Cigarettes and sleep: do they mix?

The fact that we are still learning about the negative effects of smoking is both puzzling and chilling. National newspapers write about the perils of smoking on an almost daily basis – as well as the dangers of eating, drinking or doing pretty much anything else – but alas, it seems that there is another thing us smokers should consider before our next puff, and this one definitely provides food for thought.

Back in 2014, a study involving thousands of people was conducted in Germany to investigate the relationship between smoking and a restless night’s sleep.

The researchers enrolled 1,071 smokers and 1,243 non-smokers, and the team worked hard to eliminate variables that could interfere with their results, such as age, sex, income, mental health and alcohol intake.

The sleep quality of the participants was determined using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and after much analysis, the researchers were able to demonstrate for the first time that significantly more smokers reported disturbed sleep and shorter sleep duration. They also noted that the stress of getting little sleep or less restorative sleep might increase how much smokers smoked, creating a cycle of sleep deprivation and nicotine dependence.

But what can we smokers do to make sure our sleep isn’t affected? Well, other than quitting, there are one or two practical measures that you can take to minimise the impact of cigarette smoke on your shut-eye:

  • Nicotine is a stimulant, so it’s advisable not to smoke right before bed. Try to leave a few hours between your last cig of the day and hitting the proverbial hay.
  • If you’re used to smoking right before bed, try to replace this nightly ritual with a healthier one. Soaking in the bath or taking five to ten minutes to do some meditation can work wonders.

And what about quitting? Frustratingly, nicotine withdrawal has also been linked to a disturbed night’s sleep and has even been known to cause insomnia. The effects of cessation are only temporary though, so you should start to see an improvement in your overall sleep within a week or two of quitting.

To help you January quitters stay on track, here are some simple tips for getting that devilish tobacco monkey off your back once and for all:

  • Get motivated – whether it’s improving your health or setting a better example for your kiddiewinks, concentrate on your reason for quitting and let it inspire you to carry on.
  • Talk to your doctor – your GP can support you on your smoke-free journey and offer lots of advice with achieving your goal.
  • Nicotine replacement – this can help to lessen your dependence on nicotine, but avoid using nicotine replacers just before bed.
  • Clean your house – this piece of advice may seem a little left-field, but ridding the house of ashtrays and cleaning carpets, clothes and bedding will get rid of that heady scent you’re so used to and make sudden cravings a thing of the past.
  • Try, try again – if you slip up on a night out or get stressed and wind up smoking to calm down, don’t be discouraged. Pull yourself up by those smoke-free bootstraps and start again. You can do it!

So what have we learnt? Well, smoking generally interferes with your sleep and isn’t a good idea just before bed. Fingers crossed, learning about this will motivate you to cut down or quit smoking and have you sleeping better before the year is through.

Sleep well!

James Murray

James Murray

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