Building a Nest to Assist Restful Sleep
Building a nest to finally get a good night’s rest in addiction recovery.
If getting a good night’s sleep feels like a distant dream, rest assured that it isn’t!
Countless people in recovery from addiction struggle with sleep disorders. Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that up to 72% of people in recovery from alcohol use disorder report experiencing sleep problems.
The good news is, sleep difficulties aren’t as out of your control as you may think. They can be improved upon with some adjustments to your sleep environment, or building a nest.
Building a nest offers solace to those in recovery who continue to struggle with sleep. By building a nest to improve our sleep quality, we also improve our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
A nest serves many purposes, including providing security, safety, and comfort. Many animals build nests, from birds to apes to mice. We humans are no different.
What Building A Nest for Sleep Involves
When thinking of what it means to practise good sleep hygiene, the first thing that comes to mind may be forgoing caffeine before bed, or putting our phone away before we hit the hay.
Something that is just as impactful but often falls by the wayside are the elements of our sleep environment.
Building a nest involves creating an environment that fosters comfortable, quality sleep. This is something we may not think about often. However, the nature of our sleep environment has a direct effect on the quality of sleep we get throughout the night.
When building a nest, it's so important that it suits your own needs. This can be difficult if you are in a shared space, a temporary space, or you are renting. However, there are small hacks you can use that will make a difference in your environment and thereby, your sleep.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all practise to creating the “perfect” sleeping environment. What feels best to you will vary from person to person. However, there are many best practises to follow when building a nest that we will jump into later in this article.
The Importance of Quality Sleep in Addiction Recovery
You may be wondering why building a nest and achieving quality sleep is so important as it pertains to addiction recovery. Studies have long indicated that many people in recovery suffer from ongoing sleep disorders. If you struggle with substance abuse, you’re 5 to 10 times more likely to struggle with a sleep disorder than someone who doesn’t struggle with substance abuse.
Once the body becomes used to substances for so long, it must once again reprogramme itself when getting clean and learning how to function without substances. This causes many changes to the body, including difficulty sleeping, as long-term substance abuse also affects the circadian rhythm.
Fortunately, building a nest can help to naturally assist sleep, rather than turning to prescription pills, which can ultimately be addictive.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Studies show that people with insomnia who learned to recognise and change stressful thoughts slept better than those who took sleeping pills to treat their insomnia.”
When struggling with sleep, many people reach for substances to help them fall asleep, such as Ambien or alcohol. This can lead to relapse and perpetuates a vicious cycle. When relying on a substance to help induce sleepiness, more and more of the substance will have to be used to achieve the desired effect. Meantime, the body isn’t learning how to naturally transition into sleep on its own.
Benefits of Building a Nest in Overcoming Sleep Disorders
Creating a sleep-inducing bedtime environment is a natural, effective way to help us achieve improved sleep quality, which results in the following benefits:
The Benefits of Building A Nest for Improved Sleep Quality
Sleep Improves Our Emotional Well-Being
A good night’s rest has the potential to improve our emotional well-being. When we are deficient in sleep, activity in certain parts of our brain becomes impaired. This can cause difficulty in regulating our emotions and dealing with change.
A lack of quality sleep has also been linked with mood swings, depression, and impulsive behaviors. Studies have shown that people who are deficient in sleep report experiencing an increase in negative moods and a decrease in positive moods.
Sleep Contributes to Healthy Brain Function
Getting a good night’s rest is linked with improved memory and the ability to develop new coping skills. New pathways are forming in our brain during the time that we sleep. They help us understand and retain new information. This is vital during recovery as we endeavor to learn and implement new coping skills that we weren’t using before. A good night’s rest increases our problem-solving skills, our productivity, and our focus. This is why building a nest can provide so much value in recovery.
Sleep is Foundational for Our Physical Health
Long-term sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of developing chronic health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Since our blood pressure goes down while we sleep, a lack of sleep over time can cause high blood pressure as well.
There are also many hormones that get produced in our bodies while we sleep, including ghrelin and leptin. These affect how hungry and full we feel, respectively. A lack of sleep causes these hormones to become dysregulated. Therefore, we’re more likely to overeat and face an increased risk of obesity.
Step-By-Step Guide to Building a Nest
The concept of building a nest to achieve optimal sleep can sound overwhelming. In reality, just making a few key changes can greatly impact the quality of your sleep. Even changing one element listed below can make a difference, so be sure to try out different things to figure out what is most impactful and helpful for you.
How To Overcome Insomnia by Building a Nest
Create a dark environment
Create a dark environment that blocks any light. Light acts as a mental cue for our circadian rhythm and alerts us to wake up. Light also delays the release of melatonin, which is a sleep hormone. Conversely, a dark room prompts the body to release melatonin, and is ideal when building a nest. Even having some light in your environment can affect this, so removing light includes going to sleep without a lamp, nightlight, and especially light from a television. Of course, this also means try not to look at your phone before bed, and ideally one hour before. Our phones emit blue wavelength light, which significantly increases brain wave activity.
Make sure the temperature is cool
Create an environment that is on the cooler side, as this makes it easier for the body to relax. Researchers say that between 65 and 72 degrees is the optimal temperature to promote restful sleep. When our body is too hot or overheats, it can wake us up out of our sleep, and also makes it difficult to fall back asleep. In line with creating a cool environment, keep in mind that certain fabrics offer a more cooling effect than others. When it comes to your bedsheets, try to stick with breathable sheets made out of natural fibers like bamboo or cotton, rather than fabrics such as polyester, which retains heat. You can also try creating air circulation with a fan or open windows, as proper ventilation is also associated with better sleep quality.
Reduce external noise
Reducing external noise will help promote a good night’s rest. This type of noise can mean anything from street noise to your television to your partner’s snoring. In order to help reduce street noise, there are foam pads available for purchase online which can be placed in your window to eliminate outside noise. You can also use a white noise machine or a fan to help drown out external noise, or look into headphones that have been created just for sleeping. You can also try to use earplugs. If your partner’s snoring is keeping you awake, you can consider discussing alternative sleeping arrangements (although proceed with caution on this one).
Invite warm colors into your room
Choose a warm, relaxing color scheme that promotes relaxation for you. Everyone has a different idea of what tones relax them the most, so this is truly a personal preference. When it comes to the color scheme, this can include everything from your wall colours to your bedding, and even to your furniture and decor. If you are renting or are in a shared space where you are unable to have full control of design, you can get creative and purchase items such as a cozy rug, throw blanket, or piece of art that creates a warm, relaxing atmosphere for you.
Remove electronics and work material
As mentioned earlier, putting your phone away before going to bed will reduce the temptation to look at it, and will help improve sleep quality. It could also be helpful to remove your computer and television as well. Researchers say that the bedroom should only be reserved for sleep and sex, and removing work or school-related electronics and materials will help to increase the mental association between the bedroom and sleep.
If putting your phone away is too scary a thought, you can place a silence mode on it to prevent notifications from pinging through all through the night. Many phones have this feature whereby family and friends can still reach you in an emergency. Having reasonable boundaries helps to enforce a good sleep regime
Another note on electronics is to turn your clock’s face away from you if you have a digital clock. Reading the time on the clock can actually induce stress in the body and keep you awake, making it even more difficult to fall asleep.
Practise proper room hygiene and cleanliness
It is important to have comfortable blankets and pillows, as well as a durable mattress. Maintaining clean bedding and mattresses will help prevent the buildup of dust, dust mites, and allergens, which can impede our sleep quality and can be especially harmful to people with allergies, asthma, and eczema.
Pillows should be replaced every two years, and mattresses should be replaced every 10 years. Bedding should be washed once a week, and should be aired out well before replacing. Also, cleaning the bedroom floor or carpet regularly will also help to reduce common allergens that may be lingering in the room.
If you are a smoker, it’s a good idea to ban smoking and vaping from the bedroom. Nicotine is a stimulant and smoke reduces air quality - both affecting your oxygen intake whilst you sleep. Not to mention the added high risk of falling asleep with a lit cigarette!
Additional Ambience Enhancers for Building a Nest
Though a lack of the following won’t ruin sleep quality, adding them into the sleep environment can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Aromatherapy, such as diffusers, can help promote relaxation. Scents such as lavender, bergs not, and chamomile are known to encourage slumber. You can also explore listening to gentle, peaceful, sleep-inducing music before going to sleep.
Make Your Nest Your Own
Just because there are many ways of building a nest, it doesn’t mean you have to employ all of them to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Be sure to use what works for you.
For instance, earplugs and eye masks work for some but are uncomfortable for others, who would benefit more from a white noise machine and blackout curtains. Some may need a fan on to help them sleep, while the white noise of a fan may disrupt others.
When it comes to removing electronics, it may not be feasible for some to move their computer out of their bedroom. In this case, create separate areas for work and sleep within the room, don’t work from bed, and even cover up or hide your laptop after you’re done using it for work, in order to create more of a mental separation.
Ultimately, you want to ask yourself if your sleeping environment feels like home. If it doesn’t, there are small additions to make that can enhance feelings of coziness. Put up photos of loved ones, and keep personal tokens or sentimental items on your desk, end table, or window sill. Put up a piece of art that speaks to you. Think of things that promote comfortability and add an extra level of coziness, such as a throw pillow tossed onto your bed purely for aesthetic purposes. Get a plant to bring life into your room. Reduce clutter around you, as visual clutter stimulates stress.
Try different things out to alter your environment, and see what works best for you.
A Final Note on Building a Nest
Building a nest can benefit us in so many ways, beyond gaining better quality sleep. Creating a space where we feel comfortable, secure, and safe can also benefit us in our meditation practise, in recovering from an illness, and even in feeling less anxious.
Remember, building a nest is a personal experience and process, and is individual for each person, so do what feels best for you and give yourself grace as you continue to move along your recovery journey.
Additionally, you can find more helpful methods of increasing your overall wellbeing by subscribing to our Wellness hub. This will give you unlimited access to meditation, yoga, soul healing, breathwork and so much more.
Author - Thurga
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