Many hands point accusingly at a cigarette

Smoking and Insomnia

Insomnia is a major public health concern, with studies finding that from 30 to 35 percent of adults are experiencing at least one insomnia symptom at any given time and 10 to 15 percent are affected by moderate to severe insomnia.1

Smoking is also a significant public health concern, being associated with cancer, cardiovascular disease, and insomnia and non-insomnia sleeping disorders.2

Smoking and sleep problems

Many people experience insomnia but may not initially identify a link between their insomnia and their smoking habit until it becomes very obvious. In my practice, it becomes most obvious when they try to quit and experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms in the night - but long before this point, smoking will have been a culprit in the creating of sleeping problems.

Effect of nicotine cravings

Smokers can take longer to fall asleep, in part because of nicotine cravings, and the risk of this is dependent upon how frequently and how much someone smokes.3

These cravings do not have to be 'obvious' to have an impact on a person's ability to get to sleep. The subtle chemical drives that create the cravings can affect alertness that is enough to interfere with sleep, even if it doesn't manifest as an obvious craving for a smoke.

Smoking and lower sleep quality

Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to report getting poor quality and broken sleep. They are also more likely to experience leg movements and twitches during sleep and to have lower sleep quality.3

Sleep quality is affected because smoking changes the basic structure and rhythm of our sleep phases. Each night we go through different stages of sleep in a certain rhythm, and this pattern becomes fragmented and broken in people who smoke. This can cause someone to have less quality, restorative sleep, and making the effects similar to those experienced by people with other sleeping disorders.3

Increased risks of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is not insomnia, but it's important to mention the risk of developing apnea if you smoke.3 Smoking increases the severity and likelihood of sleep apnea. This is because of the chemicals and other irritants in the smoke, which can contribute to the swelling of the airway, lining of the nose, and throat.

Damage to the lungs may lead to other problems and decrease the levels of oxygen at night, disrupting sleep. Sleep apnea can have serious health risks, and even passive smokers are at risk of these complications, especially children who are exposed.3

Not too late to improve sleep quality

Thankfully, these changes are reversible. After quitting a nicotine habit, sleep quality slowly improves until it starts to look more like people who have never smoked.2,3

If you ever needed more reasons to quit smoking, you can add an improvement in your sleep quality and a reduction in your risk for developing apnea to your list.

Have you ever smoked and then quit? What did you notice about your sleep? Did you experience any changes? We'd love to know!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Insomnia.Sleep-Disorders.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.