How Smoking Affects Your Sleep and Insomnia

Young Man Smoking While Standing Against Wall On Sunny Day

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You know some negative health effects of using tobacco, but did you know smoking cIgarettes can impact your sleep? Potential problems include sleep fragmentation, insomnia, snoring, and sleep apnea.

The Role of Nicotine in Insomnia

Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products like cigars or a pipe can affect your sleep in several important ways. It all has to do with the active ingredient: Nicotine.

First, depending on your level of use and dependence, your desire for additional nicotine during your sleep may cause you to awaken, leading to insomnia. Nicotine itself is a stimulant and the use of it too close to bedtime may also make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

This being said, some people say smoking makes them feel sleepy. As nicotine may relieve anxiety and cause some relaxation, this is possible. However, that doesn't negate the simultaneous stimulating properties.

Sleep Changes That Occur With Smoking Cigarettes

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.

The Risks of Snoring and Sleep Apnea Among Smokers

Research provides evidence that smoking increases the likelihood and severity of both snoring and sleep apnea. Without going into the details about the harmful chemicals and pollutants present in cigarette smoke, these irritants 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.

Reasons to Quit Smoking

Beyond the potential role in contributing to insomnia, snoring, and sleep apnea, your health will benefit from smoking cessation. Many people describe changes in their sleep after quitting cigarettes, and these will often improve over time. Your body may be addicted to the nicotine, but this addiction will fade gradually.

It is extremely important to never smoke in bed. If you fall asleep with a lit cigarette, there is a high risk of your bedding and house catching on fire. This risk is increased if alcohol is used. For your safety, and the safety of your family, make a commitment to never smoke while lying down in bed.

There are a lot of reasons to quit smoking. If you have tried before, keep trying. Reach out to others for help, garnering support from your family, friends, and doctor. Nicotine replacement and the use of other smoking cessation medications can be highly effective. If you need help, start by speaking with your doctor about the best options for you. You will breathe and sleep better.

A Word From Verywell

If you smoke and have disrupted sleep, that's yet another reason why you should quit for your health and well-being.

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Article Sources

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