Smoking and Insomnia - A Guide to Stop Smoking

You may find this hard to believe but smoking can affect your sleep. If you are prone to sleep problems or find it hard to nod off then smoking will only make this worse. Unfortunately, sleep problems and smoking tend to go hand in hand!

The main problem is that nicotine, present in cigarette smoke, acts as a stimulant which keeps you alert and awake. This is fine in the day but not at night when you are trying to get to sleep.

How does this happen?

When you smoke, you inhale a whole range of chemicals which include nicotine. This powerful drug is what causes you to become addicted to smoking and increases your dependency on it over time.

Smoking also makes you feel confident and ‘on a high’ but your body adjusts to nicotine very quickly which means that you will smoke more to maintain this intake. If you don’t then you will find yourself becoming bad-tempered and edgy due to nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Our About Smoking section discusses this in greater detail.

This craving for nicotine can occur at any time of the day, and night. If it happens at night then your sleep is disrupted which has a knock on effect the next day. This means tiredness, lack of concentration and irritability which is not ideal for you or anyone around you.

The danger here is that it can quickly become a vicious circle. You light a cigarette in the belief that it will relax you and enable you to sleep but it in fact stimulates you which mean a broken night’s sleep and tiredness the next day. You have another cigarette to wake you up and so on…

Another problem is that if you are trying to give up then being tired and snappy the next day as a result of a lack of sleep means that you will find it even harder to do so. Or give in to the first craving.

Most smokers feel that smoking calms them and helps them to relax, which is especially useful in a social situation. Smoking is a ritual and it could be the case that this ritual leads them to think that it is a relaxing activity whereas the opposite is the case.

It can help you to feel relaxed and confident in a social milieu but what it is actually doing is energising you rather than helping you to relax. It can act as a relaxant if it is combined with alcohol but it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure which elates rather than relaxes the smoker.

Another problem is that smoker affects the chest leading to ‘smoker’s cough’ and other related conditions. Difficulty with breathing or coughing in the night will disrupt their sleep (and their partner’s) which leads to tiredness the next day.

We have mentioned that smoking is a stimulant but it is combined with a cup of coffee then this doubles its effects. Caffeine is good for a quick energy boost but not last thing at night. Drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette will mean a sleepless night ahead.

If this is a habit then it is a good idea to look for something to replace it. Choose something which is healthy and not likely to disrupt your sleep, for example, a caffeine free herbal tea or a massage.

If you are experiencing sleep problems then there may be other factors causing this such as stress, work patterns (e.g. shifts), caffeine and snoring. The underlying cause of your sleeplessness needs to be investigated further but if you smoke then this is definitely a cause.

One way of treating your sleep problems is to stop smoking. This can be a difficult thing to do and the subsequent cravings as a result of nicotine withdrawal do affect sleep. But these are temporary only and so disappear after a few weeks so stick with it.

For more information on this visit our Stopping Smoking section.

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