Addiction recovery isn’t easy and will likely be accompanied by many physical and emotional hurdles. In many ways, it is almost like you are hitting the restart button on your life but starting over can be exhausting.
The Connection Between Fatigue and Recovery
If you had a substance abuse problem but are now sober and very tired, you are not alone. Feeling tired after quitting alcohol is especially common. It takes time for your body to adjust to your new life; in the meantime, you may be left feeling exhausted.
Lethargy is a common withdrawal symptom for many substances. While insomnia and sleep disturbances may peak during a medical detox, they often don’t completely disappear when the process is over. These withdrawal symptoms can linger and people who are months out of detox may still struggle.
Part of the reason for early sobriety exhaustion is your body trying to adjust to the absence of drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can disrupt REM and the sleep cycle. People who abuse drugs may also go on binges and not sleep for days at a time. Together, these problems can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm, their internal clock that regulates their sleep and waking schedule. Especially if you used drugs or alcohol to help you fall asleep in the past, your body needs time to learn to fall asleep on its own again.
How to Battle Fatigue in Early Sobriety
Fatigue in early recovery is common, but there are several ways to combat your sobriety fatigue so that you can continue your sobriety journey feeling well rested.
Set A Sleep Schedule
Many people in recovery who are feeling fatigued are not getting enough good quality sleep. One of the best ways to fight tiredness in recovery is to create a sleep schedule and stick to it. You should go to bed at the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning, even on the weekends. Although you may be tired, napping throughout the day can make it harder for you to fall asleep at night and throw off your sleeping schedule. Sleep is important in recovery and a regular sleep schedule can reset your circadian rhythm so that you feel less tired during the day.
Create A Pre-Bedtime Routine
Sleep disturbance and insomnia are common in recovery and can lead to early sobriety exhaustion. A good way to help your body fall asleep at night is to create a good pre-sleep routine. Your body and mind may need time to wind down before falling asleep, so use the hour or so before bedtime to relax. Create a routine where you read, meditate, take a bath, have decaffeinated tea, or listen to soothing music. This regular pre-bedtime routine can alert your body and mind that it is almost time for bed and can help make falling asleep easier.
People in recovery may be experiencing sobriety fatigue due in part to stress. Levels of stress can predict levels of fatigue, and high stress levels are correlated with higher levels of fatigue.3 Early recovery especially can be a time of high stress as people adjust to a completely new way of life and combat strong addiction triggers. Make it a point to try to decrease the stress in your life or take measures to de-stress regularly. Yoga, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy are all helpful practices.
If you are fighting fatigue in addiction recovery, the last thing you probably want to do is go to the gym, but exercise can help. Regular exercise is proven to boost mood as well as energy levels.1 Start slow with some stretching and light exercise before working your way up to a more intense exercise routine. If you need motivation, get a friend to join you or try an alternative means of exercise like rollerblading, dance classes, or a sports team.
Mind Your Diet
Changing your diet is one of the many ways to fight fatigue in recovery. A diet high in sugars can lead to crashes. Instead, try to eat energy-boosting foods like whole grains, proteins, vegetables, and healthy oils and eat smaller meals more frequently.2 You should also try to increase your water intake because dehydration is one of the leading causes of fatigue. While caffeine provides a short-term solution for fatigue, it can also come with long-term consequences. Too much caffeine can interrupt your circadian rhythm and sleep schedule, which will ultimately make your problems worse. There is also the dreaded post-caffeine crash that can leave you feeling sluggish in the middle of the day.
Lethargy may be a part of the early recovery journey and learning to deal with sobriety fatigue may take time. Be patient. The more you follow these healthy habits for combating fatigue in recovery, the more likely you are to see improvement. If your fatigue persists for many months, you should consult a doctor. It is possible that other issues are at play and causing you to feel this way.
As a drug and alcohol center in PA, we know that sobriety fatigue is not only bad for your physical and mental health, but it could also lead to relapse. It is important to create good habits in recovery, like those surrounding combating fatigue, that can help your sobriety last.
Getting sober can be a long and trying journey. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, get help today. At Clearbrook Treatment Centers, we want to help you take that first step in the right direction. Call 888-280-4763 now to learn more.
- ScienceDaily – Regular Exercise Plays A Consistent And Significant Role In Reducing Fatigue
- Harvard Health Publishing – Eating to boost energy
- NCBI – Perceived stress and fatigue among students in a doctor of chiropractic training program