Insomnia, Nicotine and Sleepless Nights

By Jonathon Byron

Feeling tired? If you said yes, you're not alone, we could all use just a little more energy from time to time. A hot cup of coffee is the typical go to drink to kick start our day and then perhaps a red bull later in the day to keep us going. It's no wonder that energy drinks have blossomed into a 20 billion dollar a year industry over the last decade. Unfortunately for many of us, "just a little short of energy" doesn't sum up how we feel a good portion of the time.

Simply feeling tired is not reason for panic nor is it necessarily the result of a medical condition, but for many of us, it goes much deeper than that. Millions of Americans go through their daily routine feeling drained just as the did the days and weeks before. For some, these periods can escalate to months and even years due to their inability to get a good night's sleep. This inability to get the adequate sleep we need is a condition known as Insomnia. Insomnia is described as the difficulty of falling asleep, staying asleep or both, despite the opportunity to do so. This deprivation of sleep or poor quality of sleep leaves us feeling less than refreshed during the day and can often be the result of poor decisions we've made along the way.

Do you smoke? Health officials claim that more than 1 billion people around the world indulge in this ever so increasingly socially unacceptable habit. Smoking, along with other health implications that come along with it, can have a major impact on your ability to get the sleep you need because of all the chemicals inhaled in the process, namely nicotine. Not only will it have an impact on how quickly you fall asleep, it can have just as big of an impact on your ability to stay asleep.

Remember, Insomnia in part, is the inability to fall asleep. You should think twice before lighting up that late evening cigarette. Within a matter of seconds after taking your first puff, the nicotine immediately begins to reduce the oxygen supply to the heart making each beat less effective. Your blood vessels begin to narrow because of the formation of blood clots and your blood pressure increases immediately. As a result of this, your heart rate must increase in order to supply the same amount of oxygen to your muscles and organs as it had done so prior to the sudden influx of nicotine in your system. During this period your brain activity increases leaving you alert and feeling elated. Despite the common belief that smoking has a calming and relaxing effect, it will actually work against you when it comes time to lay your head on your pillow. Although Nicotine can be detected in your system for up to three days, its immediate stimulation effects that impact your ability to fall asleep will stick around for only a short while. The duration of this short period will differ from person to person. We'll just assume, for argument's sake, that you've just postponed your sleep by one hour.

Now comes the second wave, your inability to stay asleep. Once you've found yourself in dreamland if you're lucky enough to get to that stage of sleep, your body will begin experiencing the effects of withdrawals resulting in a diminished quality of sleep or bouts of interrupted and shallow sleep. There's not a lot of difference between not sleeping and poor quality sleep when it comes to recharging your body. The amount of sleep required to make one feel refreshed can vary from person to person. Four and a half hours of good sleep for some people is more than enough. Others need as many as nine hours or more per day to reach the same level as those who require much less. Regardless of where you fall on this scale, if the quality of sleep you experience is less than optimal, it doesn't matter how many hours are spent doing so. Your body will not rejuvenate itself. You will suffer and will continue to do so until you're able to take steps toward chipping away at what's keeping you awake.

There are many factors that contribute to one's Insomnia, which can include stress, depression, diet and your environment. The best defense is a good understanding of what is causing yours. If you are suffering from Insomnia and are a smoker or any other form tobacco user, perhaps a slight change on when you choose to light up late in the evening can be a good first step towards your goal of a better night's sleep.