Some of morphine’s side effects are associated with sleep. Depending on the user and how she uses the drug, it can change the way the users sleep in many ways.
When doctors prescribe morphine to patients, they often warn that insomnia may develop. Insomnia may also result from chronic pain that the morphine treats. However, trading pain’s insomnia for morphine’s insomnia is usually a good exchange for the patient. While sleeping, the dreams of a morphine user may be unusually vivid or weird. Patients also report feeling sleepy and less alert as another side effect of morphine. These effects are somewhat mild.
Morphine not only makes sleep harder to achieve, but it also changes the sleep itself. Once people thought sleep was a time of inaction and rest, but it actually is an active process that prepares the body for wakefulness. However, even relatively small doses of morphine can reduce the duration of the following stages in the sleep cycle:
When under the influence of morphine, people spend more time in the shallow stages of sleep and lose time in the deeper and more important stages.
When someone uses morphine recreationally, they tend to increase their dosage steadily. The body becomes tolerant of the drug, so it needs more to achieve the desired euphoria. As the dosage increases, the REM and SWS stages get shorter and shorter. Eventually, sleep and morphine use become unpleasantly linked: heavy users may only be able to sleep while under the influence. However, with the REM and SWS stages so limited, users may awaken as the drug wears off and feel just as tired as they did before sleeping.
Morphine addicts may turn to other drugs to sleep, for instance, alcohol and other depressants. However, these drugs will not bring quality sleep, and the interaction between morphine and these other drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable. When an addict commits to recovery, he must usually overcome insomnia. The body is sleep deprived after a period of regular morphine abuse, so normally a body seeks as much sleep as possible to recover. However, a body in withdrawal suffers too much pain to sleep, so the resulting state is severe pain until chemical balances are restored.
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