Up in smoke: How vaping can impact your sleep quality

Cut through the smoke and get the facts with Pilot.

Written by
Sarah Stivens
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 15, 2024
min read
Up in smoke: How vaping can impact your sleep quality
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When vaping and e-cigarettes hit the scene, a lot of us got caught up in the marketing —believing that they were just a healthier (and better tasting) alternative to traditional cigarettes.

But as we learn more about vaping and electronic cigarette use, it's clear that the influencers and marketing gurus might have done us dirty.

Scientists are now discovering a bunch of vaping side effects — from erectile dysfunction to hair loss — but the one that surprised us the most? How vaping can affect your sleep.

If you're counting sheep for a little too long, it might be time to put the vape to bed. In this article, we'll explore the connection between vaping and sleep health. We'll even throw in some tips for better sleep along the way!

Does smoking affect sleep?

Even though we've been taught about all the health issues smoking can cause, around 1 in 10 Australians smoke cigarettes daily. Scary images on cigarette packets send a pretty clear message: smoking causes 13% of deaths in Australia every year [1].

But how does it affect sleep? According to scientists, a few different ways.

Sleep structure

You've probably heard about the 5 different stages of sleep, or at least about REM (rapid eye movement) vs NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. This is referred to as sleep structure or sleep architecture [2].

Studies have shown that smoking can change the fundamental structure of your sleep! People who smoke spend more time in a shallower sleep state, as well as experiencing shorter sleep duration and more sleep disturbances compared to non-smokers [3].

Insomnia symptoms

Smoking has also been linked to insomnia — which usually shows up as symptoms like finding it hard to fall asleep, or difficulty staying asleep.

In the above studies, people who smoke also reported experiencing lots of daytime sleepiness, feeling like they never get enough sleep, or just generally feeling unrested [3].

So in a nutshell, yes. Smoking can definitely mess up your slumber. But why?

Why smoking causes poor sleep

Lots of research has been dedicated to figuring out why smoking doesn't agree with our sleep cycles. The verdict is a mix of factors, such as:

  • Nicotine is a stimulant, which means it can increase your heart rate, and blood pressure, and make you more alert (not ideal for sleeping!)
  • Withdrawals from nicotine can come on pretty quickly, so are likely to show up when you're trying to sleep. In fact, insomnia is a key nicotine withdrawal symptom
  • Nicotine stimulates the parts of your brain related to your sleep-wake cycle, making it more likely for sleep to go awry if you smoke. Also, the later in the evening someone smokes, the more likely their sleep will be messed up
  • People who smoke may experience other health issues from smoking, which can wake them up at night. For example, coughing and breathing problems, diabetes, etc [3]

Many smokers experience some or all of these sleep issues, which to be honest, doesn't sound like much fun. But what about vaping and sleep?

Does vaping affect sleep?

The short answer is yes. Vaping can affect sleep in a lot of ways — just like cigarette smoking.

Even though vapes and e-cigarettes are often advertised as 'not as bad' as regular cigarettes, it's probably time we delved a little deeper. They've also been touted as a way to quit smoking (even though there's little evidence suggesting vaping helps you quit cigarettes) [4].

Firstly, a lot of e-liquid or vape fluid still contains nicotine [5]. This means vaping can cause a lot of the same side effects we mentioned above: insomnia, nicotine withdrawal, and other health issues. Also, don't get us started on some of the other chemicals you might find in your vape refills.

Interestingly, research shows that people who only started vaping occasionally still experienced sleep issues. And vaping habits are strongly linked to sleep medicine use — if you vape, you're more likely to need medication to sleep [5].

Then there's the accessibility of vaping. It doesn't have the same social stigma (yet!) as smoking regular cigarettes, and a lot of people consider their vapes more convenient, portable, and quicker to use.

This can mean getting a quicker nicotine hit more regularly throughout the day, leading to a higher daily nicotine intake overall. And, you guessed it — the more nicotine in your system, the harder it will be to fall asleep [5].

Does vaping cause obstructive sleep apnoea?

Have you ever woken up from deep sleep to the sound of your own snores? (Don't worry, your secret is safe with us).

Snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) — a condition where your throat is blocked (completely or partially) when you're asleep. This causes you to stop breathing; usually for 10-90 seconds at a time.

Then, your body will wake up to restart your breathing. You might not even realise you're waking up during the night, but will usually feel tired the next day [6].

Smoke inhalation (whether from cigarettes or vaping) has been directly linked to OSA. This is because it can irritate your throat and airways, causing inflammation. This inflammation then narrows the air passages, and in some cases, causes them to collapse.

That's where sleep apnoea comes in — your body tries to get air in any way it can, including waking you up to try and unblock your nasal passages or throat [7].

We don't want to be totally doom and gloom here, but it's important to know that vaping also increases your risk of damage to the lungs [4].

Over the last few years, there have been increasing reports of serious respiratory illnesses and even deaths caused by vaping. Conditions like pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis have all been linked to vaping [4].

This has been attributed to the different chemicals found in e-liquids and vaping fluids, which can cause serious harm to the lungs [4]. Clearly, anything that's affecting your breathing that much won't be helping with a peaceful bedtime.

How to improve your sleep quality

All of this talk about sleep is making us.... kinda sleepy? If you have been struggling with sleep, for whatever reason, here are some of our top tips for a better night's rest.

Stick to a regular bedtime routine

Going to bed at the same time each night helps your body know when it's time to start slowing down.

This means sticking to your routine even on the weekends! If you need to, set a reminder for when your wind-down for bed should start [8].

Set yourself up for snoozy success

Apparently, you can't just jump into bed and expect your brain to sleep immediately? Rude. By being mindful of the things you do before bed and focusing on relaxation, you can improve your sleep quality.

This might be taking a warm bath or shower, gentle exercise like yoga, or meditation, or having a hot (caffeine-free) drink [8].

Reduce screen time and stimulants

You've heard it all before, but just a reminder: the blue light emitted from your screens and devices is a big old sleep disruptor. Same as stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.

Avoid using screens for at least an hour before bedtime, and avoid caffeine or nicotine for at least 4-6 hours before trying to sleep [8].

No forcing it, no clock-watching, no naps

By forcing it, we mean laying there all night wondering when sleep is going to happen. If you're staring at the ceiling for more than 20 minutes, it's actually more helpful to get up and do something calming until you feel sleepy again. Read something boring, keep the lights low, and go back to bed when you feel tired.

Don't, and we really mean it, keep checking the clock. This can create negative thoughts and anxiety about sleep — which surprisingly aren't that helpful?

Lastly, try your best to avoid napping during the day. We know you're tired, but naps can really disrupt your sleep schedule — meaning you're less likely to be tired at bedtime.

If you absolutely can't function without a nap, make sure it's for less than an hour and not too close to bedtime [8].

Clinical sleep treatment

Even if you do your best to follow all the sleep hygiene tips out there, sometimes sleep can still be a little evasive. That's where Pilot can help.

Pilot's sleep support is a dual-action formula that contains the body’s own hormone for regulating sleep and an all-natural relaxant to tackle the stresses that keep us awake. Together, they work to regulate the sleep cycle.

As well as being a non-drowsy formula, so you won't wake up feeling groggy, our treatment is also natural and non-habit forming. Simply take an online consult and an Aussie practitioner will recommend a treatment plan.

And, when it comes to vaping, know that this is a judgement-free zone. We know that quitting smoking or vaping isn't an easy road, but if you find your sleep quality isn't what it used to be, cigarettes or vapes may be the culprit.

You don't have to manage it alone though — keep these sleep hygiene tips handy, and make sure to reach out to a health professional for help when you need it.

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