No Smoke, No Sleep
June 15, 2010 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any good methods for "hacking" nicotine-reduction insomnia? I'm quitting smoking, and I can successfully handle the withdrawal during the day using meditation, exercise and willpower. However, when it's time to sleep, I just don't get sleepy or tired unless I have a cigarette.

Is it the nicotine withdrawal that is keeping me awake, or is it something in the smoking itself? If I use nicotine gum or spray, I still have a hard time falling asleep. However, if I smoke a cigarette late at night, I instantly go from wide awake and alert to heavy limbs and droopy eyelids. What is it that causes this?

I can lie in bed for hours without falling asleep, if I don't have a cigarette. In those instances that I do fall asleep without smoking, I usually start dreaming before I am asleep, having strange thoughts and ideas go through my head. (Which is OK, as long as I sleep in the end.)

I have sharply reduced my caffeine intake, and am exercising more. I plan on doing even more exercise to really myself before bedtime.

... Are there any cheap tricks out there to "hack" the sleep trigger?
posted by krilli to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I quit smoking almost a year ago, and this was hard. Here are the things that worked for me:

1. No caffeine after 3 pm. Yes, 3. Green tea if you must.

2. Strict bedtime routine that lasted about an hour. This can be brushing teeth, low lights, bubble bath (my favorite), reading, getting clothes ready, etc. It's helpful to do the same thing each night because it makes your brain understand it's bedtime. (Clearly I'm no scientist.)

3. Definitely no screen time at least one hour before bed. Something about your brain and light, or stimulation, or something.

4. I used various natural/ homeopathic sleep aids when necessary.. especially if I was stressed or felt for some reason I might have a hard time falling asleep. These have worked for me: Magnesium supplements (1000 mg one hour before bed) Calm's Forte, sublingual arnica tablets, melatonin. Magnesium is my favorite, because it's also something most of us don't get enough of, helps if you have frequent headaches, and keeps you, ahem, regular. Start with 500 mg though and see if that works. (Also, clearly I am not a doctor.) I still take magnesium everyday before bed.

Congrats on kicking the big ugly monster addiction! Life feels way better on this side! And it smells better, too!
posted by picapica at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As two potential options, benadryl is cheaper than marijuana. The times I've quit smoking, the insomnia seemed to be more nicotine-related than due to the act of smoking itself and didn't last more than a week. Also, exercise will both wear you out and give you feedback on your body's recovery from your smoking life. Good luck!
posted by rhizome at 8:59 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Melatonin is a pretty big insomnia hack.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you think it is a psychological reaction in your brain, would it be fooled if you tried one of those electronic cigarettes?

IANAD or a smoker, and I've read a lot of comments that show a lot of people don't like electronic cigarettes at all, but this just sounds like the one case where it might satisfy whatever your brain is expecting.
posted by CathyG at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might have to try an aid to get you over the hump: whether that be OTC sleep med's, melatonin, a drink, or (one of my tricks) letting the tv drone you to sleep. But the longer you give in and have that 'just one before bed' the longer it will take to get over it.

The insomnia and wicked vivid dreams are par for the course. But you do get over it. Good luck!
posted by Eicats at 12:21 PM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

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