What Smoking Does to Our Sleep?
Abnormal Sleeping Patterns
Freelance writer and long-time smoker, J.J. Pryor took up vaping as a way to cut back on the number of cigarettes that he smoked. Until he was ready to give up tobacco for good, this was a better option for him and for most part it was. But he didn’t account for a change to his sleeping patterns that slowly shifted during his first three months of vaping.
“I started getting bad insomnia at night,” he says. “I’m normally able to start seeing floating sheep after hitting my pillow for the night, so this was unwelcome and strange to me.”
How Nicotine Affects Your Sleep
There is a term known as “sleep architecture” which refers to the cycle of sleep stages one goes through when sleeping. These stages are known as Light Sleep, Deep Sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. A person needs to experience a good deal of all three in order to have a good and restful night of sleep. People who smoke regularly will see a change in their sleep architecture. It often takes them longer to fall asleep, find that it’s harder to stay asleep and experience less deep sleep than others.
Regular smokers take longer to fall asleep, spend less time asleep overall, and experience less slow-wave deep sleep than nonsmokers. Smokers tend to sleep about 33 minutes less than non-smokers as well as 4% less REM sleep time. These smokers are also four times more likely to report that they wake up feeling unrefreshed by their night’s sleep.
Cigarettes vs. Vaping
Before he stared vaping, Pryor didn’t experience problems with his sleep, but he may be part of the minority. One of the pleasures of smoking is that cigarettes can relax you but the nicotine in those cigarettes will also making you feel a lot more alert. This can be helpful when one is ready to start their day, but not so great when trying to go to sleep. While they tell their brain that they are winding down to go to sleep, they are giving their body a different message altogether. Even so, smokers have an easier time getting to sleep than those who vape.
“For smokers, a late-night smoke can help induce a relaxing state of mind and body. For vapers, you might as well be slamming an espresso,” says Pryor. “No relaxant effects, only stimulation.”
Recent studies have been done with 1,664 smoking or vaping students at Oklahoma State University, the University of Missouri and Ohio State University to see what impact, if any, smoking or vaping had on their “quality, timing and efficiency or duration” of sleep.
Using the self-reporting questionnaire known as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the students were asked to record their sleeping habits. (The questionnaire has become a standard testing device for clinician and researchers.) Students recorded estimates for sleep latency, time spent asleep, the medications they used for sleeping if any and sleep disturbances. They were also asked about their alcohol intake (as that can be factor as well) and if they smoked cigarettes, were vaper-users or both.
As it turns out, 40.9% percent of the participants of the study admitted that they had tried vaping or were currently vaping but just 8% of the group said that they vaped at least once a month. Overall, the studies showed that people who didn’t smoke or vape had an easier time of sleeping that those that did and those who vaped had the worst sleep of all. The students who vaped were more likely to use sleep medication than their cigarette-smokers counterparts.
“When a smoker takes a ‘normal’ puff, it’s often quick and repeated — this effect is thought to induce a stimulant effect. The opposite occurs for ‘long hauls’ on cigarettes — producing a mild relaxing calm in the body,” says Pryor. “Interestingly, a chemical being able to do both actions is relatively rare. They’re usually only able to have one effect or the other when ingested. When it comes to vaping — however — it’s completely different.”
The nicotine found in vaping products is different and stronger than what is used in traditional cigarettes and the amount of nicotine can vary between brands says Pryor. JUUL’s most popular variety contains 59 mg/mL nicotine content compared to a range of 6 mg/mL to 30 mg/mL of other manufacturers.
“It’s strong — and their use of nicotine salts as a new substitute ensures the substance is absorbed almost as quickly as a normal cigarette,” says Pryor.
Insomnia and Withdrawal
One of the biggest complaints of vaping users is their struggle with insomnia. Nicotine is stimulating and because of this, it can wake up one’s mind and body making it very difficult to fall asleep. People who vape tend to do so all through the day taking frequent stops to inhale the nicotine. It acts fast but is also wears off quickly as well.
This would appear to be a good thing when one is trying to sleep, but instead, people who vape will often experience withdrawal symptoms within a few hours. Often that eight hours of sleep we crave so much is just too much time to pass. People who vape will find themselves waking up in the middle of the night feeling restless and uncomfortable. Then, they will be tempted to vape a little in order to go back to sleep, but as the nicotine kicks in, they just might end up never going back to sleep.
The less sleep one gets, the more sleep deprived one becomes and bad things start to snowball from there worsening one’s mood, making concentrating harder to do as well as any cognitive tasks. Waking up at night because of withdrawal symptoms can lead to what is known as a sleep-maintenance insomnia that repeats itself over and over again. A report from Tuck.com explains it this way:
“Our brains rely on a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine to keep us awake and alert. When you smoke, nicotine mimics acetylcholine by binding to the same receptors in the brain. As a result, smokers feel awake and alert (the way they would with acetylcholine, but it’s actually due to the nicotine levels in their brain). If you stop smoking instantly, your brain suddenly has no acetylcholine or nicotine to rely on, and you feel extremely drowsy.” (Tuck.com)
The good news for people wanting to quit is that eventually, their brains will normalize one’s acetylcholine levels over time.
While some people appreciate a good nightmare every once in a while, overall, they aren’t that popular with most people. However, it is known that the nicotine found in some e-liquids have been shown to give users very vivid dreams that will make one feel as if they are awake and alert but in reality are asleep and dreaming.
While no one knows for sure why this is the case but the phenomenon has been dubbed “nicotine dreams.” One” theory that some experts have considered is that the nicotine will suppress one’s PGO waves which are needed for good REM sleep.
“Not everyone who vapes experiences nicotine dreams, but many who do say that the dreams are frightening and uncomfortable,” says Josh Sigafus a writer for SnoringCanada.com. “While realistic dreams might seem fun, they could quickly turn into terrifying nightmares. Nicotine dreams seem to be the most common in people who vape or smoke right before going to sleep because the nicotine is still highly active in the body.” (SnoringCanada.com)
The Trouble with Snoring
One reason why people choose to switch to e-cigarettes from traditional ones is that they gentler on one’s nose and throat. Even so, they can still cause irritation. While everyday cigarettes contains chemicals call anesthetics which are put in place to help reduce irritation, e-liquids do not. So, while one is not actually inhaling smoke when one vapes, the chemicals will still cause damage. Blame it on the propylene glycol, a chemical that does a good job of dehydrating one’s tissues which in turn causes irritation and inflammation. Essentially, the more one vapes, the drier one’s throat will become. And the drier the throat, the easier it is for one to start snoring or for those who already snore, the snoring can become worse.
We snore when the tissues in our throat and mouth have swollen up. Normally these tissues vibrate when we inhale while sleeping, but when they are inflamed, the chances that they will rub up against each other is greater. This blocks the airway making it difficult to take in enough oxygen often waking one up serval times during the night. This could develop into obstructive sleep apnea where a person will wake themselves up hundreds of times during the night making good sleep impossible. People who smoke or vape are two-and-a-half times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea.
Finally, a lack of oxygen can lead one down the road to more serious health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke.
Getting Better Sleep
There isn’t a doctor in the world who doesn’t recommend that if you smoke or vape, you should quit. It’s really the best way to get better quality sleep among other healthy things. But it’s not easy. Some experts say that 85% of all smokers will relapse during their first week of trying to quit the habit. Some find that going “cold turkey” is harder that it sounds and may need the help of therapy, patches, gum or a combination of some sort.
However, there are some healthy habits anyone can do to improve their sleep routines regardless of where they are at right now.
First, be aware of everything you take in two hours before bedtime whether that be food, beverage or a smoke. Avoid taking in any caffeine during this time since people who smoke metabolize caffeine twice as fast as other people not realizing how much it may be affecting them. Instead, why not give some herbal tea a shot? Not only will they help induce sleep, but they will also hydrate your mouth. Watch what you eat too. Avoid foods with high amounts of sugar or fat.
If you are not one for exercise, become one. Exercise in the morning if possible to help reset your circadian rhythm which will tell your body that it’s time to shut down at night. And go to bed every night at the same time if possible as well as getting up at the same time as well. Also, avoid looking at your phone right before you sleep.
“As for myself, I’ll continue vaping until I’m ready to fully quit. I do prefer its effects over that of tobacco (I can finally taste things again properly!), but I’d rather be nicotine free eventually,” says Pryor. “Just be sure to not vape a couple of hours before you want to go to bed — as I did. I just wish I had realized the connection earlier. For now, I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s rest.”
SnoringCanada.com – https://snoringcanada.com/vaping-impacts-sleep/