I’ve quit – why can’t I sleep?

by Deanna Sykes on January 24, 2012


Dear Advisor,

Three weeks ago I quit smoking cold turkey after smoking for 25 years. It was very hard, but hardest of all has been the insomnia I have been experiencing since then. Any advice?

Signed,
Sleepless & Exhausted

Dear Sleepless,

Congratulations on quitting – that’s a HUGE accomplishment! The next step, of course, is to get through the aftermath of quitting without going back to smoking, right?

Insomnia is a common problem after quitting, but rest assured it’s temporary – once your body adjusts to not smoking, you will sleep better than before, and wake up much more rested than you did when you were smoking.

tired woman

What’s happening is this: Nicotine affects your sleep patterns, and after you quit, it takes your body a few weeks to readjust to the new patterns. Research shows that smokers spend more time in alpha (light) sleep, and less time in delta (deep) sleep. When you quit, some of the time you were spending in light sleep ends up breaking the surface into wakefulness, meaning that you wake up multiple times during the night.

The good news is, as long as you stay off of nicotine, within a few weeks your body will gradually adjust on its own so that you revert to the sleep of a non-smoker: more time in deep, restorative sleep, less time in light sleep, and no waking up multiple times in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, you need to get some sleep, right?

The normal techniques for dealing with insomnia should help you get some sleep during this adjustment period, as well as help to get your body on track for normal restorative sleep patterns:

  • Don’t get reliant on sleeping medication.
  • Keep regular sleep hours.
  • Don’t spend hours laying in bed awake – if you can’t get back to sleep get up and do something for a little bit until you feel sleepy again.
  • Avoid nicotine, excess caffeine, and napping.
  • Develop a relaxing nighttime routine to prepare your brain for sleep.

If you need more help, take a look at this article about insomnia and what to do about it.

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Share your experience with others: Have you had trouble sleeping after quitting smoking? What did you do to deal with the problem? How long did it take for you to get back to normal sleep patterns?

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If you haven’t managed to quit yet, but still want to, read more about the Complete Quit System and how it deals with the psychological aspects of quitting.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

neill simpson September 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I’m in my 19th week of non smoking, and do suffer from sleep depravation but i have a very physical job and notice that while i’m not getting what i regard as a full night’s sleep,, i have noticed that my energy levels are a lot higher. Hope this helps folks. butter side up Neill.

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tabathia segura September 7, 2012 at 1:32 am

I have quit smoking for over a year and still having problems sleeping uugghhh. Before I stopped smoking I could sleep through a hurricane now a pin drops I wake up and cant sleep anymore!!

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robert d August 23, 2013 at 4:38 am

tabathia, I also have quit smoking for over a year and still having problems sleeping! Before I stopped smoking I could sleep through a freight train myself but now it seems with any noise and I wake up and then toss and turn waking up multiple times until i finally just get up.

did you find anything that helped?

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J February 28, 2014 at 5:46 am

Csnt image that helping since you basically agreed and gave no solutions..

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J February 28, 2014 at 5:47 am

Imagine**

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Andy O'Neill November 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

I too have trouble sleeping since i have quit smoking, however I use relax/sleep hypnotherapy apps on my phone on an evening whilst in bed (I personally find the Andrew Johnson relax and deep sleep ones to be the most effective) but there are many to choose from. Am normally gonked out in about half an hour, and sleep really well. hope this helps.

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N December 14, 2012 at 6:35 am

I also have trouble sleeping after I quit smoking for the first time of my entire 10 years of being a smoker. I am on my 6th week of being smoke free. However, my sleep was not at all affected in the first 3 to 4 weeks, this just became a recent problem in the last couple of weeks. It is so frustrating! I was an incredibly deep sleeper when I was smoking and I never had problems falling asleep or staying asleep. Now, I wake up at 3:00 to 3:30 a.m. every night. I am lucky if I can get back to sleep by 5 a.m. Then in less than two hours I have to wake up to go to work. I have dreams almost every night, or every second night, about smoking a cigarette and in my dreams it feels so real. In my dream I feel guilty while smoking but at the same time it feels so good to inhale that puff of the cigarette. I am an active person, I exercise 4 to 7 hours a week. That includes cardio and weight lifting. I recently started doing hot yoga once a week in hopes that would help me to sleep through the night. I do have to admit though, on the days I do exercise, I do sleep better, but I still wake up at 3 a.m., but I get back to sleep much faster compared to on the days I didn’t exercise. So exercise helps a small bit. However, I do feel extremely discouraged. The feeling that my life would be a lot easier if I went back to smoking becomes more and more stronger every single day. I lost a friend when I quit smoking, really I did, the habit was very much like a friend and a reward. If anyone has any advice not just for sleeping but to help with the strong feeling of discouragement as well, please share.

~Tired, frustrated, discouraged, and sad….

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Matt January 9, 2014 at 12:56 am

Hi N,

I remember being told that when you stop Smoking you need to think of it as stopping something NOT quitting. The phrase quitting means you are giving up something you enjoy, stopping is you making a conscious decision to stop doing something you don’t like.

The most important thing is to remember the reasons why you stopped in the first place, it may help to write these down somewhere and whenever you are tempted to revisit these and remind yourself why you stopped.

Surely you don’t miss coughing up a lung in the mornings, the shortness of breath after running up a flight of stairs? The stench on your hair, clothes and breath?

There’s a good reason why cigarettes are considered one of the most addictive and therefore dangerous drugs around, stopping smoking is one of the hardest things any of us will do.

I’d also suggest looking into alternatives to hot yoga as the heat and sweat make this an excellent breeding ground for bacteria, people have been hospitalised after sessions due to the amount of viruses floating around in the moist air.

I wish you all the best, try to maintain the positive attitude you started with.

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gloria January 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Hi Matt
You have said it all so “perfectly”. I recently stopped smoking and it is not easy. I do a lot of talking to myself.
The best to you.

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Ioanna January 21, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Just keep reminding yourself that friends don’t kill you and make you sick- you cigarette friend is shIt and had to go- well done for axing that “friend”

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Brandon March 12, 2013 at 9:09 am

so quit smoking 3 days ago been up for 2 days and had 2hrs of sleep the day before that, feel no cravings or withdrawal’s other than not being able to sleep and ive had insomnia issues ever since i can remember this is way worse than normal i don’t want to smoke cigs anymore and refuse to dammit i wish i had some money i bet some weed would help and the 720mg of caffeine plus 4 mtn dew’s probably isnt helping but i normally drink large amounts of caffeine on a daily basis and still sleep fine why the hell did i have to start smoking tobacco fml

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Kyle Arsenault April 26, 2013 at 12:31 am

i am also having troubles sleeping now that i am quitting smoking cold turkey, been smoking for 4 years and now its to the point where i cant even fall asleep untill the early morning hours!

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Neil B June 5, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I quit smoking just over 4 weeks ago and initially used patches. I stopped using the patches 4 days ago and since then my sleep has been up the wall. I had 2 nights of bad dreams and waking up intermittently and last night I just could not get to sleep. It is now around 4am and it is not worth even trying to get any sleep now tonight. I am a recovering alcoholic/addict and have not had a drink or drug for nearly 9 years and I have obviously experienced many types of withdrawals, but for me the withdrawals associated with coming off the nicotine is a match for anything. This insomnia is another attempt by nicotine to weaken my resolve which will make today a difficult one, however just for today I will try not to have nicotine and tonight I will use some of the good suggestions I have read here and on other sites to help me sleep so that I can have a better day tomorrow.

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Jen June 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Great to hear everyone here has given up…keep it up & be strong. It’s almost 4am now and i’m wide awake. I gave up on Friday (cold turkey) and since then i’ve hardly slept. I normally sleep like a log. I’m eating like crazy and have had bad withdrawals. Today i’ve shouted alot at my husband. I know it will get better and I feel positive about giving up despite everything. We should be proud, quitting isn’t easy. Good luck x

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annoyed March 13, 2014 at 1:51 am

Nobody has given up on here and I’m sure they’re very proud of themselves. They are TIRED, as expected!

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Quitting Dude August 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I quit recently and, while I’m able to at least sleep, I too have been waking up numerous times throughout a sleeping period. One commenter mentioned that their consumption of caffeine isn’t helping, and they were right. I know from experience and have read from multiple sources that your body can’t handle caffeine the way it does when you mix it with nicotine. If you quit smoking (using nicotine, however you do it) you should cut your caffeine consumption in half. I’ve come across conflicting figures but one source claims that nicotine use doubles your bodies metabolic rate of caffeine. I know cutting back on caffeine will be hard for those addictive personalities such as myself out there, but if you want to quit smoking, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble by heeding this advice. If you’re also stubborn, you might learn from experience and succeed at abstaining longer on your next attempt.

Anyway, the point of all that rambling was that if you use caffeine, pay close attention to how much you consume. Monitor it, and cut back. I’ve cut my consumption to a little over half. I don’t get those buzzing caff highs anymore but as a plus, I have more steady energy throughout the day.

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Deanna August 2, 2013 at 6:48 am

Hey Quitting Dude,

That’s excellent advice, and right on the money. After you quit you can cut your caffeine by about half and still get the same effect as your ‘full’ dose from before you quit. I recommend mixing your regular coffee at home with half decaf, or asking for ‘half caf’ at the coffee shops. Most will accommodate that. Don’t forget that sodas and tea also have caffeine, so if you drink any significant amount of those, you’ll want to be sure you’re mixing in non-caffienated versions about half the time. Finally, if you find yourself drinking *more* coffee or tea after you quit to deal with feelings of deprivation, consider drinking herbal tea (for something hot) or water with a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange (for something cold). The beauty of those choices is they give you something you can drink with abandon – no restrictions – and no bad impact (assuming that they are not sweetened).

Good luck to everyone!

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Fay Goddard November 25, 2013 at 4:08 am

Hi all! Congrats to everyone!!
Well im on my 8th day on bieng a none smoker. And i was awake till about 3am last night and woke up at 6 and was wide awake. I cannot live on this little sleep (mardy is not the word) im on step one of the patch programme and keep telling myself why im doing it. So very determind this time! I will beat you horrible nicotine!!!!!!!!!
Good luck to everyone and hope you get some sleep soon :)

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Franklin December 9, 2013 at 7:44 am

Hey guys, through reading these comments, I’m glad to see that most of us have a positive outlook on the future. Though, it is discouraging to see that some people haven’t smoked in years and still have troubles sleeping. As for people who have quit a week ago or less, it’s perfectly normal not to get sleep, I didn’t sleep for one full hour in the first 3 days of quitting. It’s been over 2 weeks for me now, which still isn’t a long enough time in my opinion to readjust my sleep patterns. I was beginning to think that I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t get my brain to shut up, even when my body was fatigued. It’s uncanny for me how similar my situation is to ‘N’s’ situation, beginning with his sentence: “I was an incredibly deep sleeper when I was smoking…”. I too dream almost every night, and I love that fact, but cigarettes usually tend to make their way into my dreams and it pisses me off. I always wake up thinking that I’ve actually smoked and ruined all of my effort, I feel very guilty during my dream and even still a little bit after I wake and realize the truth. Not my best friend, but the one who I’ve known the longest and have spent the most time with have been growing further apart. He was the influence which got me into smoking cigs and weed, every time we were together, we smoked both cigs and weed. Ever since I told him I quit, he’s still been subtly asking if I want to smoke weed. I’m sure that he love me to give up on my efforts and go back to smoking both, because he knows he doesn’t have the will power to quit himself. So, I’ve been distancing myself for good reasons, and it sucks to lose a friend like that, but to be honest, he’s not a good friend. He’s not the type of friend who will push you to become a better version of yourself, possibly because he himself works a minimum wage job, has only a highschool education and seemingly has no aspirations in life. I’ve lost about 5 valuable years of my life smoking cigs and weed, but I started going to the gym over a year ago, started eating nothing but healthy food over 3 months ago and have quit smoking both cigs and weed over 2 weeks ago. On top of this, I’ve been able to prioritize my school work in the past few months. I’m starting to make up for lost time and beginning to shape my life into what I would like it to be. I hope everyone can see through my efforts and the efforts of everyone on this page that change is possible. You can get yourself out of that slumber, no matter how long it has taken over your life, it has to come from within you. For me, it was a powerful urge to WAKETHEFUCKUP and begin living a real life! :) Congrats to all who have made the effort to quit smoking, I would consider you to be a strong minded individual despite what you or other might think.

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Jodie January 16, 2014 at 1:37 am

Thank you for a very inspirational post! Yes, I’ve woke the fuck up to see how my life is and how I want (need!) it to be. Maybe you can be an example for the guy who has no will power. And don’t judge too quick. I’ve been surprised before and found there are people you’d never expect to get their shit together and they do. Maybe it takes a good friend to motivate them? At any rate I’m really trying to change a lot of bad habits. I’ve gotten into a slump but I’m doing the things I need to do to change my life in a positive way.

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Mary December 18, 2013 at 2:56 am

Today is day 7 of cold turkey. Thank you all for the posts, they really do help me stay strong. I haven’t slept for more than 2 hrs in a row since I quit, really getting me down. That’s what addiction does though right? It tries to break down all of your defenses until you just give in. I will not give in today, really trying to take it hour by hour. I’m tired of people looking at me with disgust, tired of smelling bad, tired of trying to find a place to hide to smoke. The world has moved on and so must I.

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Deanna December 19, 2013 at 6:36 am

Mary, congratulations to you on your quit! You are correct, that seems to be the nature of addiction. Are you able to be active/exercise at all? That can begin to help with the sleeping issue, if it’s not something you’re already doing.

I’m glad to hear the blog/posts help, and will be holding you in my thoughts as you get through this. You can do it!!

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gary c December 23, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I also am on my 7th day smoke free. Its 6:30am and ive been up since 3:00am. I took this sleep deprived time to research whats going on with me and it turns out im not alone.
Although i dont find it annoying…. I like not feeling as tired staying up later and getting up earlier more refreshed. I read that caffeine is digested upto twice as quick in a smoker thus you have to adjust your caffeine in take.
Good luck with your quit. You will do it!

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Michael W December 28, 2013 at 12:19 am

I gave up smoking two months ago and for the past month I have found sleeping difficult – sometimes I can sleep without a problem whilst other times such as last night I have been unable to sleep more than two hours or so.
I smoked for fifteen years, I am now using nicotine lozenges, I have seldom craved a cigarette in the past two months. I am hoping that next month will be as easy after I finish the lozenges.
The difficult part for me is the intermittent insomnia and occasional grumpy moods.
An unanticipated benefit is that apparently my skin looks far better, people have complimented me on how much healthier I look – that seemed bizarre to me, but apparently your skin suffers due to lack of oxygen whilst you are a smoker.
It was good to read the other opinions on here, thank you all and good luck.

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ivan January 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

i have just stopped smoking day 3 now feel better in myself all ready but only getting 2 hours sleep every night need rest day 3 lol doing fine with out a fag just need to sleep and i have been smoking 39 years good luck to you all

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Chris January 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm

It’s been interesting reading all of your comments, so thanks for that. I’m in the same boat to an extent, smoked for 20 years.

Sleeping habits before (10 rolled up cigarettes a day):

Slept like a log, deeply and dreamed quite a bit (normally cool stuff or women I have no chance with, ah ha!).

Sleeping habits today, the 10th day after stopping:

When I am asleep, i can sleep forever (feel sorry for those that don’t). My trouble is getting to sleep – I’ve had a long day and was feeling tired enough to sleep, but I’m not. I can only put it down to quitting because nothing else is really on my mind. All the surgeries I’ve had (near fatal RTC) are long gone, the pain is still present but it’s no where near as bad.

I didn’t give up because it’s bad for me, or because of social pressure (most friends are smokers, unsurprisingly). I just woke up on New years Day, felt horrible after a heavy nights smoking, and chose not to smoke on that day. That extended to the following day and so on. I’ve always got my smokes on me, but I’ve not even thought about rolling one. Bizarre.

My only issue is the reward of smoking – you know, you might work on a motorbike/car, finish the job and have one. Or you might shuffle important (to you) paperwork in an office, and enjoy the reward of a mid morning/afternoon smoke. That’s what I’m finding difficult, the lack of reward in my day. I’m accepting that I will put on a bit of weight (2lb in a week so far), so I eat chocolate as a reward, but I’m mainly drinking A LOT more tea as my new reward. I feel no benefit in ‘keeping my hands occupied’, I just want a reward…that’s easy! I can kind of see why non-smokers generally achieve more…not just because they’re getting on with whatever job they do, but because they seek real/difficult rewards, not opening up a packet and holding up a lighter. It’s not fair.

Good luck everyone and sorry for the waffle :-)

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Rohit January 9, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Hey everyone,

Feels great to read about everyone’s efforts. I have quit cold turkey after being a smoker for 21 years. It’s been 8 weeks since my last puff. I am feeling great except for one weird sleep related problem. I have no trouble falling asleep (am asleep within 5 minutes of hitting the pillow) but I invariably wake up in between 3 and 4 am (after 4-5 hrs of going to sleep). I stay awake for about 1.5 hrs and then eventually fall asleep again till my alarm sounds @ 6 am.

The problem is I dont feel refreshed and there’s a feeling of exhaustion the whole day. I don’t even know if its related to quitting cigarettes. Any advice?

Rohit

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WannaSmoke January 10, 2014 at 10:25 am

Used a 21mg patch to quit smoking and have stopped using the patch for about two days. While I was smoking I could fall asleep anywhere at any time and sleep for hours. At night it was never a problem laying my head down and then waking up to the alarm. Now I toss and turn all night with brief periods of sleep. I am starting to feel somewhat crazy due to the lack of sleep. Any insight as to how long it will take for me to at least get 4 hours of sleep without disturbance would be greatly appreciated.

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Frrustrated January 19, 2014 at 7:38 am

Thank you all for your comments about your struggles and your triumphs. I am ashamed to say but I have been a smoker for over 25 years and have tried countless times to leave this terrible relationship behind. Day two of not smoking and sleep has not been my companion. Twice last night I said to myself “OK, one more pack and I will make it last a long time and ween myself off”
That was the addiction and the withdraw attempting to make a choice for me. I do not want this anymore. I do not want to slowly hurt my body and , like another post commented. I am tired of hiding out and finding a place to smoke to keep it from others. Years ago, my social circle almost all smoked. I am the last one and want cigarettes to me as far away from memory as the sprain I suffered last summer. Today I will go for a hike and enjoy the accomplishment of JUST ONE MORE DAY.

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Cks January 25, 2014 at 5:08 am

First I quit smoking I just have some symptoms panic attack and heart palpitation. But after 5 month I suffer insomnia already 3 weeks. So anybody know how long to take it recovery? I smoke 18yrs a pack daily. :-/

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kay February 4, 2014 at 5:33 pm

same here first week i cant sleep uts fk up and when i get to work i feel tired fking nicotine ,but am happy to stop and congra to everyone that stop woop woopp

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ryan April 2, 2014 at 11:40 am

well hey guys congrats on everyone quitting so far today is day 20 for me with the exception of having two cigarettes in that time due to stress related things but I shall overlook that, however I have found that on my firt two days I had nightmares that I had a cigarette when I hadn’t and I felt disappointed. this was merely my subconscious talking. however since the 3 night every night I have trouble going to sleep and I toss and turn all night waking up and falling asleep again and again and its really hard for me to fall asleep to. im exhausted every day I do gym and running to tire myself out but it doesn’t work. its really annoying and I have been really irritable and rude to my parents because of it. and it does affect me because I used to reward myself with a fag and now I cant reward myself with anything. getting really upset about this and am really considering that if I don’t improe in the next two days ill probably start smoking again just so ican go to sleep nd be a nicer less stressed person. who ever said that fags increase stress is a bull shitter its when you give them up it makes you more angry!!! sorry for the ramble guys, keep up the good work! x

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Trisha April 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Hi to All. Ive been reading all these comments and i am just starting quitting smoking. I have severe anxiety and im scare about this sleeping thing. I pray to God i can make it. Sleep is important, but a cigarette is not. Just on here to comment. I wish you all the best, abd u hope i can be like all of you who have quit.

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