We all know that smoking is bad for you, but not many realised that smoking effected how we sleep as well.
Missing a night of sleep might not be the end of the world, but as anyone who hasn’t been able to sleep for more than a couple of nights can tell you, lack of sleep can be horrible.
Researchers point out that a prolonged lack of sleep can lead to anxiety, mood disorders, depression and cognitive dysfunction. This means that in addition to the myriad health benefits of quitting smoking, you’ll also get a better night’s sleep and potentially reduce the risk of mental health issues too.
A study on sleep has found that smoking cigarettes disrupts the body’s internal clock in both the brain and lungs, leading to a decrease in overall activity and disturbance of the sleep cycle.
For smokers suffering from smoking-related sleep problems and the consequent health problems this might be just the push they need to make the switch to e-cigarettes.
Smoking, Clock Gene Expression and Sleep Patterns
The study looked at the impact of short term and long-term smoking on a group of mice, particularly in relation to an anti-aging molecule, SIRT1, and a “clock” protein called BMAL1.
For the test, they split the mice into two groups, one of which was exposed to clean air, and the other group was exposed to cigarette smoke. The scientists then tested the ice mice with differing levels of exposure, either short term exposure of around 3 to 10 days, or long term which was around 6 months. They then monitored their levels of activity throughout the day and looked at the quantities of the two chemicals in lung and brain tissue to determine the cigarette smoke’s effect.
Over time the mice exposed to cigarette smoke became much less active than the clean-air breathing ones. When the researchers investigated the levels of the chemicals in the brains and lungs of the mice, they found that those exposed to cigarette smoke showed a reduction in the anti-aging chemical SIRT1, and this had an impact on the quantities of the “clock” protein BMAL1.
Without enough of the chemical BMAL1 there was imbalance in the body, which threw off what is known as the circadian rhythms of the body and caused the trouble sleeping. Circadian rhythm is the name for the roughly 24 hour cycle all our bodies go through, it tells us when we are hungry and tired and is tied to all the different hormones and chemicals that our bodies make each day.
The same effect was observed in human smokers and people suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which is a common smoking-related ailment, showing that the data from the mice likely applies to humans too.
This link to COPD is important for smokers as COPD is primarily caused by the 4000+ chemicals in cigarettes, and so gives us a clue on what is causing this lack of sleep and what can be done about it.
E-Cigarettes and sleep
A study last year looked at the symptoms of COPD and found that many of them can be alleviated when the smoker moved from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. This is not to say that they were cured, but that the symptoms like respiratory issues and breathlessness can be eased when they stopped smoking and started using an e-cigarette.
The thinking behind the COPD study was that as e-cigarettes only contain 4 ingredients that it would be better for smokers to use them rather than a cigarette. After all in just one cigarette there are 4000+ chemicals and 50+ carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals), it is hardly surprising that they can interfere with a wide range of bodily and neurological functions.
This makes sense as all the ingredients in an e-cigarette have been tested and approved for human use for years. Both the Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerine which are used to produce the vapour for e-liquid can also been found in chewing gum, ice cream and more and are approved by the FDA and other health agencies around the world. The flavourings that are included in e-cigarettes are also used in most foods to give them a more distinct flavour.
The fact then that 3 out of the 4 ingredients in e-cigarettes are safe is why Public Health England (the UK government’s Health Agency) have stated for years now that e-cigs are “95% less harmful than cigarettes”.
The only similarity between e-cigarettes and cigarettes is the nicotine, which is the reason that smokers keep coming back to tobacco after all! And that is another take away from this, if you do use an e-cigarette you won’t be getting the harmful chemicals that cause the disruption to your sleep cycle, but you will still be taking in the stimulant nicotine.
This then can give hope for those smokers who suffer from sleeplessness, if e-cigarettes can help with COPD, and COPD and the messing of the circadian rhythms are also linked, they logically e-cigarettes might also work for avoiding the loss of the protein BMAL1.
A word of warning though, nicotine is a stimulant like caffine, so if you are thinking of using e-cigarettes to get away from smoking and get a good night’s sleep, don’t vape before you go to bed! If you treat e-cigarettes like you would anything with caffeine you can make the most of the switch from cigarettes by getting a restful sleep.
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