, particularly when I’m stressed, it can take me a while to actually fall asleep, but I no longer worry about it. I just make myself comfortable and focus on the white noise I use to help, and eventually, I drift off.
Even better than that, when I wake up, I actually feel rested. Where I once moaned when my alarm went off and wished that morning would GO AWAY, I am typically happy to get up and start my day. I have the energy required to do both the things I need to do and the things I want to do. When I come home from work, I no longer feel dead tired or dread my afternoon/evening responsibilities. I am able to function and typically function well. When I start to get tired, I happily head to bed, knowing I’ll be able to recharge and start again the next day.
We Asked our Community about their experience of falling asleep sober
In addition to all of their answers to the question below many are recommending this Hubberman Podcast on Sleep and this article from The NYTimes Wirecutter
What are your go-to sleep support habits? Do you take any supplements to support your sleep? How has your sleep changed in sobriety? Tell me what is helping you get a restful night’s sleep!
At first it was hard for me to fall asleep sober, but my sleep has been deep and restful since the first night I didn’t have any wine. 14 alcohol-free days and I’ve been waking up rested and refreshed. This is definitely the best thing for me not drinking.
I take magnesium l-threonate sometimes. I also wear a pair of amber safety glasses if I want to watch TV or read with my Kindle before bed. They block blue light, and are oh so very attractive.
5 mg of melatonin has been working great for me this time around, and my white noise machine.
Phenergen and an 11kg weighted blanket.
I found that especially in early sobriety, keeping white noise on all night was hugely important in order to help me stay asleep. I remember waking throughout the night, and being able to immediately focus on the noise was immensely helpful for my anxious mind.
Since I went alcohol-free my sleep has definitely improved! At this point, I feel like I can’t get enough. I’m in bed between 9 and 10, and have to be up at 6:15 ish to get ready for work…but I feel like I could sleep the clock around if allowed…I feel like I’m catching up on all the years of broken, insufficient sleep.
I use a spoonk and it is the best tool for sleep i have ever found…. I often fall asleep on it and usually about 15 minutes of lying on it I cannot keep my eyes open any longer
For me the key to falling asleep sober is reading a book in bed. Not reading on my iPad or iPhone, that has a very different effect on the brain. All that blue light is very bad for us.
I sleep a million times better now that I am a few months sober. My go-to if I can’t fall asleep:
a) drop of lavender essential oil on a tissue near my pillow b) a full body scan meditation – headspace app) c) no looking at my phone
because that makes it worse.
if I wake up during the night and can’t go back asleep ( very rare) :
a) if caused by racing thoughts- pen and paper… I write down what I was thinking about to ‘let it go’
b) if caused by snoring husband 😬 – earplugs, shaking him awake ( mean but effective) or moving to another room…. or telling him to move to another room 😂
Insomnia is so difficult and I know drinking will only makes it worse. I awake many times during the night with crazy thoughts in my head. I do this kinda meditation self-talk thing and it helps.
I remind myself the world is asleep and I don’t have to solve any issues or problems and it’s a time the world doesn’t expect anything from me because everything is sleeping now and so can I. I also give thanks for my comfy blankets and soft pillow and the quiet peace of the room.
Then I do some deep breathing. I dab some eucalyptus oil on my pillow and underneath my nose then do some slow abdominal breathing with my hands on my belly and only think about feeling my breath and the beautiful smell of eucalyptus oil ( Lavender oil is nice too ) .
Sometimes if I’m really struggling I get up and have camomile tea and write my list of things to do the next day. I am mindful of the beautiful smell of the tea and the warmth of the mug around my hands. Writing a list helps to rest my mind so I can go back to sleep .
A middle of night gratitude list works too even if I do it in my head.
I sometimes take a second smaller dose of melatonin if it’s not past 3 am . The chewable are quick acting .
I never had a problem falling asleep. But I woke most nights and still so.
When I was drinking I couldn’t fall back asleep. A few nights per week I’d only get a couple hours of drunk sleep. I’d rarely get more than 5. That was a good night.
Insomnia was the outward symptom that led me to quit. Outward meaning: the symptom I acknowledged. I did not yet see how drinking self-loathing and physical exhaustion were driving depression.
When I wake now to use the bathroom or if I am disturbed, my brain usually doesn’t immediately fire up with anxiety and rumination. (Because my life isn’t a daily growing heap of regrets)
If thoughts arise I see them and “flush” them. Literally I say to myself: you shouldn’t be thinking (or worrying) about that now … flush those thoughts away. I visualize flushing a toilet. No lie.
That took quite a bit of meditation practice to be able to call upon that in my somnambulant state.
But I’ve achieved it.
I worked 15 hours yesterday to meet a deadline. On top of 2 weeks of 10+ hour days. And I didn’t make it. I’m up to work now.
I woke twice last night thinking about what I had to fix. What steps I had to take. I thought about other team members who’s weekend would also be impacted.
Then that panicked feeling of omg! I have so much to do and if I don’t get back to sleep I’ll be a wreck!
I observed this feeling. And said: goodnight feeling. Talk to you tomorrow.
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