How Opioids Can Affect Sleep Patterns Negatively

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Most people are aware that opioids can negatively affect many aspects of life. One problem opioids can cause is problems with sleep. Whether it’s falling asleep, the overall quality of sleep, or conditions such as sleep apnea, opioids can negatively affect sleep patterns in a variety of ways.

How Opioids Can Negatively Affect Sleep

The overall quality of sleep can be adversely affected by the use of opioids. A study conducted by Penn State University stated that patients reporting lower quality of sleep were associated with intense drug cravings.

Sleep issues could include restless sleep or waking frequently throughout the night. There are different levels of sleep, some mentioned below, that should be experienced each time a person goes through a sleep cycle. Drug use can interrupt or diminish these cycles. The amount of overall hours a person sleeps can be affected as well.

Disturbed REM Patterns

Opioid use is known to disrupt and even block access to REM sleep. REM sleep, which stands for rapid eye movement, is one of the most important stages of sleep. According to Medical News Today, REM sleep accounts for between 20 percent and 25 percent of sleep each night for an adult.

Adequate REM sleep is related to the ability to learn and retain memory. Disrupted REM sleep in those using opioids may produce negative consequences in these areas. Ironically, poor sleep patterns can ultimately increase the amount of pain an individual experiences. Thus, the cycle of increased pain and opioid use is perpetuated.

Disrupted Non-REM Patterns

Non-REM sleep is also called non-rapid eye movement or NREM. NREM sleep occurs in three stages that lead up to REM sleep.

  • Stage One – This is the lightest stage and sometimes is called “drowsy” sleep.
  • Stage Two – This is considered the first official stage of sleep. This is considered light sleep.
  • Stage Three – This stage is considered deep sleep. Many important restorative processes occur during this stage.

Modern Medicine Network has reported that opioid use can particularly disrupt the third and fourth stages of sleep. The deeper stage of NREM is critical in the repair of muscle and bone tissue and the strengthening of the immune system. Those who have struggled with extensive opioid use may experience vivid dreams and nightmares during the REM stage.

Increase in Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which an individual’s breathing will stop and start again while the person is sleeping. The use of opiates can contribute to this condition as noted by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. There are generally three types of sleep apnea:

Central Sleep Apnea: This is when the muscles controlling breathing don’t receive the correct signals from the brain.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is caused when a person’s throat muscles become extremely relaxed.
Complex Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.

Disruption of General Breathing Patterns

According to the Chest Journal, there is a clear connection between sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and the use of opioids. Even if an individual doesn’t specifically experience sleep apnea, opioids can still alter and cause dysfunction in breathing patterns. Some neural sites that are particularly sensitive to opioids control breathing rhythms. Respiratory depression, in some cases, can be fatal.

Opioids can negatively affect sleep and affect your overall good health. When seeking treatment for opioid addiction, it’s important to find a facility that provides effective programs while focusing on each individual’s specific needs. It’s necessary to choose a facility that provides a comprehensive program that focuses on physical and mental health.

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