The neurotoxin nicotine - why smoking disturbs sleep

Smokers sleep less well - but why? Cigarette smoke and the nicotine it contains are harmful to our health and have a negative impact on our sleep. Here you can find out how nicotine affects the body and why smoking not only prevents a healthy everyday life, but also a restful sleep.

Table of Contents

  1. Health risk smoking
  2. The neurotoxin nicotine
  3. How does nicotine work?
  4. How nicotine and smoking harm sleep
  5. Overview: The effect of nicotine on sleep
  6. Smoke free for better sleep

Health risk smoking

Almost a quarter of Germans regularly reach for a cigarette, although smoking is considered to be one of the greatest avoidable health risks for us humans and causes serious long-term damage to both the body and the psyche. The main active ingredient nicotine in particular affects the organism in a wide variety of harmful ways and not only leads to strong dependence, but also prevents restful sleep and promotes the development of sleep disorders.

The neurotoxin nicotine

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Struktur des Nervengifts Nikotin

Nicotine is a naturally occurring chemical compound and, like alcohol or caffeine, is one of the so-called neurotoxins. It is found naturally in the leaves of the tobacco plant in particular and is therefore one of the main active ingredients in all tobacco products and cigarettes. A standard cigarette contains up to 13 mg nicotine, of which between 1 and 2 mg are absorbed directly into the body through smoking. Due to its stimulating effect on the human organism and various areas of the nervous system, nicotine can impair health in many ways and also significantly disturb our sleep.

How does nicotine work?

After inhaling, nicotine reaches the brain within a few seconds and activates the so-called reward system there, which increases the production of the "happiness hormone" dopamine. This triggers feelings of relaxation and well-being, which are largely responsible for the dangerously addictive potential of the active ingredient. Because nicotine works quickly, but is broken down just as quickly and then has to be added again to maintain the effect.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Die Wirkung und Wirkdauer von Nikotin

Nicotine is not called a "nerve poison" without reason! Nicotine primarily triggers stress in the body and stimulates the release of the stress hormones norepinephrine, adrenaline or vasopressin. This puts our body on high alert, causing heart rate and blood pressure to rise, blood vessels to constrict, and the nervous system to activate. Repeated nicotine consumption puts our body in a state of stress again and again, which means that our nerve function and the cardiovascular system suffer in the long term. And that's not all, because nicotine also affects the fat metabolism and the regulation of blood sugar levels, damages the gastrointestinal system and promotes the activation of carcinogenic substances.

How nicotine & smoking harm sleep

Smokers find it harder to fall asleep, sleep shorter and less restfully – scientific studies and surveys have been able to prove this. According to the studies, regular cigarette consumption makes it more difficult to fall asleep, reduces the quality of sleep and the feeling of restfulness the next morning and overall ensures a significantly shorter sleep. The examination of the brain activity of test persons who smoke showed that they spent comparatively less time in deep sleep but longer time in a lighter sleep state than non-smoking test persons.

The reason is certainly the interaction of the different active ingredients that are absorbed by the body when smoking.Nicotine, the main active ingredient in particular, stimulates the nerves and impairs important bodily functions such as metabolism, hormone production or the cardiovascular system. In this way, the natural sleep rhythm is disrupted and our body is prevented from resting properly and to fall asleep. In addition, the shortened deep sleep ensures that the body and brain cannot regenerate sufficiently during the night. Last but not least, the lung function and respiratory tract also suffer from the harmful smoke, so that free breathing during sleep is prevented. Statistically, smokers snore more frequently, which also has a negative effect on sleep.

smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Schlecht schlafen und wach liegen durch Nikotin und Rauchen

Overview: The effect of nicotine on sleep

  • Hard falling asleep: Nicotine activates the nervous system and puts the body under stress, which prevents relaxation in the evening and keeps those affected awake longer.
  • Shortened sleep duration / lack of sleep: Nicotine disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle and shortens the nightly sleep duration
  • Poor sleep / reduced sleep quality: The neurotoxin appears to have a negative effect on the alternation between sleep phases, especially at the beginning of the night, and to reduce the proportion of deep sleep overall, which reduces sleep quality and makes sleep less restful.

Smoke free for better sleep

Smoking affects our health and also damages it by significantly impairing sleep. Sleep disorders and insomnia ensure that we suffer from fatigue, poor performance and stress on the day. This, in turn, is also detrimental to health and makes sleep even more difficult – which in turn increases cravings for the relaxing effects of nicotine. A vicious circle that we should definitely avoid. So that we can not only sleep well, but lead a long and healthy life, we should refrain from smoking in any form or at least try to reduce nicotine consumption to a minimum.


  • Smoking is one of the greatest health risks and not only reduces the quality of life, but also promotes sleep disorders and insomnia, which is also harmful to health.
  • Nicotine is a neurotoxin which, as the main active ingredient in tobacco products, has a particularly harmful effect on nerve function and the cardiovascular system and has a high potential for addiction.
  • Nicotine leads to problems falling asleep, shortens the duration of sleep and makes sleep less restful.

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