Everything you need to know about sleeping well when quitting smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the best decisions you can make, but some people find that, as their bodies adjust to being smoke-free, they don’t sleep as well as usual. In fact, a study reported in the Mirror  says that over two-thirds of those who went back to smoking after quitting successfully did so because of lack of sleep.
Sleep and cigarettes have a complicated relationship but, if you understand this, you can use the right coping strategies to help you get a good night’s sleep and quit successfully.
How do Sleep and Smoking interact?
- Nicotine affects your sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, like caffeine. You might feel relaxed when you smoke but that’s because the chemicals in cigarettes prevent your brain from receiving the right signals. Your body is in ‘overdrive’, whether you are able to recognise it or not, and that doesn’t aid sleep.
- Both smoking and quitting tend to alter your sleep patterns. Studies show that people who smoke, on average, get less sleep. Keep a sleep diary and establishing what is a ‘normal’ night’s sleep for you. If it’s not great, consider doing something to improve it before you reach your quit date. There are plenty of blogs, apps and downloads you can try, or contact a hypnotherapist for help.
- Nicotine withdrawal might be a factor. Some smokers experience disturbed sleep because they can’t last all night without a cigarette. This is part of the reason that smokers (on average) have more trouble sleeping. Withdrawal symptoms can increase for a while when you quit but they reduce as your body adapts.
- Your mental health. Mental health issues like stress, depression or anxiety can make it more difficult to sleep - and more difficult to quit smoking. If you are experiencing any of these, seeing your GP, a hypnotherapist or counsellor for help and advice before you stop smoking could improve your chances of quitting successfully.
- Some people sleep more when they quit smoking. This seems to be about ‘catching up’ with sleep you lost when you were smoking, and has the added benefit that you might be able to sleep through some of the other symptoms of quitting.
How to Quit Smoking and Sleep Better
- Patches can cause sleep disturbance and vivid dreams. If you’re using patches, take them off before going to bed to help reduce the stimulating effect of the nicotine they contain.
- If you’re cutting back rather than quitting (or want to wean yourself off cigarettes gradually) stop the late-night cigarettes first. They’re the ones most likely to interfere with a good night’s sleep.
- Have a sleep schedule. Having a consistent time to wake up and go to bed will help a lot. Stick to it even at weekends, at least until you’re happy with your sleep.
- Avoid blue lights. TV and computer screens emit blue light which your brain tends to recognise as daylight, making you more alert and less likely to sleep. Keep your bedroom softly lit and avoid screens for a couple of hours before bed. If you often have to get up for the toilet during the night, a night-light in your bathroom can help you get back to sleep faster.
- Do something boring. Tossing and turning in bed doesn’t help you fall asleep. It’s better to get up and do something boring in a softly lit room. (Doing something interesting regards you for staying awake, which is counter-productive!) Once you feel sleepy, go back to bed.
- Eat the right things at night. Tryptophan is an amino acid that triggers drowsiness naturally. Try a small bowl of cereal or a cookie with milk before bed.
- Visit the 'well man' or 'well woman' clinic. Most GPs run these, and if your sleep doesn’t improve within a few weeks, they’re a good place to get a kind of ‘MOT’. If there are other issues impacting on your sleep, your doctor will be able to help.
- Expect better sleep in time. For most people whose sleep is temporarily disturbed by stopping smoking, the problem will clear up on its own.
Quitting smoking can interfere with your sleep temporarily, but the positive health benefits will last for the rest of your life.
Prepare well before you quit and remember that making temporary adjustments will help you to stay well rested. Get help if you need it. Then, you can look forward to becoming smoke-free and enjoying better sleep than ever.
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Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.
 https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/five-million-uk-smokers-tried-11462443 accessed May 2019