What Are Relapse Dreams?

Dreams’ meaning and purpose have fascinated us for millennia. Despite extensive scientific research into why we dream, we still don’t have a concrete answer to the question. However, the fact that most animals dream suggests dreaming has a deep-seated evolutionary purpose.

Most prevailing theories point to the idea that our dreams help us retain memories, process complicated emotions, express long-held desires and “rehearse” dealing with difficult or dangerous circumstances. If you’ve ever had a vivid dream about returning to substance abuse after a prolonged period of sobriety, you might wake up wondering what caused your subconscious mind to explore the subject of relapse. Why do relapse dreams happen to some recovering addicts? Can you learn to have better sleep hygiene in substance use recovery?

How Do Dreams Impact Your Recovery?

Most dreams are ephemeral. They fade soon after you wake up, leaving you unable to remember any of their details. However, some dreams can be intensely realistic and memorable, especially recurring dreams featuring the same people, surroundings, circumstances or themes.

If you have a distressing or unpleasant relapse dream, that doesn’t mean you’re unconsciously laying the groundwork for a return to substance use. It may merely indicate that part of your brain is using the time you spend asleep to adapt to your new, substance-free reality.

During an active addiction, drinking and using drugs were likely so ingrained in the fabric of your daily life that you believed you needed these substances to feel “normal.” When thoughts of self-destructive behavior are never far from your mind, they can weave themselves into your subconscious, causing you to experience intense relapse dreams.

Experiencing lifelike relapse dreams won’t necessarily make you more vulnerable to relapsing. For many people, this phenomenon is a typical part of the recovery timeline. According to one study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, about one-third of U.S. adults in recovery report having had drinking or drug-using dreams shortly after stopping substance use. Relapse dreams seem to be more prevalent among those with a more severe drug or alcohol dependence, or people who spent longer misusing substances.

Improving Your Sleep in Recovery

Sleep disruptions like insomnia are common among former substance abusers, and the idea of tossing and turning all night might make you dread going to bed. Look forward to sleep by developing a soothing routine that helps calm you down and relaxes your body and mind. Whether you prefer drinking a cup of chamomile tea, listening to instrumental music, taking a warm bath, having your partner read to you or practicing in-bed yoga poses, you can look forward to the end of your day, instead of having anxiety about lying awake all night.

If you’re trying to promote healthy sleep, you’ll also want to ban tech from your bedroom. Devices like laptops, phones and tablets emit blue light that could trick your body into thinking it’s daytime, disrupting your sleep-wake cycle and making it more challenging for you to drift off to dreamland.

Breaking Free From Substance Abuse

Addiction recovery requires you to commit to making many healthy lifestyle changes, but you might need extra support along the journey. If you have completed a substance use rehab program and still feel vulnerable to a relapse, a high-accountability sober living facility can be an essential ingredient in your aftercare plan.

At Segue Recovery Support, we believe you deserve a lifetime of sobriety, health and wellness. Contact us when you’re ready to learn more about transitional housing for people recovering from substance abuse.