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I’ve quit – why can’t I sleep?

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?

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.


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?

Ask the Advisor a Question

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.

{ 94 comments… add one }

  • Mussie August 12, 2016, 5:17 PM

    I smoke for 20 years and finally patchs made the miracle for me almost 4 months no cigarette .I use to be a deep sleeper and I wake up at 2:30 Am every night I barely get 3 hours of sleep at night.I really don’t know what to do?

  • Chid August 18, 2016, 1:32 PM

    Day 26 without nicotine. I have been smoking for 15 years now and I quit 26 days back. The first two weeks were easy without any craving for nicotine and I din’t even feel like smoking. However, after the first 15 days I started having insomnia and could hardly get 2-3 hours of sleep at night. I was worried for few days until I read an article that it’s a common symptom.
    It’s 5 am and I have been awake for the past two hours frustrated and depressed and I have to go to work in the next hour :(

  • Hilda Tree September 10, 2016, 8:30 PM

    Hi everyone
    I quit smoking about 4 weeks ago with help of the patch, and not for the first time, although this time I think I’m ready for my happy new habit to stick – the habit that’s called deep breathing and wonderful, full awareness. I feel like a smoke screen between me and the world has been lifted, how uplifting it is even if I’m also kind of exhausted at the moment. But rather than talk about my own experience, I wanted to address a few of the themes I see popping up on this forum. One thing is that there’s somethjing called the internal body clock which determines which of our organs are active at which time of day. So if you always wake up between, say, 3.30 and 4.30 am, or between 1 and 2 am, this indicates that you are having an issue with the organ that is active at that time of the day. Please look up the internal body clock for more information on this. My guess is that this didn’t bother you as a smoker because there were too many other disturbances going on so your body couldn’t register this particular imbalance but now that you are “clean,” subtler issues are coming to the surface. Another reason perhaps that you didn’t wake up at that time previously may be that the body was just so exhausted from having to struggle through a whole day day of inhaling toxins that it was too tired to wake up and deal with any disturbance taking place on a deeper level. I learned about the internal body clock from my acupuncturist and although I dont know much about it, Ive read about it in a few difference sources now and I want to learn more about it. The other thing Id like to mention is that there is a homeopathic remedy called Kali Phosphoricum (Kali Phos for short) that I have found extremely effective for inducing sleep, or at least very deep relaxation. It helps relax the central nervous system, so it’s actually good for you, and it really works. You can try taking 1-2 pills during the day if you feel edgy and 6 before you sleep at night. Dissolve them under the tongue and wait 5-10 min for them to work. I believe they come in different potencies but I’ve taken the one called 6X and have used them in this manner to great effect. You should be able to get Kali Phos at a good natural pharmacy or to order them online. Reading all your posts has been really motivational for me. Good luck to everyone and let’s continue to be free and inspired and self-determining!

  • Lorenzo 'Zo' February 2, 2017, 1:55 AM

    Well I quit smoking 2 1/2 weeks ago, but my sleep has just started to effect me where I can’t stay sleep, and now I can’t even go to sleep. I have lab at 8am till 9:50 and class from 10:50 – 1:30, with a 10 min break in between, I hope I don’t fall asleep and can’t wake up that hour in between lab and 1st lecture. I was wondering what’s going with me, the crazy dreams, waking up every hour, and I just decided to Google side effects of stop smoking on long term smokers, of which I am, as I smoked for 30 years. I quit before for 2 1/2 months and only effect was overeating, and gaining 25 lbs, but I could sleep. Now I’m not overeating, I made changes in my diet, don’t drink sodas pretty much, none in my home, only use sweet n low in my coffee. But I will try and cut back my consumption as someone here suggested, I too don’t want to use sleep medications, but if I don’t sleep tonight, I will do some this weekend for the superbowl on Sunday, gotta be up for that. I’m on my way to being a permanent non smoker like I was before my 27th birthday, and I just quit before my 57th, and my driving factor is money, health, and I’m tired of the smell and hoops you have to go thru to smoke, plus it wasn’t enjoyable anymore, just a bad, expensive habit I couldn’t shake for a long while. I thank my lady for coming into my life right when I was ready to quit again and being my support, push, encouraging me to quit, as she is allergic to smoke, thank God! I pray all those who are struggling with urges, depressed, or faltering, I say this, I was once addicted to drugs and alcohol too, used those for 19 years, but I celebrate 20 years from them this year, with only positive side effects, more money, loved ones, self respect and a relationship with myself and God, and stopping cigarettes only enhances all that, so think about that before you light up one again, hope that’s a help to someone, if not, it is for me.

  • Scott March 2, 2017, 12:56 PM

    I have quit smoking a few times and always experience insomnia each time. I have just quit again (this is it) and straight away lapsed into not sleeping. I know it is my brain needing nicotine so I tried chewing the crap out of a piece of nicorette gum just before bed and slept like a baby! This has been working for a couple of weeks now and I figure that it is much better to sleep with a little nicotine in my system than to smoke. Worth a try for those experiencing insomnia.

  • Anton April 23, 2017, 4:30 PM

    Sleep difficulty is hard to deal with for sure. I’m having it myself.
    I think some perspective is needed though:
    – sleep disturbances may resolve in a few weeks or may last several months.
    – reading these comments might make you fear that it’s never going to get better because there are a few worst case stories.
    – in any case given that sleep disturbance *may* last long enough to test your resolve – and given that as part of quitting you have decided that cigarettes are *not* the solution for any of life’s problems, you need to address the sleep issues directly.
    – so decide this ‘I hate this sleep problem and I need to deal with it, but smoking is not even on the list of possible solutions’. Then work on the sleep problem.
    – If it’s mild and you can handle it, just accept that it’s part of the process and will get better in time.
    – If it’s intolerable, start taking actions to deal with it.

  • Prithvi Tipirneni October 24, 2017, 2:36 PM

    I’ve stopped smoking cold turkey 7 days ago (been a smoker for a year and half, smoked about 5-6 cigs a day when i stopped). I do feel a weird sensation in my head sometimes during the day, but not associating it with nicotine desire helped me keep my cravings to a minimum. I could not sleep for 50-60 hours straight when i first stopped, but exhausting myself by running 3-4 miles helped me get back my sleep. Make sure to eat healthy and be hydrated before you sleep, as you may find yourself waking up again due to hunger/thirst when you exhaust yourself. Hope that helps

  • Sean October 26, 2017, 10:03 PM

    I have experienced lack of sleep. I was fine when I was on the nicotine lozenges but since going nicotine free I’m awake most of the time. I am not as tired as I would think from lack of sleep as when I do fall asleep I fall into a deep sleep even though it’s only for 3 hours. For everyone who has quit well done and keep it up!!!!

  • JB February 4, 2018, 5:36 PM

    I quit smoking after thirty years and it wasn’t easy. The first week I was doing okay after the first week i could not get any sleep. I started talking melatonin to help me get some sleep that wasn’t working either. After the the third week I was going crazy I had to go back to smoking. Three weeks ago I got really bad flue and I quit smoking again. My sleep is really messed up I’m not getting any sleep. Sometimes I get really tired I get some sleep but I cannot fall in sleep very deep and after a few hours I woke up and I can’t go back to sleep. It’s very hard now I really stress I don’t know what to do. Anyone has any idea?

  • Chris white March 30, 2018, 2:00 AM

    All u people r very lucky ok u r up in the night not able to sleep but if u kept on with the cigs u would be up not able to sleep and coughing your lung up like me . Smoked from 14 now 70 never a big smoker only 4 a day last 25 years but the damage has been done and nobody escapes it . Now find out there are many incurable lung problems u get from smoking so escape while u still can. Good luck all Chris white xxx

  • pete April 29, 2018, 8:18 PM

    smoked for 42 years 30 to 40 per day. Quit 3 or 4 times before. Just miss it like crazy. I just quit for 10 weeks, and in a weak moment started again . 15 prepay for6 days. Read Alan Carr the easy way to stop smoking. It was great. Quit cold turkey 10 days ago. Now the cravings are back and the insomnia is killing me. Haven’t slept more than 2 hours at a time for 2 months. Im afraid I might go back because of it just to get my normal life back.

  • Joanne August 2, 2018, 7:00 AM

    I’m soo glad I found this thread and hope someone responds. I met my husband 4 years ago, we were both smokers but had both been able to quit for long periods of time before we met. Shortly after we met I managed to quit for 3 months, then I went back smoking. Since we have been living together for nearly 3 years now the quitting smoking is torture. I feel that I want it and try harder than him but its sooo hard to stay consistent when cigarettes are in my home on a weekly basis. I moan at him to quit so I don’t have the temptation around me but I need to be able to do this on my own. I have managed to cut it down to only at weekends but then every week then come Tuesday I am going trough the withdrawal again – insomnia etc. I have tried everything, patches, lazer therapy, regular therapy, I’ve even looked for support groups but there are non in my area. If anyone on here has a simular situation – their partner smokes but they are trying desperately to try and would like some support then please reach out to me and lets try and support each other.

  • Scott Blight September 2, 2018, 4:06 AM

    I quit smoking cold turkey after a decade plus its been 4 and a half weeks and last few days ive been having trouble sleeping.

  • J-Deench November 4, 2018, 1:14 AM

    I began changing my life habits 14 days ago. I relapsed 7 days in and immediately restarted my new way of living. I didn’t get the 8th day. But began again on the 9th. Disappointed and I figured out why I did so good then suddenly reverted backwards. I used nicotine lozenges and found for me that the lozenges helped my reactions to external triggers. But, they also kept my nicotine addiction alive. I would keep craving cigarettes daily and found myself relying on the lozenges next which kept me falling backwards into smoking. I am finally deciding to rely on myself now. My inability to sleep is all withdrawal related. Since I am going off of the lozenges and facing the withdrawal symptoms head-on, I am reading up on the symptoms. I am returning to using imagery of my favorite peaceful place with gentle relaxing sounds of trickling waterfalls and my bed floating softly on a lagoon. The stars twinkling above and candles aglow on the shores. There’s also the soft fluttering of fairy wings. Lol! I haven’t used that one in years. I am currently full of sludge as my body has begun to rid itself of the tar, etc. I am hoping to be breathing well enough this week to begin exercising to help with sleep regulation. I am also getting on a strict eating schedule to give myself what I need and reduce the weight gain.
    I am very in tune spiritually to God and if that doesn’t bode well with someone, then tough titty! Lol! The reason I say that is for months I have been praying that I cannot accomplish this by myself. I’m too doggone powerless. I would power through a week or two and give up. I was angry all the time wondering why I wanted to quit so bad but not sticking to it. I realized I wanted the help from the divine to make it easier. Recently I prayed for the strength to endure the withdrawal head on. It was given to me. And I’ve begun feeling it hardcore but without the overpowering urge to light up. In fact, the more I suffer makes my disgust for that horrendous habit more distanced. FYI, for anybody thinking that you just need one more pack to give you the strength to endure quitting… you’re just giving in to your addictive thinking. It will never get easier until you decide to finally endure the withdrawal and invite your divine belief into the process. If using patches or lozenges, gum helps you initially then use them. Just realize the withdrawal from those is ahead. Do you want to be done with it or keep feeding your nicotine addiction? Because relapses are real staying on replacements for extended periods of time for some people. I believe the first 3-5 days is enough for nicotine replacements. Just to rid oneself of the preservatives and chemicals outside of the nicotine itself. Of course, that depends on which chemicals you preferred. I found myself more addicted to the preservatives in Marlboro cigarettes. I could feel high/dizzy from my first cig of the day. This method described works for me. If you’re addicted to the nicotine only, then I don’t know what would work best for that initially except going cold turkey. I would recommend taking vacation days for a couple weeks in the event you get sick coughing up tar, etc. If you work. That’s it for me!

  • Margaret December 26, 2018, 3:22 PM

    I have give up smoking 9 weeks now feel bit better I go to sleep but wake up every fucking night around 3 in morning awake till 6 morning feel warn out but I’m no way going back to cancer sticks stay positive if you can everyone all the best marg x

  • Malissoa March 20, 2019, 3:43 AM

    I have been smoke free for 6 weeks now. I have smoked for 20 years, 7 cigarettes a day. I will fall asleep about 10pm every night but will wake up at 1am and cannot fall back to sleep. How long will this last, im so tired!!!

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  • Gomez February 17, 2021, 2:32 AM

    Wow this article has simply answered my search for solutions to the insomnia I have had since quitting smoking on Xmas day 2020. What a wonderful news to learn that it’s part of the withdrawal symptoms… I will never return to smoking again… Never.

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