Smoking and sleep

18th January 2013 by Simon Kyle

Sleepio Research Bulletin

Smoking and Sleep

Large survey studies suggest that smokers experience, on average, poorer sleep quality relative to non-smokers. Despite this, there are few well-designed studies that have systematically examined sleep profiles of smokers. Nicotine interacts with several neurotransmitters in the brain – notably dopamine – and could potentially have adverse effects on specific sleep stages.

In a recent study, published online in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers from Germany compared smokers with non-smokers in terms of objective and subjective sleep. The study team recruited individuals who were free from psychiatric or medical illness and asked them to sleep in a sleep laboratory for two nights. The first night served as an adaption night to the new environment. In total, 44 smokers were compared with 44 non-smokers. On average, smokers smoked 21 cigarettes a day and had smoked for 13 years. All participants were monitored with polysomnography and smokers were asked to provide a blood sample prior to sleep, in order to quantify levels of nicotine and cotinine (the metabolite of nicotine).

The main results were that smokers, relative to non-smokers, took (objectively) longer to fall asleep, spent more time in REM sleep, and had more evidence of sleep-breathing events and limb movements during the night (both known to disturb and fragment sleep). Also, higher levels of pre-sleep cotinine and nicotine were associated with less deep sleep. Self-reported sleep quality was also worse in this group relative to non-smokers.

The authors conclude:

“In summary, sleep disturbances, which can affect daytime wellbeing and mood, are frequent among smokers. We detected reduced rating of sleep quality as well as changes in sleep architecture in a population of healthy young smokers, carefully controlled on other sleep-influencing variables.” The study team also suggest that future work should consider how sleep disturbance may be a risk factor for smoking relapse, in those attempting nicotine withdrawal, since sleep is know to be adversely impacted during this period.

Original paper:
Jaehne, A., Unbehaun, T., Feige, B., Lutz, U.C., Batra, A., Riemann, D. (2012). How smoking affects sleep: a polysomnographical analysis. Sleep medicine 13(10), 1286-1292.

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