How Smoking Affects Sleep

Did you know smoking cIgarettes can impact your sleep? Potential problems include sleep fragmentation, insomnia, snoring, and sleep apnea.

Sleep issues associated with cigarette smoking, as well as puffing on cigars and pipes, are largely attributed to nicotine, which is the active ingredient in tobacco products. Some people claim smoking makes them sleepy. Given nicotine may relieve anxiety and induce relaxation, this is possible.

Simultaneously, however, nicotine has stimulant properties that are thought to be responsible for insomnia and other potential sleep problems associated with smoking.

Young Man Smoking While Standing Against Wall On Sunny Day
Alyssa Langella / EyeEm / Getty Images

Insomnia and Low-Quality Sleep

First, based on how dependent you are on tobacco and how often you smoke, your cravings for nicotine may be strong enough to interrupt your sleep or cause you to be unable to fall asleep. Because nicotine is a stimulant, it also can contribute to problems falling asleep if used too close to bedtime.

Smoking is associated with a disruption of the basic structure of sleep called sleep architecture. This is the pattern of sleep stages that occur during the night. According to a review of the literature on smoking, smoking cessation, and sleep, research shows that current smokers:

  • Have fragmented sleep that leads to insomnia
  • Take slightly longer to fall asleep (called the sleep latency)
  • Sleep less
  • Have less deep sleep (called slow-wave sleep)
  • Experience more sleep disruptions
  • Frequently complain about difficulty falling or staying asleep

For some people who quit smoking, these differences in sleep architecture appear to become more typical over time. It should be noted, however, that those who have never smoked seem to have better sleep quality overall.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Research provides evidence that smoking increases the likelihood and severity of both snoring and sleep apnea. This is likely due to the effects of harmful chemicals and pollutants present in cigarette smoke—irritants that may contribute to swelling of the airway, especially the soft tissues lining the nose and throat. Damage to the lungs may lead to other problems and decrease oxygen levels at night.

As the tissues swell, airflow changes and the resulting vibration in sleep will cause snoring. In addition, the collapse of the airway that occurs in sleep apnea may be more likely. Even secondhand smoke may be a risk for these complications, especially in children who are exposed.

A Word From Verywell

Many people experience improvement in their sleep after quitting cigarettes. If you smoke, besides better sleep your overall health will benefit by quitting. This may seem easier said than done but there are many tools to help, including nicotine replacement products and smoking cessation medications your doctor can prescribe for you. While trying to quit, reach out to others for help. Garnering support from family, friends, and your doctor will help you put out your last cigarette—and get a good night's sleep—sooner rather than later.

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