So, you have finally decided to quit smoking! Congratulations! You are on your way to living a much healthier lifestyle.
Unfortunately, sleep disturbances are a common side effect of nicotine withdrawal, which means that many people find that they have trouble sleeping after quitting smoking. This side effect can be discouraging, but please don’t revert to old, unhealthy habits and reach for the lighter and cigarettes! Instead, try these tips to help you get the sleep you need:
Keep away from places that make you think of smoking. If you find that you are struggling to sleep when you quit smoking, try to avoid the places that your mind would link to smoking. For example, if you used to sit in a certain spot on the patio to smoke your evening cigarette, keep away from there. It will only remind you of smoking and make your cravings worse, which could make sleeping difficult. Instead, keep to places of your home where smoking was forbidden, or you would never normally have a cigarette, in the hour or two leading up to bedtime.
Avoid consuming caffeine. A fact that is not widely known is that smokers develop a high tolerance to caffeine. This is because the body of a smoker metabolizes at around twice as fast as that as a non-smoker. So, when you quit smoking, your normal caffeine intake will likely make you feel more awake than it used to. In fact, it may even make you jittery and anxious to consume the amount of caffeine that you used to as a smoker. While you are in the withdrawal process of quitting, it is probably best to avoid caffeine altogether, especially if you hope to get any sleep at night. Once your body has adjusted to the non-smoker lifestyle, you will be able to have caffeine again, just not as much as you did as a smoker. (Remember, you should always avoid drinking caffeine in the late afternoon and/or evening as it can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.)
Eat foods that are high in L-tryptophan. Many smokers claim that they put on weight when they quit smoking because they eat more due to needing something to do with their hands. If you find that your hands are getting fidgety in the evening, reach for snacks that are high in the amino acid L-tryptophan, as they help the body to relax and unwind. Food and drinks that contain L-tryptophan include cashews, cheese, chicken, eggs, milk, turkey, watermelon, and yogurt.
Don’t drink alcohol. Many smokers will associate alcohol with smoking. For some, the only time they would smoke is when they were also having a drink. So, if you think alcohol will make you crave a cigarette, it is probably best to avoid it. Also, even though a drink or two may make it easier for one to fall asleep initially, it negatively impacts the quality of sleep you hope to achieve. Alcohol suppresses REM sleep, meaning that even if you sleep through the night, you will not feel rested in the morning. It may also disrupt sleep by increasing the frequency in which you need to use the bathroom at night.
Exercise daily. Exercise improves your overall mood and can lessen the severity of your nicotine cravings. Keep active during the day as it can help tire out your body. Even a 20 to 30 minute walk a few hours before bedtime can help. Remember, you should not exercise just before going to bed as it revs you up before it winds you down.
Keep in mind, the physical withdrawal and trouble sleeping phase of quitting smoking is a temporary condition. So, don’t become discouraged and don’t give up. Providing you didn’t have insomnia or another sleep disorder before you quit smoking, your normal, healthy sleep patterns should return to normal rather soon. Having said that, if you are experiencing symptoms past the first month or two, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure your symptoms are a result of quitting smoking and not something else. If you and your doctor feel that you would benefit from a sleep study, we invite you to call the Valley Sleep Center at 480.830.3900 and schedule a sleep consultation at one of our five convenient Valley locations.