5 Ways Smoking Affects Your Sleep

By Rebecca Lewis on March 11, 2015

You know that smoking is bad for you. Smoking has been linked to many health problems, including heart disease, cancer and depression. Not only does it up your risk of developing illnesses, it also creates a huge impact on your lifestyle, particularly your mood and sleep quality. Yes, smoking hunts you down until bedtime.

But in what specific ways do smoking affect your sleep?

It impacts your body’s circadian rhythm. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Centre discovered that smoking causes changes in the expression of clock genes in both the lungs and the brain. In their study, mice that were chronically and acutely to cigarette smoke were found to experience a substantial disruption of their natural circadian clock. Even worse consequences of poor sleep are depression, anxiety and various mood disorders.

It acts like a stimulant. Like caffeine, nicotine found in cigarettes is a stimulant. According to a 2013 study by University of Florida, the average person loses 1.2 minutes of sleep for every cigarette they smoke, due to nicotine’s stimulating and subsequent withdrawal effects. People who smoke within two hours of bedtime struggle to fall asleep because the nicotine disrupts their natural sleep-wake cycle. What’s worse, the withdrawal symptoms set in before your alarm goes off, leaving you feeling agitated and restless.

Smoking is linked to insomnia. Whilst insomnia is often a result of psychiatric and medical conditions, it can also be attributed to poor lifestyle habits. Due to the stimulant properties of cigarettes, smokers tend to develop insomnia if they smoke frequently and close to bedtime. Smokers are even more susceptible to developing insomnia. In a 2012 study published in the Sleep journal, it was found that heavy smoking in adulthood is a significant risk-factor for insomnia.

Smoking promotes light sleep. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University studied the sleep patterns of smokers and non-smokers, and found that 22.5 per cent of the smokers struggled with restless sleep. Then, using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor participants’ sleep at home, the researchers found the smokers accumulated more light sleep than their non-smoking peers. Meanwhile, the non-smokers experienced more restorative, deep sleep.

Smoking ups your risk of sleep apnoea. Studies link smoking with obstructive sleep apnoea which happens when muscles in the back of the throat collapse during sleep. A 2001 study published in the journal Sleep and Breathing suggests that smokers experience this repeated cessation of breathing more often because the smoke they inhale irritates the tissues in the nose and throat, causing swelling that further restricts air flow.

Smoking can be a tough habit to break. But once you successfully give it up, your sleep will never be the same again. Putting an end to this unhealthy habit can be the start of great improvements not just in your sleep but in your overall quality of life as well.

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