If you’ve decided to quit smoking, you are probably well aware of a lot of the challenges you are about to face. But did you know that when you quit smoking, your sleep can be affected? Read on to find out how quitting smoking impacts sleep and what you can do to combat this effect.
Can Quitting Smoking Disrupt Your Sleep?
The short answer is yes. There is some evidence that quitting smoking can impact not just how tired you feel, but potentially your dreams, your breathing during sleep, and your body’s internal clock.
Does Quitting Smoking Make You Tired?
For a few weeks after you give up tobacco, you may experience some disturbances in your sleep pattern. However this withdrawal phase can have two opposite effects for different people: some people sleep much more than usual, while others find themselves unable to fall asleep or waking up frequently throughout the night. This phase usually lasts for about two weeks before sleeping patterns stabilize again. In some people, it can last up to a few months.
Nicotine is a stimulant, and withdrawal often causes a temporary state of depression. The absence of nicotine in the brain also leads to various other mental and emotional symptoms such as irritability and anxiety, which can leave you feeling drained, exhausted and sleeping more than usual. If you’re feeling tired after you stop smoking, allow yourself plenty of rest to help your body get through the withdrawal period.
Conversely, some people find themselves unable to sleep during nicotine withdrawal. Anxiety, cravings, headaches and other symptoms keep them up at night, causing daytime fatigue and irritability. If you have trouble sleeping after you quit smoking, you can try some of these strategies:
- Take a warm bath before bedtime to relax and unwind
- Reduce your caffeine intake for a few weeks
- Avoid napping during the day
- Listen to relaxing music in bed
- Try meditation, deep breathing exercises or self-hypnosis
- Take long walks or get more exercise during the day
- Have a cup of warm milk – it contains a sleep-inducing amino acid called tryptophan
- Enjoy a cup of chamomile tea or try a special nighttime blend of relaxing herbs such as valerian, passionflower and lemongrass
Dreams About Smoking
Nicotine affects brain wave function, and the withdrawal period is often marked by recurring dreams about smoking. One study showed that about one-third of recent ex-smokers reported having at least one dream about smoking in the four weeks following their last cigarette. These extremely vivid dreams often caused the subjects to feel panic and guilt because the subjects dreamed that they had relapsed. The dreams appeared to be withdrawal-related, as they were absent while the participants were still smoking. After one year, 63% of subjects reported experiencing at least five dreams about smoking.
These dreams about smoking are completely normal and seem to correlate with an increased likelihood of long-term abstinence. They are generally reported as more frequent and more vivid by individuals who use a transdermal nicotine patch as a smoking cessation aid such as NICODERM®.Use these dreams to your advantage. The panic you feel as you wake up can strengthen your resolve as you remind yourself why you quit smoking. The dreams are an indication that your lungs are healing and your sense of smell is returning. Celebrate them as a victory.
Restored Internal Clock
Research also suggests that quitting smoking can negate the impact of smoking on your body’s regulation of your sleep.
A study conducted by the University of Rochester discovered that smoking generally leads to an altered circadian rhythm, the “internal body clock” system that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Scientists found that mice exposed to cigarette smoke displayed sedentary behavior, likely related to the decrease of a specific molecule involved in the regulation of sleep patterns. The mice’s behavior was characteristic of sleep deprivation caused by a disrupted internal clock.
The study also concluded that the effects of tobacco on circadian rhythm and sleeping patterns can be reversed if the smoker gives up nicotine. After quitting smoking, try to maintain a regular sleeping schedule to re-train your body’s internal clock.
Getting Through It
In the long term, quitting smoking has many beneficial effects on your health, including better sleep. During withdrawal, you may sometimes feel tempted to start smoking again to deal with unpleasant symptoms. If that’s the case, remind yourself that these symptoms are only temporary. After you quit smoking, sleep disturbances can last for a few months, after which your sleeping patterns will have stabilized. Allow yourself plenty of time to adjust to your new smoke-free lifestyle, and remember that transient sleep disturbances are part of the process.
If you’re currently having trouble sleeping, try some of these tips to help you fall asleep.