Sleep Dysfunction as a Core Feature of Opioid Use Disorder and Recovery


The Research Need

More than 75 percent of people with opioid use disorder have sleep problems, such as irregular sleep schedules, not sleeping enough, and/or having a sleep disorder (e.g., insomnia, sleep apnea). While inadequate sleep impairs quality of life, it also may contribute directly to  addiction, including reward, stress, emotional regulation, decision making, and social engagement.

About the Program

This program supports basic and clinical research to understand how sleep and circadian rhythms are related to opioid addiction, withdrawal, relapse, and response to medication treatment (including existing medications). This research will identify sleep-controlled molecules and pathways that may serve as potential therapeutic targets for preventing and treating opioid use disorder and addiction.

Program Details

To date, through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, NIH has funded eight awards for this program, totaling $25.6 million.

Research Examples

Research examples supported by this program include:

  • Examining how sleep deficiency affects the risk of relapse in individuals treated for opioid use disorder and whether interventions to improve sleep problems lead to better  treatment outcomes
  • Studying how sleep problems trigger mechanisms in the brain that increase the risk of opioid misuse
  • Investigating the mechanisms that connect sleep disturbance to opioid use disorder, including stress, mood, craving, pain, and addiction risk
  • Identifying potential opioid use disorder therapeutic targets to improve sleep and to counteract the effects of sleep disturbance on opiate misuse, addiction, and relapse
  • Learning which sleep disturbances influence opioid use disorder medication treatment response
  • Studying how medications to treat opioid use disorder affect sleep regulation and circadian rhythms

  • Johns Hopkins University – Maryland
  • Medical College of Wisconsin – Wisconsin
  • Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center – Pennsylvania
  • SRI International – California
  • Stanford University – California
  • University of Pittsburgh – Pennsylvania
  • Wayne State University – Michigan
  • Yale University – Connecticut

Funded Projects

Use of a GLP-1 Agonist to Treat Opioid Use Disorder in Rats and Man
Sep 29, 2020
Transitions Clinic Network: Post Incarceration Addiction Treatment, Healthcare, and Social Support (TCN PATHS) study
Sep 29, 2020
The Collaboration Linking Opioid Use Disorder and Sleep ("CLOUDS") Study
Mar 19, 2020
Dual-orexin antagonism as a mechanism for improving sleep and drug abstinence in opioid use disorder
Mar 19, 2020
Cell-type specific role of circadian-dependent transcription in fentanyl-induced synaptic and behavioral plasticity
Mar 19, 2020

Closed Funding Opportunities

Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): NHLBI and NIDA Announce Availability of Administrative Supplements for HEAL Awardees to Address Sleep Impairments in OUD Treatment Response and Recovery Outcomes
Mar 27, 2020