What substances interfere with sleep or hygiene? Poor hygiene is a common characteristic when people struggle with substance abuse. Insomnia that results from certain drugs can contribute to this effect. If you notice either of these issues with a friend, colleague, loved one or family member, you may be unsure about how to talk about it with them. While starting a conversation can be difficult, you may find they’re ready to get help for substance use disorder and underlying mental health concerns that can occur. Get the facts in this detailed guide to the connections between drug abuse, insomnia and poor hygiene.
What Substances Interfere With Sleep?
Drugs that keep you awake may decrease or increase arousal depending on the circumstances, such as length of use and use of additional substances. Research published in the Medical Clinics of North America indicates that sedative-hypnotic anti-depressants, anxiolytic anti-anxiety drugs, opioids, cannabis, cocaine and alcohol can all cause sleep issues. What drugs keep you awake for 3 days? Amphetamines and methamphetamines may cause an extended inability to sleep.
Insomnia is the most common sleep-related result of substance abuse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that various drugs may also cause the following:
- Cause excessive sleepiness during the day (hypersomnia)
- Disturb continuity of sleep
- Disrupt natural sleep cycles
- Affect the length of time it takes to fall asleep
- Prevent you from entering deep sleep
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse and sleep problems have a complex relationship. Although many substances like those described above lead to insomnia and other sleep issues, chronic difficulty sleeping may also increase the risk that someone will develop drug or alcohol addiction.
Research suggests that when drugs stimulate the dopamine pathway, it also awakens this neurotransmitter’s regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. In other words, you feel alert when you’d normally be sleeping.
Many people who have insomnia self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. When that occurs, they develop a tolerance to these substances, which means they need to take more for them to work the same way. This can lead to substance use disorder.
Withdrawing from some substances can also cause sleep problems. You may experience restless legs syndrome, disturbing dreams or trouble sleeping if you stop using prescription drugs, stimulants, cocaine, cannabis, opioids or alcohol after a period of chronic use. A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that more than 65% of research participants with substance use disorder experienced insomnia during the recovery process.
Some people abuse drugs prescribed to help with insomnia. Over time, you could become dependent on these medications, so they should only be used for less than 4 weeks under a physician’s care.
Other Ways That Drugs Affect Hygiene
People who become addicted to drugs often find their personal hygiene habits slip. They may shower, wash their hair and brush their teeth less often. Some reasons why substance use has such an impact on the ability to take care of yourself include:
- Not wanting to “ruin” the high by getting in the shower
- Loss of appetite leading to a poor diet and subsequent lack of nutrition
- Dental pain when brushing and flossing, caused by drug side effects like dry mouth, tooth grinding, acid reflux, mouth sores, gum disease, limited blood flow to teeth and gums and corrosive saliva
- Lack of motivation for activities other than obtaining drugs
- Loss of self-esteem
- Inability to properly wash the body
- Sugar cravings caused by opioids and amphetamines
Combined with insomnia, these factors can significantly and noticeably impact someone’s personal hygiene.
Non-Drug Explanations for Insomnia
Drug abuse isn’t the only explanation for insomnia and poor hygiene. Prescription and over-the-counter medications and substances may also cause sleep disruptions, including but not limited to:
- Asthma and allergy medicines
- Cough medicines, including drugs like Sudafed with pseudoephedrine
- Drugs containing caffeine
- Blood pressure medications
Insomnia can be a side effect of other sleep disorders, including central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. Both of these conditions commonly occur in conjunction with substance use disorder.
Steps to Improve Sleep
Sometimes, simple sleep strategies can improve insomnia. Try these tips if you or a family member suffers from sleep issues, whether or not substance use plays a role:
- Create a routine to help relax your body and mind before bed each night. Breathing exercises, reading, a warm bath and meditation can all help you wind down and soothe you into a restful sleep.
- Keep your room at the right temperature, not too warm or cold. Turn the lights off and remove or power down electronic devices, which emit a blue light that disrupts the brain’s sleep chemicals.
- Refrain from sleeping during the day if possible.
- Stay away from caffeine for a few hours before bed.
- Spend time exercising every day, but don’t work out right before you plan to go to sleep.
- Go outside and spend time in the sun every day, ideally first thing in the morning.
- Keep a regular schedule where you wake up and go to sleep at the same time each day.
Addressing Poor Hygiene and Insomnia
It’s important that you avoid jumping to conclusions when someone you know doesn’t take care of their personal hygiene anymore. This often occurs when someone seems to or says they have trouble sleeping. You should speak honestly about the issues you’ve noticed when you suspect a spouse, child or close loved one is struggling with substance abuse. In the case of a friend or colleague, you should give them non-judgmental support without necessarily addressing your concerns directly if you don’t feel comfortable or feel the person would take offense.
Often, sleep problems associated with substance withdrawal resolve after a few weeks. During the recovery process, health care providers can recommend medications to address side effects such as insomnia and promote healthy sleep patterns, typically leading to improved hygiene. Effective non-drug treatments for insomnia include mindfulness meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, muscle relaxation therapy and over-the-counter supplements such as melatonin. If someone in your life is struggling with poor hygiene and insomnia, reach out to FHE Health for access to resources and support today.