While some people naturally battle sleep disorders caused by a myriad of factors from anxiety to hormonal imbalances, others are up all night due directly to the drugs or alcohol they abuse. No one substance alone causes this type of medical condition, but BehaveNet defines the disorder as a significant sleep disturbance that is a direct result of the ingestion of drugs or alcohol.1 Many people use substances because of the sedating qualities of different drugs. So, when their sleep is disturbed rather than induced, it’s difficult to understand. This can often lead those looking for a good night’s sleep to increase the recommended dosage. But using drugs in larger amounts or in ways other than prescribed by a physician can quickly lead to dependence. Understanding how to recognize a substance-induced sleep disorder can protect you or a loved one from developing addiction.

Trouble sleeping

Substance-Induced Sleep Disorder Basics

There are four primary types of substance-induced sleep disorders. These are:

  • Insomnia type: The patient may have trouble falling and/or staying asleep.
  • Daytime sleepiness type: Fatigue and depressed alertness may be present throughout the day.
  • Parasomnia type: Sleepwalking, nightmares or night terrors may take place.
  • Mixed type: A combination of any of the three above.1

Cocaine, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, hypnotics, sedatives, caffeine and benzodiazepines can instigate the development of a substance-induced sleep disorder, as can certain prescription medications like dopamine antagonists and antihistamines. Depressants like alcohol can aid in sedating someone, but it isn’t likely that their sleep will be restful. On the flipside, stimulants like amphetamines often generate hypersomnia symptoms in the detoxing patient.

Drug-Induced Dysfunction

More than 40 million people suffer from sleep disorder each year in the United States. An additional 20 million people experience occasional problems sleeping.2 A great number of these individuals are engaging in substance abuse, but it’s important to remember that not every sleep disorder is substance-related. For a lot of substance abusers, some kind of mental health issue is already present and contributing to lack of quality sleep.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that approximately half of all people with severe mental health problems are also substance abusers.3 Those who go undiagnosed or untreated frequently find themselves abusing drugs or alcohol to cope. For three of the most common forms of mental illness — depression, bi-polar disorder and anxiety — changes in sleep patterns are one of the symptoms.3 Those without an accurate diagnosis often turn to drugs or alcohol to try and solve sleeping problems on their own. Understanding the relationship between mental health and quality sleep can help you or your loved one recognize the signs of a mental illness and get treatment.

Accepting Help

For some, a sleep disorder develops during drug withdrawal, but this problem rectifies itself if a true substance-induced sleep disorder is the culprit. Through medically-supervised detox, the body is allowed to rid itself of drug toxins. At the end of this process, sleep problems are often resolved. A proper diagnosis can only be reached when the patient’s sleep difficulties started after substance abuse began. In addition, sleep troubles are not considered to be a full-blown disorder unless they’re interfering with the patient’s quality of life and the ability to function and perform well. Through appropriate detox and diagnosis, your rehab team of doctors, therapist and other addiction professionals can determine the cause of your sleep issues.

Finding Help for Drug-Induces Sleep Disorders

You might feel like you’re at your wit’s end and can’t take another sleepless night. And you don’t have to. Treatment for substance-induced sleep disorder starts with addressing your addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. For many sufferers, ridding your body of the substances you’ve been abusing during detox will most often improve your sleep. For others, a good night’s rest may take some continued therapy and even medication to reprogram your body’s sleep cycle. It’s important to remember that through appropriate diagnosis and treatment your sleep habits can be restored.

Regardless of the path you must take to get back on track, our compassionate staff at Black Bear Lodge will be with you every step of the way. Whether you’re dreading not being able to sleep tonight or you’re pacing the floor in the early morning hours, we’re available to talk to you and answer any questions you may have.

Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator.


1Substance-Induced Sleep Disorder.” Substance-Induced Sleep Disorder | Behavenet, 31 Jan. 2018.

210 Facts You Might Not Know About Sleep and Mental Health.” Neurocore, 21 Sept. 2017.

3 Joanna Saisan, M.S.W., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. “Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues.” Helpguide.org, Dec. 2017.