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Here’s a Simple Way to Decrease Opiate Cravings

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We all know that getting enough sleep is important to your mood and overall health, but it also plays a crucial role in addiction recovery, too.

According to a recent Penn State study, squeezing in enough shut-eye can actually lower drug cravings for people hooked on opioids.

Researching the Connection Between Sleep and Recovery

It all started when Bo Cleveland, associate professor and Social Science Research Institute co-funded faculty member, graduate student David Lydon-Staley, both in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, along with researchers at Penn State’s College of Medicine, recruited 68 people from the Caron Treatment Center in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, to undergo assessments of relapse risk. Each of the 68 had recently completed medically-assisted opioid withdrawal and had been clean for about 10 to 14 days before starting the study.

For nearly two weeks, patients recorded details about their sleep quality, mood, and level of drug cravings. They kept these “diaries” using a smartphone app developed by the Dynamic Real-Time Ecological Ambulatory Methodologies (DREAM) program in the Survey Research Center at Penn State.

“A preset alarm notified patients to complete a survey four times each day, with the morning survey assessing sleep quality,” Cleveland explained. “The real-time data was then streamed to our lab to monitor compliance and data quality.” In addition, researchers met with the patients to answer (and ask) questions, and to help manage any technical difficulties with the smartphone apps.

When all the data was compiled, researchers found some interesting results. Patients who reported lower quality of sleep also experienced higher than usual drug cravings. On the flip side, the ones who got enough sleep and were in an upbeat mood reported less cravings.

These findings were recently published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, marking the first time researchers were able to establish a connection between a patient’s positive mood and lower-than-usual drug cravings.

The Importance of Getting Some ZZZ’s

When you think about it, these findings make sense. When you’re sleep deprived and cranky, you’re not feeling good or very good about yourself. Negative thoughts breed even more negative thoughts, and before you know it, you’re less likely to care as much about staying clean or about your long-term future.

Getting enough sleep is important; these findings demonstrate how sleep disturbance is a risk factor in drug addiction recovery. And with the number of opioid-related overdoses having quadrupled since 1999, this is a pretty significant discovery – one that could help millions in their fight to permanently kick drugs like heroin and OxyContin.

Image Source: iStock

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