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Last Updated on Saturday, May 11, 2024 by Amelia Griffith

Tossing and turning at night? Blame it on smoking. We often hear about the health hazards, but the impact on sleep is a lesser-known story. As someone who’s wrestled with sleepless nights, I dove into the research and uncovered five compelling ways smoking can hijack your peaceful slumber. If you find yourself burning the midnight cigarette and wondering why those Zzz’s elude you, you’re in for a revelation. You’re about to discover the eye-opening truth about how smoking affects your sleep.

Despite the massive role that sleep plays in overall health, most people struggle with sleeping well. Approximately 32.8% of American adults report short sleep duration and compromised sleep health. Typically, this is because these people have poor sleep hygiene. Contrary to popular belief, though, sleep hygiene doesn’t just account for the habits you have right before bedtime. In reality, sleep hygiene has to do with various lifestyle choices that directly impact sleep, no matter when you practice them. With this in mind, it is no surprise that studies also show that smoking is among these habits that affect sleep hygiene, as per the National Library of Medicine. Below are five such ways that smoking affects your sleep.

Smoking Causes Headaches

Headaches can range from dull throbs to a splitting pain that frustratingly can affect your sleep. In fact, the Journal of Pain and Therapy reported that over 18% of survey respondents suffer from insomnia and head pains at the same time. That said, it has been found that the primary chemicals in smoking can encourage headaches. Specifically, nicotine can cause headaches due to how it works inside the body. First, it narrows blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the brain. Second, nicotine can make
medicines less effective, especially pain relievers. Third, nicotine products make pain receptors in the body more sensitive. These inconveniences can cause you to struggle with your sleep by not only causing head pains but also preventing relief from taking place.

Smoking Affects the Circadian Rhythm

Scents help people relax and fall asleep faster, which is why aromatherapy is believed to help regulate the internal clock—also known as the circadian rhythm. Pleasant smells can positively affect your sleep by helping you relax. For instance, lavender and chamomile are known to calm the mind, so it’s easier for you to fall asleep. However, the inverse applies to unpleasant smells like cigarette smoke. Because this scent is more pungent, it stimulates the olfactory senses and heightens your attention. This can keep you too active, thereby disrupting the mood you need to fall asleep. Furthermore, consistent exposure to this scent can disturb your circadian rhythm, making it harder for you to sleep regularly over time. Unfortunately, cigarette smoke can linger on the body and objects, which means its sleep-disrupting scent can stick around even long after you smoke.


Smoking Causes Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common condition where breathing stops and resumes many times during sleep. As the brain registers that sleep apnea is potentially risky, it can cause a person to keep waking, thereby developing insomnia. Recently, a study found a connection between smoking and obstructive sleep apnea. Not only were nicotine-dependent patients found to have higher cases of severe obstructive sleep apnea, but they were also diagnosed with this condition at a younger age compared to non-

Smoking Causes Insomnia

Insomnia is clinically considered a nicotine withdrawal symptom. While we still lack the scientific evidence, researchers suspect that smoking at night could disturb sleep more than smoking at earlier times of the day. Study results indicate that smoking was associated with increased insomnia, as well as very short sleep duration across different ages, sex, and education levels. Smoking can also make quality sleep a struggle; smokers might find themselves taking longer to fall asleep, spending more time in bed awake, and spending less time in deep sleep. This leads to difficulties waking up in the morning and experiencing increased sleepiness during the day, which can hinder daily activities. For long-time smokers, research also points to a higher likelihood of developing insomnia or insomnia-like symptoms. As such, quitting cigarettes as early as possible would be beneficial for you to get better sleep.

Smoking Acts as a Stimulant

Cigarette smoking is a recognized stimulant that can give a boost of energy with a single puff. As a result, smoking regularly can lead to feelings of restlessness. For many, this results in feeling less inclined to prepare for bed because of how energetic you still think. You might use your phone or watch TV to help keep you busy. Before you know it, you are way past bedtime and are struggling to sleep. Aside from this, because of the “energizing” properties of cigarette chemicals, some smokers have difficulty falling into a deep sleep, which is crucial for the body’s rest and recovery. Remember, we spend one-third of our lives either sleeping or attempting to do so. As such, it’s important to do your best to practice exemplary sleep hygiene. For smokers, this can start with letting go of the habit. Slowly but surely, smoking cessation can result in better and more beneficial sleep.

How Your Partner’s Smoking Keeps You Awake

If your partner still smokes, their habit could be disrupting your sleep. Secondhand smoke exposure increases your risks of insomnia and other sleep disorders. According to research, non-smokers who live with smokers are more likely to report difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and feeling unrested during the day.

The Lingering Effects

Even if your partner only smokes outside, the toxins can cling to their hair, skin, and clothes, and then make their way into your bedroom. These chemicals irritate your eyes and airways, making it harder to breathe and get comfortable. The stench of smoke on its own is enough to keep you awake, as the familiar smell triggers feelings of alertness.

Withdrawal in the Middle of the Night

As the nicotine from their last cigarette wears off during the night, your partner may experience cravings and withdrawal. They may toss and turn, get up for a midnight smoke break, or wake you looking for their lighter or pack. Their withdrawal restlessness and the sounds of their late-night smoking routine are bound to disturb your sleep.

The impacts of secondhand smoke and your partner’s smoking habits on your sleep are real but often overlooked. The only way to resolve these issues for good is by eliminating smoke exposure, but that ultimately comes down to your partner’s willingness to quit. In the meantime, you might try using an air purifier, washing bedding more frequently, and wearing an eye mask or earplugs to block out disturbances when you can.

Ready to Quit? How Kicking the Habit Can Transform Your Sleep

When you finally kick the cigarette habit, one of the first benefits you’ll notice is how much better you sleep. Your body will undergo so many positive changes that transform your slumber for the better.

Within just 12 hours of quitting, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood drop dramatically. This toxic gas inhibits the oxygen in your bloodstream from reaching your cells and tissues. Your breathing becomes easier and your circulation improves, allowing more oxygen to flow to your brain and muscles as you sleep.

Ready to ditch the smokes?

Over the next few weeks, your lungs start to clear out mucus and cilia begin functioning properly again. Cilia are the tiny hairs in your airways that sweep out debris. As they come back to life, your coughing and congestion decrease. You’ll breathe more deeply and easily throughout the night without waking up.

Quitting also lowers your risk of insomnia and sleep disturbances. Nicotine withdrawal can temporarily cause restlessness, but within a month your sleep-wake cycle will regulate itself. You’ll fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly through the night, and feel more rested in the morning.

Kicking the smoking habit improves your health in so many ways, but the impact on your sleep and nighttime comfort may be one of the most motivating. Your slumber will become more peaceful, restorative, and rewarding. You’ll wake up recharged and rejuvenated, ready to take on the day as a fresh non-smoker.


So there you have it, the harsh truth in black and white. Smoking isn’t doing your sleep any favors. Now that you know the ways cigarettes conspire to rob you of rest, you have the power to make a change. Stub out that last smoke of the night and reclaim your right to deep, restorative rest. Sweet dreams!


  • Amelia Griffith

    Amelia Griffith is a distinguished luminary in the field of sleep medicine, possessing a wealth of expertise across various domains that have shaped her into an esteemed authority in the realm of sleep health. Her academic journey commenced at Harvard University, where she obtained a foundational degree in Neuroscience, setting the stage for her subsequent forays into the intricate workings of the brain. Continuing her studies at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, she pursued advanced studies in Neurology, delving deeply into the mechanisms of neurological conditions intricately linked with sleep disorders. Driven by a quest to comprehend the holistic facets of sleep and its implications on mental health, she expanded her horizons into psychiatry during her tenure at Stanford University's Department of Psychiatry. This phase equipped her with a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between sleep patterns and mental well-being. Her passion for pediatric care led her to specialize in pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, where she honed interventions for young individuals grappling with sleep disorders. Furthering her exploration into sleep science and psychology, she enriched her knowledge at the University of Pennsylvania, unraveling the profound impact of psychological factors on sleep quality. Certifications and Degrees: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Neuroscience - Harvard University Advanced Studies in Neurology - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Specialization in Psychiatry - Stanford University School of Medicine Pediatric Care Specialization - Columbia University Medical Center Expertise in Sleep Science and Psychology - University of Pennsylvania Board Certification in Sleep Medicine from the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) Beyond her professional pursuits, Amelia Griffith seamlessly integrates her artistic hobbies into her life. An accomplished painter, she finds inspiration from the intricate patterns of the brain, translating her scientific curiosity into artistic expression. Her love for literature and continuous reading not only expands her knowledge but also fuels her imagination, offering creative solutions to the challenges she encounters in her profession. Family: Amelia Griffith is a devoted mother to two daughters and a son. Her journey through sleep disorders mirrors her family's struggles, providing her with profound empathy and understanding in her professional pursuits. Overcoming these challenges together has strengthened their familial bond, fostering resilience and unity. Amelia Griffith's commitment to excellence and compassionate patient care has earned her admiration within academic circles and among those whose lives she has positively impacted. Her ongoing advocacy for better sleep health reflects her dedication to improving global well-being, leaving an indelible mark in the field of sleep medicine.

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