New Study Examines Sleep Health and Substance Abuse

A new paper, “Sleep and Substance Use: Practice Considerations for Social Workers,” has been published in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions.[i]
The piece examines the role sleep patterns play in substance abuse and calls for social workers to be better trained in identifying and treating sleep problems.

Researchers have known the connection between poor sleep patterns, particularly difficulty falling asleep, and substance misuse for some time.

According to the paper, “poor sleep health is consistently associated with the initiation of substance use, development of substance use disorders (SUDs), dropout from treatment, and return to use.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Christine Spadola from the University of Texas, explains that self-control and decision-making functions are adversely affected when a person is sleep-deprived. In this state, self-medication with alcohol and or drugs can occur, leading to dependency.

Spadola and her colleagues believe that improving sleep health can improve prospects for recovery from addiction and suggest the following elements should be part of all SUD treatment plans:

(1) Sleep health assessments

(2) Psychoeducation on behaviors to promote healthy sleep

(3) Referral to appropriate specialists when sleep disorders are suspected

(4) The promotion of a healthy sleep environment in residential treatment settings

(5) Evidenced-based behavioral interventions.

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