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Another reason to quit smoking: smoking affects sleep quality

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Posted May 1, 2014

Every day millions of people promise themselves and their families to quit smoking once and for all. These people know that cigarette smoking causes many nasty diseases, from heart, chronic lungs diseases and strokes, to a number of cancers (bladder, oral cavity, esophagus and etc.) One more negative health consequence of smoking was found at the  University of Florida and Research Triangle Park – smokers are more likely to have sleep problems, like failing to stay asleep or daytime sleepness.

Image credit: Jamie Beverly/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Image credit: Jamie Beverly/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The evidence that tobacco is the cause of a long list of nasty diseases is irrefutable, but how smoking impacts our sleep?

The idea that cigarette smoking is linked to our sleep isn’t a new fact, but lesser known than the link between smoking and diseases, for example, cancers or lung diseases. Previous studies revealed that smokers have many difficulties falling asleep, experience daytime sleepiness, report lower sleep quality – and, generally, tend to experience a longer duration of light sleep than deep sleep compared to non-smokers. It should be noted that there are many findings, but not all of studies have included the analysis of ex-smokers. For this reason, the researchers decided to find the relationship between smoking and sleep disorders. The research was performed on a larger population sample, which was selected to represent the problem on a national level.

The authors of this study used a large group of people (4973 adults aged 20 years and above) and examined them by smoking status – overall, non-smokers, ex-smokers and active smokers. This experiment included an interview and physical examination: the interview process consisted of different types of questions – socioeconomic, dietary, demographic and health questions. The physical examination consisted of medical, dental and physiological measurements. In addition to this, blood samples were collected from the study participants for serum cotinine analysis, which shows nicotine level in person’s body.

The research results were compared with the findings of previous sleep studies, and the current study showed that there are many significant differences in sleep problems by smoking status.

The most important difference between active smokers and non-smokers:

This study revealed that active smokers have the largest amount of trouble falling asleep – 11.9%, waking in the night 10.6%, and waking too early in the morning – 9.5%.

Non-smokers reported major problems with trouble falling sleep – 4.6%, waking in the night – 5.3%, waking too early in the morning – 4.6%.

The researchers think that these sleep differences may be more prevalent among smokers due to the stimulant effects of nicotine, nightly withdrawal, and increased prevalence of sleep disordered breathing relative to nonsmokers or an association with psychological disturbances. Besides, behavioral habits may also contribute to poorer sleep among cigarette smokers. Smokers often report that cigarettes help relieve feelings of stress, cigarette smoking as a form of stress relief and what is interesting that the stress levels of adult smokers are slightly higher than those of non-smokers – it can be a reason why cigarette smoking causes these sleep disturbances.

This study showed that in addition to other negative health outcomes, sleep disturbances may be an additional negative health outcome associated with cigarette smoking. While numerous studies have looked at disordered sleep patterns in medical conditions, including fibromyalgia and obstructive sleep apnea, this study is the first to show how sleep problems can result from cigarette smoking. The researchers provide yet one more reason to stop smoking or to never start.

Sources: ScienceDaily, tandfonline.com, taylorandfrancigroup.com, news-medical.net, nydailynews.com

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