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Smoking and the Connection with Sleep Problems

By: Wendy Jacob - Updated: 27 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Smoking And The Connection With Sleep Problems

Smoking and sleep disturbance often go hand in hand with each other. All stimulants interfere with the body's ability to fall and stay asleep. Dependency means that sleep may be disrupted or delayed as the body craves for nicotine. Illness and discomfort can also make it difficult to fall and stay asleep.

Not having enough sleep may result in sleep deprivation. Feeling sleepy and irritable during the day makes it hard to find the energy and commitment to break an established habit.

There can be few people who are unaware of the harmful effects of smoking. Unfortunately, education has not been enough to stop many people continuing or taking up smoking. Social pressures, availability and the habit forming behaviour of smoking mean that giving up is hard and smokers continue to risk their own and others health.

Feeling Relaxed

Nicotine is a stimulant and like caffeine keeps you awake. Many smokers claim that smoking makes them feel calmer and helps them relax. It is possible that smokers confuse the repetitive aspects of smoking and its use in social situations with a feeling of relaxation. But, in reality, smoking stimulates the mind and the body and causes sleep problems.

Smoking is highly addictive. It enters the central nervous system and raises the heart rate and blood pressure and dilates the arteries. It raises the level of glucose in the blood and lowers resistance to infection and disease. Lung cancer is the disease most commonly associated with smoking but it also contributes to arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), coronary artery disease and stroke.

Smokers can suffer from bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss, premature aging and social stigma. Pregnant women risk their own and their baby's health.

Passive Smoking

Although smoking is now banned from most public places, smokers continue to affect the health of non smokers. Partners are particularly at risk. Smokers are likely to cough and find it difficult to breathe. They may wake themselves and their partner. They may also Snore or suffer from other breathing disorders that will affect their ability to sleep. Smoking in the bedroom and the house affects air quality and increases risk of accidents. Concern over a partner's health can lead to anxiety. Anxiety And Stress are one of the major causes of insomnia.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Giving up smoking is hard. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, irritability, breathing problems, moodiness and genuine craving. People often complain that they can't sleep after quitting smoking as the body and mind take time to adjust.

If a programme of gradual withdrawal is being adopted it makes sense to cut out cigarettes in the hours before bedtime. Eliminating cigarettes from the bedroom, and trying to delay smoking in the morning, may help improve sleep and encourage complete withdrawal.

Alcohol, overeating and smoking are often a major part of the evening's activities. By finding other ways to fill the time before bedtime it may be possible to change a familiar routine. Smokers are often dependent on the behavioural habit of cigarette smoking as well as the nicotine.

There are a number of ways to help break the habit especially during a long evening:

  • Using acupressure or self massage when cravings occur.
  • Exercising, walking or taking part in activities where smoking is restricted.
  • Using nicotine patches or chewing gum to help with withdrawal symptoms.
  • Joining a support group, calling a helpline and welcoming the encouragement of friends and family.

Professional Support

GPs provide help and information on how to give up smoking. They will also be able to advise on any associated health problems.

Nutrition and Other Support

The homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica is recommended to help with withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, cramps and nausea. It is used to treat symptoms including insomnia and moodiness. Other remedies may also be helpful and a Homeopath will assess the individual and provide support on withdrawal.

Withdrawal can cause anxiety, irritability and physical tension. Massage can help the body relax and ease stress. There is some evidence that using acupressure and massaging the hand can help ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Acupuncture has been shown to help people make the break from a dependency. Studies have found it as affective as nicotine substitutes and hypnosis. The downside is that regular sessions may be needed, especially at the beginning, and these can be expensive.

Hypnotherapy has also been used successfully to treat dependency. The effectiveness depends on the individual and their age but may be included in a withdrawal programme.

Many smokers claim they put on weight when they stop smoking. This can provoke a relapse, especially in women. Smokers sometimes replace cigarettes with sweet high calorie foods and snacking. A better alternative are low calorie, high fibre foods which make convenient snacks and help the body recover from the ravages of smoking.


Learning yoga and breathing techniques are ideal ways to support the body and mind during withdrawal. They also help improve sleep and relaxation. Learning how to breathe deeply not only exercises the lungs but also reduces symptoms of stress. Stress has been found to be one of the main reasons why those trying to quit have relapsed. Those who are very anxious are also more likely to fail at quitting. Meditation and other therapies that teach how the mind and body are influenced by the breath are ideal ways to help control stress, support withdrawal and restore sleep.


GPs may recommend counselling, self-help groups or cognitive behavioural therapy to support withdrawal. These can all be effective in helping with long-term withdrawal and taking control over dependency. Smoking not only affects health, but also other parts of an individual's life, including sleep. If you stop smoking sleep patterns will benefit and other aspects of life will improve, too.

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