If you’re a social smoker, you more than likely don’t identify as a “smoker.” You also may not realise that as soon as you start smoking changes start to happen in your body, your pulse rate and blood pressure instantly increase and your heart is forced to work harder. Although you may only smoke every now and then with friends or family, this still affects not only your health, but your sleep as well.
Have you ever found it hard to get to sleep when you’ve smoked on a night out? This is because nicotine makes your heart race faster and can make you feel more alert, so you feel more awake when you’re trying to fall asleep. There is also evidence to suggest that smoking increases the likelihood of both snoring and sleep apnoea, which means when you do fall asleep it may not be so soundly.
Sleep apnoea happens when a person’s throat is partly or completely blocked while they are asleep, causing them to stop breathing. Breathing can stop for anywhere between a few and 90 seconds. These episodes, which can happen many times a night, are known as apnoeas. The sufferer is often unaware of it happening, but will wake feeling tired.
Some people believe that having a cigarette before bed or in the middle of the night helps you to relax. This is not the case. Nicotine is a stimulant and makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. To ensure your sleep is not affected by cigarettes, smoking should be avoided a minimum of 2 hours before bed.
If you’re a social smoker wanting to quit, there are a number of measures you can try:
- Ask friends to discourage you from smoking in social situations.
- Cutting down on alcohol can also help some social smokers who tend to smoke more when they drink.
- Develop a plan for how to avoid situations where you are around people who smoke or places that you would typically smoke, to prevent triggers.
- Think about the people around you who have to breathe in the smoke you exhale in social situations. The smoke affects their health too.
- Talk to your GP for advice.