For smokers, getting a good night’s sleep is no slumber party, scientists said on Monday.
Researchers who tracked the brain activity of smokers while they
slept found that they spent less time in deep sleep than nonsmokers.
Smokers were also about four times as likely to complain that their
sleep did not leave them well rested.
The nicotine from cigarettes seems to be a nightmare for sleeping
smokers. Because it can act as a stimulant, nicotine makes it harder to
fall asleep, the researchers said. And minor withdrawal symptoms that
occur as the night drags on can further disturb a smoker’s sleep, they
Researchers led by Dr. Naresh Punjabi of Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine in Baltimore set out to learn more about the sleep
problems that bedevil many smokers.
"Smokers undoubtedly, when you look at the (medical) literature,
have sleep-related difficulties. They have difficulty falling asleep
and difficulty maintaining sleep," Punjabi said. "The question is why
do they have this."
A key issue was whether sleep problems could be blamed on the many
medical complications brought on by smoking — symptoms of lung or
heart disease, for instance — or whether smoking itself was the
culprit, Punjabi said.
The researchers identified a group of 40 middle-aged smokers who had
none of the many medical conditions associated with smoking, and
compared their sleep patterns to those of an equal number of nonsmokers
of the same age and physical type.
While sleeping at their homes, they were hooked up to
electroencephalogram or EEG machines, which record the brain’s
electrical activity. Compared to nonsmokers, smokers spent less time in
deep sleep and more time in light sleep, the researchers found.
The biggest differences took place in the period just after falling
asleep, supporting the idea that nicotine’s effects are most acute in
early stages of sleep, according to the study.
In addition, about 23 percent of smokers reported they had not had restful sleep, compared to 5 percent of nonsmokers.
The findings were published in the journal Chest, published by the American College of Chest Physicians.
"This study provides yet one more reason to stop smoking or to never
start," Dr. Alvin Thomas, president of the American College of Chest
Physicians, said in a statement.
Punjabi said the findings could be important in coming up with
better ways to help smokers quit, for instance by tailoring nicotine
replacement therapy to minimize withdrawal effects that smokers may
experience during sleep."
"This is very critical for smoking cessation because one of the
major complaints that smokers tend to have when they start quitting is
sleep dysfunction," Punjabi said.