The Dalai Lama once said “Sleep is the Best Meditation”. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 50 to 70 Million adults in the US have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Lack of sleep translates into starting your day feeling drained before you even start. Other mornings, you could swear you’ve had at least eight hours, but your body tells a different story. Sleep deprivation is linked to accidents, obesity, high blood pressure, poor concentration, lack of energy, and chronic diseases like diabetes or depression.
Here is a BIG Surprise: The secret to more restful sleeps may be to stop smoking. In fact the quality of sleep is more important than the quantity, and although the rules created around good sleep hygiene are super helpful, there may be something else keeping you from the sound sleep zone, and it is called nicotine. Nicotine, the addictive component of cigarettes, is not what causes harm to our body, but it is what keeps us smoking – it is disruptive to sleep patterns and can throw the body’s own natural sleep patterns into turmoil.
Smokers Wake Up More Frequently in the Night:
In 2008, scientists at Johns Hopkins University studied the sleep patterns of 40 smokers, and 40 non-smokers. Only 5% of the non-smoking group reported experiencing restless sleep, compared to 22.5% of the smoking group. Using an EEG (electroencephalogram) to monitor participants sleep at home showed the smoking group accumulated more “light sleep”, and the non-smoking group experienced more restorative “deep sleep”.
Smoking Changes Your Natural Circadian Rhythm:
A 2013 study from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that smoking can alter the expression of clock genes in both the lungs and the brain, ruining a restful sleep. After exposing mice, both chronically and acutely, to cigarette smoke, the researchers noticed a substantial disruption of their natural circadian rhythm, which only worsened with increased tobacco exposure.
Smokers Have Trouble Falling Asleep and Feel Restless in the Morning:
Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant and can substantially affect the quality of sleep if consumed in high quantities and too close to bedtime. According to a 2013 University of Florida study, the average person loses 1.2 minutes of sleep for every cigarette they smoke, due to nicotine’s stimulating and potent withdrawal effects. People who smoke within 2 hours of bedtime struggle to fall asleep, and withdrawal symptoms set in before the morning alarm goes off, often leaving smokers feeling even more restless and agitated, and searching for that first cigarette of the day before their feet hit the floor.
Smoking Increases the Risk of Developing Sleep Apnea.
Current smokers are 2.5 times more likely to also suffer from obstructive sleep apnea caused by the collapse of muscles in the back of the throat during sleep. Inhaled smoke irritates the tissues in the nose and throat, causing swelling that further restricts air flow.
Quitting smoking will do wonders to improving the quality of sleep. I’ve witnessed this first hand with several clients. Don’t expect immediate results however. The body, led by the brain, might need a couple of months to figure out this new, deeper sleep pattern. Good, deep REM sleep sounds kind of nice though doesn’t it? The kind of sleep where you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day – that’s the goal.
Sleep on it, and then give me a call in the morning!
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