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Nicotine & Sleep

Throughout history different cultures all over the world have used the leaves from a tobacco plant to smoke or chew. In the beginning of tobacco’s history it was thought to have medicinal properties, while numerous recent studies have shown this to be far from the truth. Tobacco affects most directly the heart, lungs and throat. This greatly increases risk for heart attack, stroke, COPD and numerous forms of cancer. According to the CDC, worldwide tobacco use now causes more than 5 million deaths per year and by 2030 that number is expected to rise to 8 million annually. In the United States alone, tobacco is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths per year. With these very serious negative side effects from using tobacco, one might ask, then why do people use and why can’t people quit? The answer is nicotine. Nicotine is merely one of the thousands of harmful chemicals found in the tobacco plant. While that might be alarming, there are even more chemicals added by cigarette manufacturers. Nicotine is the one chemical that gives a tobacco user the “feel good” feeling. Often a buzz or slight feeling of euphoria is achieved leading one to continue to come back for more without realizing or rationalizing the consequences. Once tobacco reaches the bloodstream it initiates a chemical reaction in the brain to trigger these feelings. This is the action that causes dependence forming habits. The stimulation caused by nicotine also can greatly affect ones’ sleep. Much like caffeine, nicotine also makes one feel awake and alive. The length of time this feeling lasts and the craving for more is determined by the half-life of nicotine in the body. The half-life of a substance is defined by dictionary.com as

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the “time required for the activity of a substance taken into the body to lose one half its initial effectiveness”; or the period of time something thrives before dying out. Nicotine has a relatively short half-life, thus leaving a huge opportunity to disrupt sleep. On average nicotine has a half-life of 60 minutes, meaning after about 6 hours all nicotine has left the body. Here is when dependence kicks in and the loss of stimulation triggers the brain to desire that “feel good” euphoria once more. Both the stimulation of and the feeling of needing more nicotine can greatly disrupt your sleep patterns. Habitual smokers often smoke before or around bed time. The stimulation achieved from nicotine, whether it is in smoke or in chew form, keeps the mind active and alert and can lead to restlessness upon trying to fall asleep. Obviously this makes reaching quality sleep much more difficult. Once the addictive tendencies have been established, because of the short half-life of nicotine, staying asleep or reaching deep sleep also has a high risk of being compromised. The deep and most restful stages of sleep are achieved in the second half of the night. Right around when a person would be feeling deprived of nicotine because nicotine’s half-life has run its course. This leads to a very uneasy and disruptive second half of the sleep cycle. Nicotine is oddly one of the most dangerous and most easily accessible chemicals taken in the body found all over the world. It can affect someone’s body is numerous negative ways. Whether smoked or chewed, the false feelings and stimulation it provides an individual makes it extremely hard to walk away from. And if that isn’t enough to make you think twice, nicotine even

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has the ability to greatly affect a person’s nightly sleep; indirectly hampering day to day function.

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