Does Smoking Affect Sleep?

smoking and sleepPeople often pick up smoking at a young age. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 9 out of 10 smokers have tried a cigarette before the age of 18. Many people who start smoking in their early teens continue to smoke throughout their lives.

While smoking is often associated with health problems like heart disease and lung cancer, it is also true that smoking has a major impact on sleep, especially for people who start smoking at a young age. A recent study entitled “Trajectories of Cigarette Smoking Beginning in Adolescence Predict Insomnia in the Mid-Thirties”, surveyed 674 people between the ages of 14 and 32 who smoked. They were surveyed six different times over a 22-year period, and the study was designed to look at the impacts on sleeping among people who start smoking at a young age.

The study began collecting data in 1990 and participants were asked how many cigarettes they smoked daily over the previous five years during each reporting period. The respondents were also asked five of the seven Insomnia Severity Index criteria.

  1.  Do you have difficulty falling asleep?
  2. Do you have difficulty staying asleep?
  3. Do you wake up too early in the morning?
  4. Do you have distress caused by sleep difficulties?
  5. Does your insomnia cause interference of sleep difficulties with daytime functioning?

The study found that both males and females who started to smoke at an early age had a higher rate of insomnia. However, the results showed that women smokers had a higher rate overall than men.

The study said cigarette smoking has a direct impact on the part of the brain that regulates sleeping, and that starting smoking at a younger age might cause a greater impact on that function.

“Brain waves also appeared to be different in smokers and non-smokers during sleep,” according to the study. “Specifically, increases in alpha frequency waves were found among smokers as compared to non-smokers, suggesting greater arousal.”

The general trajectory for most of the smokers was no cigarettes at 14, a few cigarettes at 18 and around a pack by age 24. These people reported an 11.9% rate of insomnia. Overall, 6.1% of the participants in the survey reported insomnia problems. The study concluded that people who were moderate smokers and started smoking at a young age were four times more likely than non-smokers or people who smoke only occasionally to have insomnia.

The study concludes that treatment for insomnia should also be linked to treatment for smoking. It reported that some people who quit smoking reported a reduced rate of insomnia. Read additional information on how to treat insomnia using Stimulus Control Therapy (SCT).

A way to begin the process of understanding a person’s insomnia is t0 conduct a sleep study. People can use Somnology’s free MobileSleepDoc Pro iPhone application or the wearable Plex® Sleep Scanner. Both MobileSleepDoc and the Plex® Sleep Scanner can help increase the quality of sleep by identifying and addressing common sleep problems.

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