Quit Smoking, Stop Sleeping?
The Road Back
When you make the decision to stop smoking (and then follow through with it) your body and mind will experience myriad changes as they begin the trek back to being normal. When a person starts smoking they become addicted to a narcotic - nicotine. As with any addiction, the body and mind are affected with the drug and the dependence is created, often based on a release of dopamine that makes one feel good. And, as with any addiction, breaking the connection wreaks havoc within the mind and body until such time as the need for the narcotic is eliminated and things return to normal.
Why Can't I Sleep?
One of the common side effects of smoking cessation and nicotine withdrawal is sleep disturbance, most notably, insomnia. When the nicotine is taken out of the equation, then sleep can become very elusive. The disturbance of what would have been considered "normal" sleep patterns or the establishment of new sleep patterns begin to occur immediately upon quitting. Nicotine is a very powerful drug that affects the brain in a number of ways that ultimately affect sleep.
· Brain wave function
· Depth of sleep
· Subconscious thought
As your body returns to its true level of need in the area of rest and sleep you may discover that you don't need as much sleep as you were getting while you smoked. However, the time between quitting and re-establishing a sleeping pattern that is normal for you can take a couple of weeks. If it takes more than a few weeks, a trip to the doctor may be necessary to see if there is another underlying cause for insomnia. In the meantime, we have some suggestions that are natural remedies designed to ease the discomfort of insomnia and nicotine withdrawal while your body re-adjusts.
Things You Can Do To Address Insomnia
· Cut out caffeine. Many smokers don't realize that they need twice the amount of caffeine in order to achieve the same effect as a non-smoker. Nicotine causes caffeine to metabolize in smokers at twice the rate of non-smokers. What that boils down to is that when you quit smoking, if you don't cut the caffeine intake you will end up wired, up half the night and unable to relax. Limit alcohol consumption too. It may put you to sleep initially, but you'll wake up after a few short hours and likely remain restless for the balance of the night.
· Exercise. You don't have to work out for hours - a brisk 15 minute walk often helps. If you find you still can't sleep then try a nice long walk a few hours before bed. If you do work out, make sure you're finished three or four hours before bedtime. Exercise releases endorphins which can stimulate you rather than sedate you.
· Meditate. Meditation is an excellent way to quiet the mind and relax the body as you release the day's stress. Lay quietly on the bed with your eyes closed and hands relaxed at your sides for five minutes breathing deeply and steadily in and out of the nose. When thoughts come, acknowledge them and then let them go. If your mind is extremely busy, focus on a single item, color, or sound. Gradually build the time you spend meditating and make it a part of your daily practice. It's a great way to relax and slow your mind and body down enough to sleep. It also pays off with improved control and calmness during your waking hours.
· Have a glass of warm milk. Remember when you were little and your mom gave you a glass of milk and cookies before bed? There's really something to the practice from a physiological point. Milk is rich in the amino acid L-tryptophan, which helps to produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Neurotransmitters are nerve messengers that signal the body to either wake up or go to sleep. Serotonin is a "natural sleeping pill" produced in the body when adequate L-tryptophan is delivered to the brain. If it is coupled with a carbohydrate, then more L-tryptophan gets to the brain. So, a glass of warm milk and a cookie or piece of toast can boost your body's serotonin production, thus inducing sleep.
· Some pleasant treats.
- A nice warm bath, complete with bath salts and candles can really do the trick in relaxing your body.
- A massage, even if it is only the shoulders, neck and head help reduce stress.
- Soothing music goes a long way to relaxing you while you fall asleep. Just make sure the CD player has an automatic shut off. Having to get up to turn if off defeats the purpose.
- A cup of herbal tea, like chamomile, can soothe and relax you before bed.
- A good book, nothing too heavy, can slow the mind down before bed.
If you find that you are unable to sleep or a good night's rest is still elusive after several weeks, call the doctor to get help.