We tend to hear a lot about the effects of alcohol on our sleep, but we don’t hear too much about what smoking cigarettes can do to our quality of sleep. We know cigarettes are bad for our health, but how do they impact our sleep?
It appears the main culprit, as usual, is Nicotine, the substance that makes smoking so addictive, is often disruptive to our sleep. Smoking regularly can wreak havoc on the body’s natural sleep routine and affect everything from our quantity and quality of sleep, snoring and even sleep apnea.
Disruption of Natural Sleeping Patterns
A study from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that smoking tobacco can alter the expression of clock genes in both the lungs and the brain, thus ruining a restful night’s sleep. After exposing mice both chronically and acutely to cigarette smoke, the researchers noticed a substantial disruption of their natural circadian clocks, which only worsened with increased tobacco exposure.
Smoking disrupts the basic structure of sleep called sleep architecture, smoking fragments sleep and leads to insomnia. Studies show current smokers take slightly longer to fall asleep, sleep less, and have less deep sleep. Interestingly, those who quit smoking find that these differences in sleep architecture do not persist and those who have never smoked seem to have better sleep quality.
Sleep Apnea and Smoking
People who currently smoke are 2.5 times more likely to also suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, this is based on strong evidence that suggests that smoking increases the likelihood of sleep apnea. This is because the irritants in cigarettes may contribute to swelling of the airway, especially the soft tissues lining the nose and throat. As the tissues swell, airflow changes and the resulting vibration in sleep will cause snoring and sleep apnea.
Quality of Sleep
Smokers wake up more frequently during the night, this is because nicotine is a stimulant and it can substantially affect the quality of your sleep if consumed in high quantities and too close to bedtime. According to a study out of the 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. These stimulating effects can lead to the development of insomnia.
More Nicotine Means Less Sleep
Researchers have found that the more nicotine dependence and smoking intensity that a smoker has is directly linked to them getting less sleep each night.
Won’t a cigarette help me sleep?
This is a common myth – you may think that having a cigarette before bed or in the middle of the night relaxes you, but this is not the case. Nicotine is a stimulant and makes it harder to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Cigarettes should ideally be avoided altogether, and certainly for at least 2 hours before bed.