Opiate withdrawal, also known as opioid withdrawal, can be an uncomfortable experience, ranging from mildly to severely distressing symptoms in the worst of cases.
One of the most common side effects of opiate withdrawal is insomnia, or difficulty sleeping. This is because opioids can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle.
Opiate Withdrawal And Insomnia
Difficulty falling or staying asleep is a common consequence of opioid abuse, and can also develop during opioid withdrawal.
Opiate withdrawal can set in within eight to 48 hours after last use of an opioid, depending on the specific type of opioid drug and other factors.
Common opioids of abuse that can cause withdrawal include:
- oxycodone (OxyContin)
- hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
What Causes Insomnia During Withdrawal?
A disrupted sleep pattern is a common consequence of many forms of drug abuse, including alcohol abuse, cannabis abuse, stimulant abuse, and opioid abuse.
In the short-term, opioid abuse can cause daytime drowsiness and sedation. It can also disrupt the body’s normal functions, affecting organ function, cognitive functions, and potentially causing sleep deprivation.
One possible explanation for its effects on sleep is opioids’ interaction with dopamine, a brain chemical.
If you’ve abused drugs chronically over a long period of time, this can lead to sleep difficulties during withdrawal as your body works to readjust and heal from excessive drug or alcohol use.
Signs And Symptoms Of Opiate Withdrawal
Sleep disturbance is just one side effect that can emerge and persist for some time as a result of a substance use disorder and withdrawal.
Acute withdrawal occurs as a result of physical dependence on a drug, which takes time to develop and is a common sign of drug abuse and addiction.
Other common early signs of opiate withdrawal include:
- muscle aches
- runny nose
Unlike benzodiazepine or alcohol withdrawal, opioid withdrawal is not typically life-threatening. But it can be painful and distressing without help.
Relief for withdrawal symptoms, including sleep problems, may be sought through an opioid detox center, your healthcare provider, or an addiction treatment center.
What Can Help Relieve Sleep Troubles During Opioid Withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal treatment can be most effective when personalized according to each person’s needs, due to the fact that symptoms—and their severity—can vary from one person to the next.
What’s important is not to attempt detox alone, especially if you have a history of opioid abuse or opioid addiction, which can often require professional treatment to recover from.
Here are some recommendations for how to improve sleep quality during opiate withdrawal:
Medically Supervised Detox
Entering an inpatient detox program is highly recommended for anyone who is at risk for moderate to severe opioid withdrawal as a result of chronic drug use.
Medical detox is short-term, can offer safety, and can remove you from an environment where it’s possible for you to return to your drug use.
Medical detoxification programs can offer:
- 24-hour supervision
- clinical support
- a quiet and safe setting to detox
- medication for withdrawal, such as Suboxone
- resources for further support or treatment
Medical detox programs typically last five to 10 days on average. Although, this may be longer if you are detoxing from a long-acting opioid, such as methadone.
One option for relieving symptoms such as anxiety, cravings, sweating, and insomnia during opiate withdrawal is medication.
Medication options for withdrawal insomnia might include:
- non-habit-forming sleep aids
The suitability of medication options for insomnia may be determined on a case-by-case basis. This will depend on your drug use history, overall health status, and other personal factors.
Medication for insomnia may be administered by a medical professional on a short-term basis, or prescribed on an outpatient level after detox to support your healing process.
It’s common for sleeping troubles to persist after acute opioid detox. If this does occur, certain behavioral health treatments, like therapy, could help you get better sleep.
Behavioral therapy can help to address some factors that can influence insomnia, such as stress, anxiety, and related mental health issues.
This is also a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder, particularly when paired with medications for opioid use disorder (e.g. methadone, Suboxone).
Most important for relieving moderate to severe symptoms of withdrawal is taking care of yourself, by staying hydrated, eating a nutritious diet, and getting enough rest.
Practicing relaxation and mindfulness interventions, and getting in some light exercise might also be helpful for poor sleep, if you are in a position to do so.
If you are struggling with insomnia as a result of drug or alcohol withdrawal, it’s best to avoid the use of stimulants like coffee, green tea, or energy drinks.
This can exacerbate difficulties with sleep, and may worsen other withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, agitation, and anxiety.
Find An Opioid Detox Program Today
Getting off opioid agonists can be very difficult without professional help, especially if you are trying to overcome an opiate addiction.
For more information about opioid withdrawal syndrome or to find drug addiction treatment options for yourself or a loved one, call our helpline to speak with someone today.