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How Heroin Affects Sleep

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So many things affect how well we sleep or how awake and energetic we feel. Heroin is no exception. It changes how we feel when we use it, and it affects how we sleep and how we wake even when we don’t. If you use heroin, you know you don’t get the quality sleep you should. But how exactly is heroin affecting your sleep, and what does this mean for your overall mental and physical health?

How Heroin Impacts Your Health

Heroin is a drug synthesized from opium poppy plants. It produces euphoric and relaxing sensations in users. These are the result of its depressant effects on the central nervous system. It is typically injected directly into the bloodstream via needles, but users can also smoke or snort heroin.

Addiction, physical dependence and overdose are three of the most common risks associated with ongoing heroin use. These effects are accompanied by changes in sleep patterns and other side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

>>> READ THIS NEXT: Start with Heroin Detox


Heroin Changes How You Feel and Think

Heroin can cause both insomnia and extreme sleepiness. It can cause alternating feelings of drowsiness and alertness. explains that use begins with an immediate rush of good feelings. These are followed by a state of relaxation and pain relief.1

So why is this bad? These “good” feelings quickly lead to dependence and addiction. You’ll begin to experience negative consequences at the same time you begin to lose control over your ability to “just say no” or stop.

Heroin Makes You Sleepy

One negative consequence is disrupted sleep patterns and lowered sleep quality. People who use heroin are sometimes said to be “on the nod” — or somewhere between conscious and semi-conscious states. It can be difficult to think clearly or stay awake, and accidents and injury become more likely. Hypersomnia may occur.

In high doses, heroin causes extreme sleepiness. It slows all bodily functions and diminishes respiratory function and heart rate. This is when heroin use becomes particularly dangerous. Users may fall asleep and never wake up.

Heroin Makes It Hard to Sleep

While immediate use makes it hard to stay awake, the National Institute on Drug Abuse shares that as use continues, you’re likely to experience insomnia.2 Your body adjusts to the presence of heroin and other opiates. It begins to counteract these drugs’ effects.

UCLA explains that individuals with heroin addiction produce over 50% more narcolepsy-fighting neurons that people without.3 This over-production of anti-sleep cells can last up to four weeks after heroin use ends, explaining much of the insomnia that can accompany heroin withdrawal.

Heroin Reduces Sleep Quality

Even when you do manage to sleep, if you’re using heroin, you aren’t getting quality sleep. This drug diminishes the benefits of sleep in several ways, including the following:

  • Decreases sleep efficiency and quality
  • Creates an inability to experience the different levels of sleep
  • Reduces sleep-related brain chemistry changes
  • Causes extreme drowsiness even after extended sleep time
  • Causes strange dreams and night terrors

Reduced sleep quality means reduced restfulness and lower overall wellbeing. If you’re using heroin, you may be tempted to take more to “rest” or relax when you feel like you just can’t sleep. However, this creates a self-reinforcing cycle of heroin use and sleeplessness.

How Else Does Heroin Affect Sleep?

Heroin can also affect sleep indirectly through other side effects. When you struggle with addiction you also experience the following:

  • Sleep-consuming preoccupation with procuring more heroin
  • Increase in anxiety, sensitivity and emotional instability
  • Compromised immune system more susceptible to sickness and disease
  • Creation or worsening of other mental health issues

You may toss and turn at night stressing about using, quitting, or getting more of the drug. Worries, thoughts, and emotions may keep you up at night. Illness can reduce sleep quality and leave you feeling exhausted. Other mental health issues can greatly impact your sleep pattern and overall health.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping well begins with getting professional help. This is why rehab is so important. Treatment can include gradual detox or opiate replacement therapy using medications like methadone or buprenorphine. Rehab also utilizes recovery tools to prevent relapse, foster sobriety, and create healthy sleep habits.

These recovery tools may include the following:

  • Concurrent treatment of any mental health issue or mood disorder
  • Behavioral therapies that improve cognitive thinking and responses
  • Individual counseling to identify and address heroin use triggers
  • Psychotherapy to break the psychological addiction to heroin
  • Development of new life skills that encourage a more positive outlook
  • Holistic treatments, such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation and relaxation exercises
  • Group support meetings during and after residential care

So, if you or a loved one is losing quality sleep and, even more disruptive, losing the quality of life you deserve, rest easy. Help works, and it’s available to you. Call Skywood Recovery at 269.280.4673 to learn more about your options for restoring health, happiness and restful nights.


1 Christensen, Jen. “How Heroin Kills You.” 29 Aug. 2014.

2 Heroin.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jun. 2018.

3 Hopper, Leigh. “Change in Brain Cells Linked to Addiction, Narcolepsy.” UCLA. 27 Jun. 2018.