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Do I Have an Opioid-Induced Sleep Disorder?

Two million people in the US have a diagnosed opioid disorder. The numbers are frightening and deadly. One hundred thirty people die daily in the United States because of an opioid overdose. In addition, painkillers prescribed for chronic pain are being widely misused. Over ten million Americans are misusing these medications. Another opioid-related problem on the rise is opioid-induced sleep disorders. 

People prescribed opioids for chronic pain are experiencing sleep disturbances in staggering numbers. The irony of opioids being prescribed to improve the quality of life when in fact, sleep disruptions are causing mood swings, memory problems, stress, and other complications. Opioid-induced sleep disorders have hit the National Center on Sleep Disorders radar. Long-term sleep disruptions can harm physical health through hypertension, metabolic disorders, and cardiovascular disease.

Opioids Can Negatively Affect Sleep

Penn State University wrote a study on patients taking Vicodin and oxycodone, proving that opioids lowered sleep quality when associated with drug cravings. This aspect directly affects addiction recovery. Other sleep issues tied to opioids are opioid-induced sleep disorders. Restless sleep, frequent waking, and sleep disorders directly affect and diminish the quality of life. 

Chronic pain sufferers already have restless sleep, and opioids have been found to cause insomnia and sleeplessness. Long-term pain patients think that opioids will help them sleep because they eliminate the pain, but opioids have the side effect of chronic and acute insomnia in some cases. Other cases have revealed that opioid-induced sleep disorders result from long-term opioid usage. 

How does this happen? Opioids can disrupt sleep by affecting sleep cycles, decreasing sleep efficiency, slow-wave sleep, and REM sleep. It’s proven that insomnia is 42% more common among chronic pain patients taking opioids. Opioids prescribed after surgeries have increased the number of insomnia diagnoses by double. Opioid-induced sleep disorders include insomnia and sleep apnea, and sleep-disordered breathing problems.

Sleep Disorders Caused by Opioids

Opioid-induced sleep disorder is caused when opioids disrupt sleep in various ways. Those experiencing chronic fatigue and disrupted sleep are one example. Four fundamental sleep disruptions to examine help determine the disorder. The following sleeping issues are assessed to diagnose. 

  • Insomnia is a side effect of taking prescription opioids prescribed for chronic pain. Sleep deprivation from opioids is described as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and restless sleep. 
  • Parasomnia is abnormal behaviors such as sleepwalking, talking in your sleep, and eating during sleep. These behaviors disrupt sleep cycles, cause restlessness during sleep, and can result in injuries from walking around while asleep. 
  • Daytime sleepiness is a side effect of opioids. This problem can present lifestyle challenges and danger if nodding off while driving.
  • Mixed symptoms with no predominant type are the fourth sleep-disrupting symptom. For example, a combination of insomnia, parasomnia, and daytime sleepiness could result in a sleep disorder.

Opioid-induced Sleep Disorders Affecting Sleep Cycles

Most people who are using prescription opioids are experiencing chronic pain and need relief. However, opioids can interfere with regular sleep cycles. Users are mistaken in believing that this means they must take more medication to solve that problem. Two serious consequences of this cycle are addiction and opioid-induced sleep disorders.

Disturbed REM Patterns

Sleep cycles involve four stages of sleep that form a sleep cycle. REM sleep is the last and longest stage of sleep. Opioids have been found to block rapid eye movement sleep, which is the most critical sleep time. REM sleep occurs three to five times during the night and supports learning and retaining memory. This opioid-induced sleep disorder can increase pain levels, increasing the chance of addiction.

Disrupted Non-REM Patterns

The first three stages of the sleep cycle are the Non-REM sleep cycles. However, research has found that opioid use can affect and disrupt the third stage of sleep, which is Non-REM and REM sleep. The third sleep stage strengthens the immune system and reparative work with muscles and bones. Therefore, this opioid-induced sleep disorder can be very harmful to healthy processes needed by the body.

Sleep Disordered Breathing Patterns (SDB)

Dysfunctions in standard breathing patterns when sleeping can result from the cycle of overuse of opioids because of sleep issues. Respiratory depression can occur; in some cases, it has led to death. While sleep-disordered breathing may not happen with sleep apnea, it is still considered an opioid-induced sleep disorder that can harm overall mental and physical health.

Sleep Apnea Disorder

Sleep apnea is very dangerous because breathing is seriously affected when sleeping. People with this disorder frequently stop breathing during sleep. This severe disorder can be an opioid-induced sleep disorder, as opioids contribute to the problem, as reported by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. In addition, sleep apnea can negatively affect the body’s vital organs and general sleep quality.

Treatment for Opioid-Induced Sleep Disorders

Reporting sleep disruptions to your physician is vital in resolving an opioid-induced sleep disorder. Assessment and evaluation are initial steps to take, as well as reducing the opioid dosage or changing medication altogether. Sleep studies can be performed to pinpoint a diagnosis, but self-care steps can improve sleep quality. Sleep education is essential, but simple lifestyle changes can bring positive results. 

  • Regular exercise: Although your chronic pain issue could be limiting, consult your doctor for advice on an approved exercise routine.
  • Form a sleep schedule and stick to it: Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
  • Recognize stress: Focus on what is causing you and take steps to eliminate those factors. 
  • Plan a nutritious diet: Diet and sleep are major lifestyle factors that affect overall health. Less sugar and finding foods that fight inflammation can also reduce pain levels.

Find Help for your Opioid-Induced Sleep Disorder in Atlanta, GA

Consulting a treatment center equipped to treat opioid-induced sleep disorders can take you one step toward relief. Retreat of Atlanta understands the relationship between chronic pain treatment, opioids, and sleep disruptions. Therefore, we provide assessment, medical exams, and treatment options that include consideration for your opioid-induced sleep disorder. Contact us now for complete details to begin your treatment journey.

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