Does Nicotine Keep You Awake Before Bed?

Does nicotine keep you awake? If you smoke, vape, or chew tobacco and are having trouble sleeping, Stellar Sleep sheds some light on why.

It’s no secret that nicotine isn’t good for you, but the substance may have other unexpected disadvantages as well. If you’re a smoker (or use nicotine in any other form, like vaping, chewing tobacco, or patches), nicotine may be negatively impacting you in more ways than you know. 

If you’ve been getting poor sleep, the culprit may be literally at your fingertips.

How Does Nicotine Affect the Body?

Nicotine is a stimulant, and it can be found in products like cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco options like chewing tobacco. Each form of nicotine enters the system differently, but they all impact the body in generally the same ways.

Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers, delivering messages from throughout the brain and body. Nicotine has the ability to bind with specific receptors in the brain, blocking them from being able to signal the release of different chemicals — acetylcholine, GABA, etc. 

The effects of nicotine can also impact cognitive function due to changes in some of these neurotransmitters.

Endorphins

Another negative ability of nicotine is how it impacts our reward system. Like other addictive substances, nicotine makes sure that the people who use it continue to use it by triggering the release of positive endorphins — when you use nicotine, you do temporarily feel good.

Nicotine’s ability to generate these feelings of pleasure and satisfaction is what keeps people “hooked” and what makes quitting more difficult.

Blood Pressure

Nicotine can also have a negative impact on cardiovascular health — even in its smokeless forms. When it enters the system, nicotine narrows the blood vessels throughout the body, increasing heart rate. The result is increased blood pressure, which can be potentially dangerous if not managed quickly. 

Nicotine can also cause a rise in adrenaline in the system, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular complications like a heart attack or stroke.

Nicotine Withdrawal

Because nicotine is addictive, withdrawing from it can be unpleasant and challenging — that’s why so many people try to quit and fail multiple times before they succeed. Nicotine withdrawal can last for up to a month and include both physical and mental symptoms. 

These withdrawal symptoms include increased appetite, brain fog, constipation, dizziness, headaches, intense nicotine cravings, and irritability.

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst the first week after quitting and start to gradually subside after that. Nicotine replacement can help ease some of the early signs but also lengthens the time that you deal with withdrawal.

Stomach Upset

Nicotine’s ability to narrow blood vessels can also take its toll on your gastrointestinal system. Because nicotine is a stimulant, it also speeds up how quickly things move through your GI system (which is why one of the side effects of stopping nicotine use can be constipation). 

Nicotine can also increase the risk of developing heartburn and stomach ulcers, as it is harsh on your system. You may also not feel as hungry while using nicotine, which may lead to unintentional, unhealthy weight loss. 

Mental Health

Nicotine can also potentially negatively impact your mental health. Nicotine’s ability to decrease the amount of “feel good” hormones and endorphins in your system — dopamine and serotonin, most importantly — means that you may feel good while using nicotine, but that feeling is very temporary. Over time, nicotine use can increase the likelihood and severity of anxiety and depression.

Does Nicotine Keep You Awake at Night?

The answer is clear — nicotine absolutely has the ability to negatively impact your sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant. It doesn’t just speed up bodily processes, it speeds up the mind as well. Those who regularly use nicotine often may find themselves lying awake in bed at night, unable to shut their brains off long enough to fall asleep. 

Studies have shown that both the quality and quantity of your sleep can be impacted by nicotine. Nicotine can also cause sleep disturbances, including stopping the body from getting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 

These sleep issues can easily lead to the development of insomnia, which can trigger a host of physical and mental health problems. It can also impair the body’s ability to convert short-term memories into long-term memories.

How Can You Reduce Nicotine Intake?

Reducing your nicotine intake isn’t something that you should take lightly, especially if you’ve been using nicotine for an extended period of time. After all, nicotine is considered a drug, so reducing your intake can have all the same side effects as quitting any other addictive substance.

Although it may be tempting when you quit smoking to go “cold turkey,” people often find stopping this way can make it more challenging to maintain. Instead, work with your doctor to slowly reduce the amount of nicotine you’re using. This can help minimize withdrawal symptoms and increase the likelihood that you will be able to stay away from nicotine long-term. 

How Can You Improve Your Sleep?

In addition to cutting down on your nicotine usage, there are other ways that you can improve your sleep as well. Improving your sleep health is one of the best ways to support both your mind and body — sleep is the time our body needs to rest, recover, and convert short-term memories into long-term ones. 

Better sleep requires a focus on physiological and psychological factors. Once you rule out any physical issues that may be holding you back — like sleep apnea — you can move on to addressing the psychological factors that are playing a role. 

Working on improving your sleep hygiene is also a great way to get better sleep. Small factors like your room temperature, ambient light and sound, your caffeine intake, and even when you exercise can all negatively impact your rest. 

Start with a free sleep quiz to determine what factors may be stopping you from getting the sleep you need, then consider working with a CBT-I coach to make the changes you need to address them. 

When Should You Seek Medical Advice?

It’s never a bad idea to seek medical advice when you’re making any big changes in your life and your health, especially when taking the big step of quitting an addictive substance like nicotine.

If you’ve been habitually using nicotine in any of its forms, it may be safest to speak with a medical professional for advice on how to reduce or discontinue usage. Different smoking cessation medications may be appropriate, but they will need to be prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional. 

If you think you may need help quitting, contact a professional before attempting it on your own.

The Bottom Line

As studies show, non-smokers may have less sleep disruption than smokers. Stopping or even just reducing your nicotine intake may seem impossible, but finding a way forward can be your key to a better life and a good night’s sleep. Nicotine has the ability to impact many different parts of your body, as well as your mental health. 

Try our free sleep quiz for other ways to improve your sleep quality — improving your sleep habits can be life-changing.

Sources:

Nicotine | C10H14N2 | CID 89594 | PubChem

Nicotine-induced changes in neurotransmitter levels in brain areas associated with cognitive function | PubMed

Impact of Smokeless Tobacco Products on Cardiovascular Disease: Implications for Policy, Prevention, and Treatment | AHA

Smoke at night and sleep worse? The associations between cigarette smoking with insomnia severity and sleep duration | PubMed

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