Posted on Saturday, June 1st, 2024 at 12:48 pm    

The link between smoking and diseases like lung cancer and COPD has long been established, but did you know smoking could even affect the quality and safety of your sleep? According to research by the Mayo Clinic, smokers are three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than those who have never taken a drag. Not only does apnea impact the quality of a patient’s sleep, but it also increases their risk of developing cardiovascular and other health problems. Here’s what you need to know

The Link Between Smoking and Sleep Apnea

Research indicates that there is a strong link between smoking and the development of obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a medical condition characterized by the periodic interruption of a person’s breathing while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea can occur when the throat muscles or tongue relax to the point where they block airflow into the lungs. When the airway narrows or closes, it lowers the oxygen level in the blood. The brain senses the person is not breathing and briefly wakes the person, interrupting vital sleep cycles.

There are several different factors that may increase smokers’ risk of developing sleep apnea. First, smoking causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. Significant inflammation can narrow a person’s airways and increase the likelihood of breathing problems at night. The inflammation can also cause fluid retention and increase the body’s mucus production. More mucus in the nasal passageways and throat can further obstruct a person’s airway, making breathing even more challenging at night.

Nicotine, the addictive compound in cigarettes, may also play a role in increasing the risk of developing sleep apnea. Nicotine can relax the muscles in the upper airway, increasing the chances that the person’s airway will be obstructed by their soft palate, tongue, or throat muscles.

Technically, nicotine is a stimulant. Yet many smokers say that taking a drag helps them feel calm and relaxed, reducing their anxiety. Nicotine’s stimulating effects trigger the release of adrenaline in the brain. It also binds to the brain’s reward centers and triggers a release of dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain that makes people feel good.

The stimulating effect of nicotine interferes with the body’s ability to relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep and can contribute to a feedback loop. A person feels anxious and can’t get to sleep, so they smoke to relax and get a hit of dopamine, but the nicotine stimulates the brain further, making it harder to fall asleep and causing more anxiety.

If you think you can avoid inflammation, mucus production, and irritation by consuming e-cigarettes instead, think again. The nicotine and chemicals in e-cigs can also contribute to the development of sleep apnea.

Help for Your Sleep Apnea Is Only a Click Away

Sleep apnea can cause more than grumpy mornings. It can significantly affect your overall health and wellness. Thankfully, the team at Silent Night Therapy is here to help. We can evaluate your situation and put you on the path to better sleep. Call us today at 631-983-2463 and schedule a sleep consultation.