How Does Smoking Affect Sleep?

Smoking contributes to sleep disturbances because of the stimulating effects of nicotine and a raised probability of sleep-disordered breathing.

Written by:


, Sleep Researcher
Last Updated: Thu, October 3, 2019
Fact checked by:

Marko Jevtic

, Sleep Specialist

Smoking is one of the most favored pleasures of humankind, but also one of the most disputed ones for various health risks it carries along, and apparently not without grounds. Smoking accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, a third of all cancer deaths, and the increased risk of 15 types of cancer. If you smoke 1–4 cigarettes per day, you will be at a higher risk of ischaemic heart disease. Don’t be mistaken, light and social smoking carry cardiovascular risks too. Light smoking is not as harmful as heavy smoking is, but it can still harm the heart and body.

Every year, many people all over the world die from tobacco use and related diseases. Thankfully, thanks to the availability of treatment options for addiction, and increased smoking risks awareness, the number of smokers has decreased. If you’re thinking about giving up smoking, we will try to present you some facts of smoking risks and benefits if you stopped smoking altogether.

Chemicals in cigarette smoke enter our bloodstream and can affect the entire body causing cancer, depression, anxiety and cardiovascular diseases. Because nicotine is a potent stimulant, cigarette smokers can also quickly develop insomnia since side effects of nicotine are similar to caffeine. As a chain reaction, sleep deprivation will make your mood, concentration, and productivenses worse the following day. When it becomes chronic, you can expect more serious long-term health risks and sleep disorders. According to some studies, individuals who smoke spend less time in deep sleep and more time in light sleep compared to those who don’t smoke.

Additionally, nicotine is quick and addictive. It goes into the bloodstream and reaches the brain within seconds. After a few hours, it begins to leave the body. Most smokers are addicted to it, and if you are one of them, you will probably wake up at night to get more of it.

If we look back at the previous facts, we can safely say that smoking increases your risk of developing insomnia, followed by waking up more frequently during the night, feeling restless in the morning and so on.

The best thing we can do for our health is to quit smoking. According to research, within two weeks of stopping, our health will start improving. After the first three days, the symptoms of withdrawal will be less intense, but the craving for smoking can persist. In the following weeks, you will be able to breathe easier and produce less mucus. But, as in all neglect cases, it takes time before we can heal. The problem is that 85% of smokers relapse within the first week.

Quitting is very hard. It can leave you feeling physically terrible. The lack of dopamine in your brain is going to make you irritable and depressed. Talk to friends about how you’re feeling and ask them to help you stick to your quitting plan. Find local support groups.

While quitting smoking or reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke is probably the single best way to improve your health, there are several other things a smoker can do to stay healthy: eat a healthy diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, or use combination of therapy.


The Influence Of Smoking on Sleep

Cigarettes are associated with a significant number of sleep complaints. Smokers are more prevalent to sleep disturbances because of the stimulating effects of nicotine and a raised probability of sleep-disordered breathing. Your sleep construction can be entirely changed with regular smoking. The sleep construction or architecture includes sleep stages that you enter during the night. Among these stages are REM sleep, light sleep, and deep sleep. To get a good night’s sleep, you need to spend adequate time in each of these stages. Many studies have proven that smoking has a lot of adverse effects on sleep, and time you spend in all the sleep stages. Individuals who smoke regularly need more time to fall asleep than people who do not smoke. They also sleep shorter by half an hour and spend less time in deep sleep, and as a result, they are more likely to feel unrefreshed and experience grogginess after rest.


Nicotine is a stimulating substance, and it can wake both your body and mind which can make it difficult to fall asleep with a higher chance of getting insomnia. Based on the level of your addiction, you may wake up at night because of the withdrawal. This situation leads to sleep-maintenance insomnia.

Nicotine Withdrawal and Sleep

Certain people tend to have fatigue when they stop smoking, especially if they restart their old habits. Brains are depended on acetylcholine, a  neurotransmitter, to keep us awake. Nicotine imitates acetylcholine by making the same receptors in the brain and because of that smokers feel alert and awake, just like acetylcholine would. When you stop smoking immediately, your brain doesn’t have any nicotine to rely on, so you feel groggy and drowsy because of that. But, over time, your levels of acetylcholine will get regular, and your brain will function the way it should.

Sleep-disordered breathing

This breathing is considered to be any type of unusual or irregular breathing that happens during deep sleep. The two types of this breathing are sleep apnea and snoring. Snoring is the noisy breathing that occurs in your sleep because the upper airway is blocked. With snoring comes an increased risk of having diabetes, daytime fatigue, sleep deprivation or heart disease. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a temporary loss of breath during the night. While you are sleeping, you have complete or partial obstructions that block the airways and cause you to lose breath, and you stop breathing for short periods during the night because of that. The shallow breathing and temporary breath loss can occur repeatedly. The most common type of sleep apnea is the obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that makes you stop breathing for a brief period, causes loud snoring, and it wakes you up. Smoking is closely tied to obstructive sleep apnea because it causes the swelling of the nasal tissues. Those who smoke have more chance of having obstructive sleep apnea. And people that are around you when you smoke also have a higher chance of getting obstructive sleep apnea.

Effects of Vaping on Sleep

Vaping is the action where you inhale and exhale the vapor that is made by an electronic cigarette or any other similar device. Vaporizers and electronic cigarettes will affect your sleep. With these devices, you avoid many health risks you have with smoking, but vaping still gives you nicotine, and as we mentioned above, nicotine affects your sleep. While the e-liquid used in these devices has nicotine, it will change your sleep.


Tips on How to Get Better Sleep and Reduce Smoking?

  1. Cut Out the Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant. It is metabolized twice as fast in the body of a smoker, than of a nonsmoker. Avoid cigarettes 2 hours before bed, including stimulants like caffeine. Also, you need to avoid any heavy, fatty or extra sugary meals late at night.

  1. Take a Warm Bath

Taking a warm bath is a great way for your body and mind to relax, as preparation for sleep.

  1. Schedule a Massage

As little as 10 or 15 minutes of massaging your face, shoulders, neck, and scalp can significantly help you relax and prepare you for a good night’s sleep.

  1. Have a Cup of Herbal Tea

There are many herbal teas explicitly blended to help promote sleep, but the most popular are valerian and chamomile tea.

  1. Listen to Soothing Music

Mellow and soft music will help you loosen up and relax enough to fall asleep. You can also try playing recordings of waves hitting the beach before bed.

  1. Turn off the Electronics

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have no place in the bedroom. You need to make sure that there are no messages or notifications coming in that can disturb you. Instead, you can read a book to put yourself to sleep.

  1. Drink a Glass of Warm Milk

Warm milk can help you sleep because it is a food filled with the amino acid L-tryptophan that makes neurotransmitters like serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter that is in charge of telling the body when to shut down and sleep. Putting a little honey and cardamom or nutmeg in your drink can also help. Other foods that contain the amino acid L-tryptophan are eggs, dairy products, bananas, chicken, fish, shellfish, turkey, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds, soybean products, and hazelnuts. We do not recommend using L-tryptophan supplements because they have been linked with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. Food and drink that naturally have L-tryptophan are much safer choices.

  1. Don’t Drink Alcohol

Alcohol is a significant contributor to sleep disturbances. Having a few drinks will make it easier to fall asleep, but with the alcohol in the system, you will wake up very often after only a few hours into the sleep cycle.

  1. Get Some Exercise

Taking a short 15-minute walk a few hours before bed can also help. If you are having troubles falling asleep, you need to try going out for a nice long walk. The timing of the walk is essential. Don’t exercise right before going to bed because it will fill you with adrenaline and make you completely alert and awake, before slowing you down.

You need to exercise regularly, and the ideal time would be after waking up. Also, you should work out outside. Exercising in the natural sunlight during the morning will help with drowsiness or fatigue. It will also make you tired when the evening comes. Exercise gives many benefits that are not related to sleep, such as an emotional and mental energy boost while helping to maintain the body weight at a normal level which is very important as your appetite will increase with quitting nicotine.

  1. Meditate

Meditation can help start your day and end it nicely. As a sleep aid, you can try meditation in bed, while laying quietly with your eyes closed.

  1. Don’t Nap

While it feels good to get some shut-eye whenever you can, even if it’s during the day, it is best not to do it. Power naps are not recommended if you have problems falling asleep, and especially if you have insomnia. You’ll pay for it when it’s time for bed. Allow yourself to take a nap only if it is necessary, and make sure to keep them short, up to 30 minutes.

  1. Start Your Day a Little Earlier

Another useful technique that can help you time your internal clock is to start your day a little earlier.

  1. Sleep hygiene

You should keep your bedroom dark, cool, noise-free, and try to go to bed every evening at the same time.


If you decide to quit smoking, your sleep troubles will go away as well. However, be prepared to experience disturbed sleep within the month of quitting smoking, as it will take you some time to get used to the new circumstances. You may not be able to sleep even if you are very tired, but everything will be back to normal very soon.


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Iva is an art historian and an art lover who always had a passion for writing and sleep! When she is not researching and testing new mattresses on the market, you can find her binge-watching TV shows, eating tons of junk food or playing with her dog Bart.

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