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Addicts detoxing from alcohol or drugs often find they have a very hard time sleeping.

This is due to both the effects of the substance leaving their system, but can also be exacerbated by negative thoughts running through their minds. These may be guilty thoughts about the past, worries or fears about the future or general feelings of low self-esteem.

You should always consult your doctor when detoxing off alcohol, as it can have some nasty effects, and can even be dangerous if done without medication. Your doctor can also prescribe short courses of medication to aid sleep.

However, you'll still probably find it difficult to get much shut-eye during the early days of detox, so here are some extra tips to help.


  1. Create a comfortable atmosphere

I know detoxing isn't a nice experience, but make yourself as comfortable as you can, with everything you might need to hand. You'll need a big bottle of water next to the bed, as rehydrating will help you recover more quickly. I also suggest a large packet of tissues and a bowl or bucket (just in case you feel nauseous or sniffly).

You'll probably find yourself going through hot and cold sweats, so it's best to keep layers of clothes and bedding around that you can snuggle up in or throw off easily when your temperature changes. Have some comfy pillows and make sure the levels of light in your room are restful for your eyes.

  1. Take Supplements

Valerian root is a completely natural sleep aid and can be bought at pharmacies and health shops. It gently helps to relax the body and mind, so makes it easier for you to rest.

Magnesium can also help promote sleep and potassium can help enormously with painful cramping in the limbs that addicts often get while detoxing. If you don't have any potassium to hand, bananas are bursting with it – and not too difficult to eat when you're feeling queasy either.


  1. Think Positively

I know this sounds a little nutty, as I have been through the hell of severe withdrawal myself several times (without meds – naughty, naughty), and I understand the anxiety, feelings of doom, guilt and self-hatred that can arise. But remember, all your detox symptoms are a sign that you're doing something good that you should be proud of.

Don't focus on the how you got here – focus on the positive changes you are making by getting all of that poison out of your body. It can sometimes be helpful to have a supportive friend or partner around to reassure you and care for you, but if that isn't possible, then give yourself that self-care you desperately need.


  1. Meditate

Again, please don't think I'm a fruitcake for suggesting this. I have hallucinated, itched, sweated and vomited myself through many withdrawals, but it is possible to get your mind and body more relaxed by meditating and progressively relaxing. If you'd like a guided meditation, I have a free body relaxation meditation here you can use.

You can also do autogenic training, where you imagine yourself in a relaxing space, like a beach with a soft breeze blowing over you and the relaxing sound of waves breaking on the shore. You can use any location you find relaxing, but really get into the practice and imagine yourself there.


  1. Stop Worrying About Sleeping

The truth is that our minds can influence our bodies so much more than we realise. If you keep saying over and over in your head “I can't sleep” or “I'll never sleep”, you're almost giving your brain the instruction not to sleep.

Instead tell yourself that you've nowhere to be right now, nothing to do but recover. It doesn't really matter if you sleep or not. Let go of those worry thoughts and the impatience to sleep. Resting is half as good as sleeping anyway, so if you can at least find a comfortable position and keep a positive head, you'll feel much better, whether you manage to sleep as much as you'd like or not.


 by Beth Burgess, Therapist and author of The Recovery Formula and The Happy Addict.


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