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Facts About Sleep Disorders and Addiction

Sleep Disorders and Addiction

It is not uncommon at all for addiction and sleep disorders to be linked to one another. Sometimes the addiction leads to the sleep disorder. However, it's often the other way around. People who suffer from sleep disorders will frequently use substances as a way to cope. Sleep is such an important human need. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. The fact is that most people don't get that much sleep. However, this is a situation that is usually out of their control.

Sleep Disorders Information

Many of the people in the United States are suffering from sleep disorders. The American Sleep Association states that:

  • As many as 70 million adults in the United States suffer from some type of sleep disorder.
  • 48% of people in the U.S. report that they snore.
  • Almost 38% of people say that they unintentionally fell asleep during the day once last month.
  • Close to 5% of people have fallen asleep while driving during the last month.
  • Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder.
  • 30% of people have short-term issues with insomnia.
  • 10% of people have chronic insomnia.
  • More than 35% of adults report that they get less than seven hours of sleep a night.

Sleep is vital to our existence and our functionality as humans. There are so many different factors that can affect sleep quality. Because of how important it is, it's not surprising that so many people with sleep disorders use substances. When studying sleep disorders in substance abusers, it was found that:

  • 80% of them were abusing alcohol.
  • 40% of them were abusing narcotics.
  • 66% of them were abusing more than one substance at a time.
  • 46% of them reported feeling a need to use substances to self-medicate a sleep problem.
  • 96% of the subjects in one particular study were noted to have some form of sleep impairment.

It's clear that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

At Northpoint Washington, we recognize the importance of sleeping well. It affects everything in one's life. We've worked with many patients who suffered from some type of sleep disorder and addiction. These two conditions are known as co-occurring disorders, and they need specific treatment. With the right addiction treatment, recovery from sleep disorders and addiction is possible.

Perhaps you're suffering from a sleep disorder and addiction. You might feel like you don't know what to do, or how you can get help. Your only option up until now was to self-medicate your condition. It might help you to learn more about sleep disorders and how they can affect you. You will also be able to see why you are more prone to addiction than someone without a sleep disorder.

Sleep Disorders Defined

“Insomnia is an increasing problem. I've become convinced that sleep disorders are perhaps the most overlooked, ignored, underrated cause of health and performance problems in the workplace.” – Sean Sullivan

It's actually quite common for people to have sleep disorders, but not realize it. Sometimes people assume that they just sleep poorly, but there could be other issues going on.

A sleep disorder is defined as any issue that chronically interferes with the quality of your sleep. You may find it hard to fall asleep at night, or stay asleep once you do fall asleep. You may wake up feeling tired each day, or fall asleep at your desk at work. These are all common indicators that a sleep disorder is present.

The Various Types of Sleep Disorders

There are many different types of sleep disorders. Each one is different, and it affects people in a variety of ways.

The various types of sleep disorders include:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when breathing becomes very shallow during sleep. Some people even stop breathing for period of time. This often happens many times during the night. For many people, it even happens several times per minute while they're sleeping.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused wen something partially blocks the upper airway during sleep. This blockage cause the diaphragm and chest muscles to strain to pull air into the lungs. People with this sleep disorder don't sleep well, but they're usually not aware any of this is happening. They often wake up feeling more tired than they were when they went to bed.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea indicates that there are some breathing problems going on during sleep. However, they are not characterized by an obstruction. In this sleep disorder, the brain doesn't tell the muscles in the body to breathe. This is usually associated with some type of severe illness. Some of these include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Hypothyroid disease
  • Congestive heart failure

This condition is a scary one, and it's something that needs to be treated right away.


Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it hard to stay asleep and/or fall asleep. There are actually two types of insomnia; primary and secondary insomnia.

For those suffering from primary insomnia, they have sleep problems that aren't associated with any other issue. For those with secondary insomnia, they have an additional health condition. They may be suffering from asthma, depression, or another medical problem.

Insomnia can be different for everyone. For some people, it's only a short-term problem. However, for others, it can be a chronic problem that never goes away.


People with hypersomnia suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness. They may have trouble staying awake during the day. Additionally, they can and do often fall asleep frequently. Hypersomnia can also refer to those who spend a lot of time sleeping.

People with hypersomnia may be suffering from other sleep-related issues. They may have trouble thinking clearly, and they may not have much energy. As many as 40% of all people are reported to be suffering from hypersomnia at any given time.


Parasomnias are sleep disorders that can take many different forms. They occur when someone is woken up from REM sleep. They can also occur during partial arousals from non-REM sleep. The different types of parasomnias include:

  • Nightmares
  • Night terrors
  • Sleep walking
  • Confusional arousals
  • Sleep talking
  • Rhythmic movement disorder
  • Nocturnal leg cramps
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Impaired sleep-related erections

These different types of parasomnias are disturbing, but there are several that can be dangerous.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

REM sleep makes up about 20-25% of the night's rest. During this time, people experience a paralysis that is completely normal. However, that paralysis is absent or incomplete in those with REM sleep behavior disorder.

Individuals with this sleep disorder will act out their dreams. They may even become violent at times. Kicking, punching, jumping from the bed and yelling are all very common. This sleep disorder is often associated with other medical problems, such as Parkinson's disease and Shy-Drager syndrome.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

The circadian rhythm is the internal clock that everyone has. It is responsible for regulating brain wave activity, hormone production and other biological activities.

In circadian rhythm sleep disorder, these biological activities are interrupted. This can be caused by a number of different things. They include mental health problems, pregnancy, medications and shift work.

People with circadian rhythm sleep disorder find it very difficult to fall asleep on a certain schedule. They may also fall asleep during the daytime hours quite easily.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic limb movement disorder is a sleep disorder that involves the moving of the limbs during sleep. Usually, these movements involve the legs, but other extremities may be involved too. They occur all through the night. They may range from mild to severe.

It's important to note that these movements are different from the spasms most people experience while falling asleep. These movements tend to occur all night long, for different periods of time.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

This condition will affect most people who have to work rotating shifts. It becomes a serious problem when it begins to interfere with people's quality of life. There are many who even experience it when they work day shift or night shift on a regular basis. It leads to sleep deprivation, which can have a severe impact on a person's health.


Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder. It affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. People who have narcolepsy are sleepy during the day. They often suffer from uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep. These are often called sleep attacks. They can happen at any point during the day.

When someone has narcolepsy, they will immediately enter REM sleep. They may automatically have muscle paralysis and dream.

The Symptoms of Each Sleep Disorder Explained

If you feel you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, you need to know the symptoms of them. The following is a list of the symptoms of each type of sleep disorder.

The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Feeling sleepy during the daytime hours
  • Having a dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
  • Having a headache in the morning
  • Problems with concentration
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Becoming irritable easily
  • Brain fog or forgetfulness
  • Experiencing night sweats
  • Being restless during sleep
  • Frequent snoring
  • Waking up with a gasping or choking sensation
  • Problems with getting out of bed in the mornings

The symptoms of central sleep apnea include:

  • Feeling tired during the day
  • Frequently waking up at night
  • Having to use the bathroom at night often
  • Getting headaches in the morning
  • Memory problems
  • Problems with concentration
  • Sometimes violent mood swings

The symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Problems with falling asleep at night
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Having trouble going back to sleep after waking up
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired after waking up

The symptoms of hypersomnia include:

  • Brain fog or forgetfulness
  • Problems with concentration
  • Falling asleep throughout the day
  • Spending a lot of time sleeping
  • Lacking in energy

There are several different symptoms of parasomnias because there are many types. However, some of them are much more common than others. Some of the symptoms of parasomnias include:

  • Walking around while you are still asleep
  • Performing dangerous actions while you're asleep
  • Being confused after you wake up
  • Having horrible dreams that lead to blood-curdling screams and even violent behaviors
  • Acting out dreams as you sleep
  • Being unable to move your body when you're falling asleep or waking up
  • Talking out loud while you're asleep
  • Urinating during sleep

The symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder include:

  • Physically acting out your dreams
  • Sometimes violent movements during sleep
  • Jumping from the bed while still asleep
  • Talking, laughing or shouting during sleep
  • Using profanity while asleep
  • Being able to remember the dream if woken up in the middle of it

The symptoms of circadian rhythm sleep disorder include:

  • Problems going to sleep at night
  • Problems staying asleep
  • Not feeling rested after waking up
  • Feeling tired during the day
  • Problems with concentration
  • Experiencing a decrease in cognitive skills

The symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder include:

  • Frequent leg movements
  • Flexing the knee, ankle or hip
  • Possible movement of the arms
  • Experiencing a full brief period of being awake
  • Fatigue during the day
  • A poor memory
  • Symptoms of depression
  • A short attention span

The symptoms of shift work sleep disorder include:

  • Feeling sleepy when you need to be awake and alert
  • Having trouble sleeping when you need to
  • Waking up before you've had enough sleep
  • Only getting sleep that feels insufficient
  • Problems with concentration
  • Not having enough energy
  • Becoming irritable
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Problems with personal relationships

The symptoms of narcolepsy include:

  • Feeling very sleepy during the day
  • A sudden loss of muscle tone
  • Weakness throughout the body
  • Slurred speech
  • Total body collapse
  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Sleep paralysis

Do you recognize any of the symptoms on this list? If you do, then you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.

Treating Sleep Disorders Professionally

Because of the severity of sleep disorders, professional treatment is essential. First of all, it's important to understand the type of sleep disorder you have. Secondly, professionals may recommend a number of different treatment methods. These might include:

  • Medications to help with sleep
  • Supplements to improve sleep
  • A breathing device or surgical procedure in some cases
  • A dental guard for teeth grinding
  • Medical testing to rule out any type of medical condition
  • Professional counseling
  • Family therapy

Types of Medications that Can Help with Sleep Disorders

There are several different types of medications that doctors will prescribe for sleep disorders. These include:

  • Lunesta
  • Rozerem
  • Sonata
  • Ambien
  • Nytol
  • Sominex
  • Restoril
  • Dalmane

It is important to consider the addictive nature of these drugs. This especially vital because if someone already has an addiction, they are prone to becoming addicted to them. Sometimes, sleep issues can be resolved without having to use medications at all.

Making certain lifestyle changes can greatly affect sleep quality. Changes like:

  • Getting enough exercise
  • Improving your diet
  • Eliminating caffeine
  • Going to bed and waking up on a strict schedule
  • Reducing stress

These have all been shown to improve the quality and quantity of sleep dramatically.

Why are Sleep Disorders and Addiction Linked to Each Other?

In the above sleep disorders, a common theme that flows through all of them is fatigue. Sleep disorders frequently leave people feeling tired throughout the day. When people are tired, they don't think as clearly as they should. They may make poor decisions, and various parts of their lives may be suffering incredibly.

For someone with a sleep disorder, that individual is probably desperate for relief. There are many types of substances that can make sleep easier to come by; at least in the short-term. Substances like alcohol and marijuana are depressants, which can help to induce sleep. Some prescription drugs can also lead to better sleep in the short-term. Sleeping medications like Ambien, or prescription pain medications all can cause drowsiness.

It's not surprising that so many people will choose to use the above substances. While they have been shown to improve sleep, or at least cause drowsiness, they're not effective long-term. Alcohol has also been shown to lead to restless sleep. Some types of prescription pain medications can do the same thing.

In attempting to improve the quality of their sleep, many sleep disorder sufferers only make the situation worse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Sleep Disorders and Addiction

If you have a sleep disorder and an addiction, you might be feeling desperate for a solution to your problem. Dual diagnosis treatment or integrative addiction treatment offers you some answers.

This type of addiction treatment works so well because it addresses the reasons behind the addiction. For sleep disorder sufferers, many times, their disorder is the cause. They may not realize that, but it's true. Dual diagnosis treatment will address their sleep disorder together, alongside their addictions.

This is very effective because it means the individual will be receiving treatment for both conditions at the same time. Research has shown that this is much more effective than treating them separately. People learn how to better manage their symptoms without having to rely on substances. At the same time, they're also recovering from the physical and psychological components of their addictions.

This new approach to treating addiction has been so beneficial for so many people. At one time, any serious condition was treated separately from addiction. This led to many relapses in those who should have experienced successful recoveries. Fortunately, new approaches like this one are available that have changed treatment for so many.

Help for Sleep Disorders and Addiction is Available for Those in Need

If you feel after reading the above information that you have a sleep disorder, help is available for you. This isn't a condition that you have to suffer with forever. Also, it's not something that you need to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Sleep disorders and addictions are far too common. You can get help for both conditions with dual diagnosis treatment.

Here at Northpoint Washington, we offer dual diagnosis treatment for those with sleep disorders. We know that what you're going through is difficult. We understand that it has greatly impacted the quality of your life. Using substances isn't the answer you're looking for. Together, we can create a treatment plan that will address your specific needs.

Are you in need of help for your addiction and sleep disorder? Please contact us today to find out how our services can assist you.