If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you may find that you have insomnia, or difficulty sleeping. The effects of smoking on sleep are pronounced because the stimulant of nicotine and induced release of adrenaline affect natural sleep cycles. Several studies show that the sleep is not as deep as normal, so the restorative benefits are reduced. Gradually, this will build into a sleep debt, where you feel so tired that you forget what it feels like to actually not be tired.
Did you know that the effects of smoking on sleep include snoring, which can start, or be made worse through smoking? That’s what a congested nose and throat does for you, not to mention swelling of the mucus membranes lining the throat and air passages. Because the lungs aren’t as efficient as a non-smoking pair, you may also wake briefly to gasp for oxygen, many times during the night. These awakenings aren’t always enough for you to realise it is happening, but certainly enough to break the ongoing pattern of sleep cycles.
Effects of Smoking on Sleep: Fragmented sleep
Every time you wake during the night, regardless of how quickly you go back to sleep (even if you weren’t even awake long enough to realise it) it costs you about ten minutes of sleep time. This is because deep sleep takes time to develop. So if you wake 6 times in the night, you may have lost the equivalent of an hour’s sleep. If you or a partner snore, or you live near noisy traffic, you may be more tired than you realise.
Effects of Smoking on sleep for Infants
If you are pregnant, you may already know that nicotine can affect the growing foetus. Something less well known, is that it also enters breast milk. Studies show that infants whose mothers smoke are twice as likely to have difficulty sleeping as infants of non-smoking mothers. For those who do not breast feed, passive smoking also contributes to infants sleep problems. And then you lose more sleep because the kids keep you awake.
Quit Smoking to improve your Quality of Sleep
When you quit smoking, deep sleep increases again, as it is now able to catch up. This may feel like a nice lie-in after a few late nights, even though the length of sleeping is the same. Brain wave recordings show a marked increase in slow-wave (deep) sleep in quitters, a good improvement. And like a lie-in, despite catching up on more deep sleep, you can strangely feel even more tired the next day. This is only temporary though. It is also probably due to the lack of stimulating nicotine, which tries in vain to hide your normal tiredness.