New Study: If You Want a Good Night’s Sleep, Quit Smoking!
By Lindsay Fox Posted January 7, 2014
New research published in the FASEB Journal 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 in the mice studied.
A disruption of sleep might not seem like such a big issue, but the researchers point out that it 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. You just found a new reason to 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 mice into two groups, one of which was exposed to clean air, and the other to differing levels (either short term – around 3 to 10 days – or long term – around 6 months) of cigarette smoke. To determine its effect, they monitored their levels of activity throughout the day and looked at the quantities of the two chemicals in lung and brain tissue.
In terms of activity, the mice exposed to cigarette smoke were much less active afterwards than the clean-air breathing controls. 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, either short or long-term, showed a reduction in the anti-aging chemical SIRT1, and this had an impact on the quantities of the “clock” protein BMAL1. The same effect was observed in human smokers and people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a common smoking-related ailment), showing that the data from the mice likely applies to humans too.
To investigate the matter further, researchers found mice with a natural deficiency in or abundance of SIRT1 and observed that while tobacco smoke still created a decline in activity for those deficient in it, the effect was much stronger in mice which over-expressed the protein (or whose levels were boosted through pharmaceuticals). This and other results suggest that the mechanism for the disturbance to sleep patterns and molecular rhythms associated with smoking is that SIRT1 regulates BMAL1, and the smoking-related decrease of SIRT1 therefore damages BMAL1 in mice and human smokers.
Quit Smoking and Improve Your Sleep Cycle
The take-away message is that, alongside all of the other damaging effects of smoking, it also impacts on your ability to bed down for a good night’s rest. The solution to this suggested by the researchers is the use of a drug to activate the SIRT1 chemical, thus remedying the damaging effect of cigarette smoke. This is a potential breakthrough for people suffering from smoking-related sleep problems and the consequent health problems, but a more all-encompassing solution is quitting smoking altogether by switching to e-cigarettes.
Cigarette smoke is a toxic concoction of thousands of chemicals, so it’s hardly surprising that they can interfere with a wide range of bodily and neurological functions. E-cigarette vapor contains only a handful, and research thus far indicates that any harmful components are in drastically smaller quantities than in cigarette smoke.
Quitting nicotine isn’t easy, but e-cigarettes allow you to the quit the thing that’s actually harmful – smoking tobacco – while still getting the substance you're really after. Vapers sleep soundly in that knowledge.
Photo credit: Coloribus
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