11 Ways to Relieve Insomnia When You Quit Smoking

Verywell / Cindy Chung 

Sleep disturbances are a common side effect of nicotine withdrawal. New ex-smokers might sleep more than usual through this phase of smoking cessation. As your body reacts to the loss of numerous doses of nicotine and other chemicals throughout the day, it can leave you feeling foggy and lethargic.

If this describes how you feel, don't fight the need for extra rest. Take naps when you can and get to bed earlier than usual. Your body will bounce back with a little time. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the ex-smokers who have difficulty getting any sleep at all. Insomnia is also a common symptom of nicotine withdrawal.

Research suggests that around 42% of people who quit smoking struggle with insomnia, and 80% of current smokers experience sleep disturbances that become worse when they quit.

If you find yourself experiencing insomnia during the first few weeks after you quit smoking, try a few of these natural remedies to ease your discomforts.


Cut Your Caffeine Intake in Half

Woman trying to fall asleep.

Oleg Breslavtev/Moment/Getty Images

Smokers metabolize caffeine much faster than non-smokers. As a result, smokers need to ingest more caffeine to get the same effects as nonsmokers.

If you quit smoking without reducing your caffeine intake, your body will quickly become over-caffeinated, which can cause you to feel jittery and irritable. While you don't need to cut caffeine out completely, you may not be able to drink as much as you did as a smoker.

Start by cutting your caffeine consumption by at least 50%. This should provide you with the right amount of caffeine without feeling the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal or being over-caffeinated.

Gradually reduce your caffeine intake instead of going "cold turkey." Quitting caffeine completely can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.


Remove Your Nicotine Patch Before Bedtime

Evidence suggests that nicotine affects the release of neurotransmitters that can affect sleep, including dopamine and serotonin. This can lead to insomnia when people smoke, but quitting smoking can also create changes that make getting rest more difficult.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is designed to provide the body with a certain amount of nicotine without exposure to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. NRT products, which include nicotine patches, lozenges, and gum, can reduce nicotine cravings and make quitting easier.

While using NRT can support your smoking cessation efforts, the nicotine in these products may still interfere with your sleep. Research indicates that around 10% of people will experience NRT-related sleep disturbances that may last up to 12 weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends removing your nicotine patch an hour before bedtime to minimize sleep disruptions.


Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal can make it difficult to relax and unwind in order to go to sleep. You might feel anxious, irritable, jumpy, or restless, so finding strategies to help you transition to sleep is important.

Having some type of relaxing nightly routine can be a helpful way to combat insomnia related to nicotine withdrawal. Some nightly rituals that might help you unwind:

  • Take a warm bath: Light a few scented candles, use some scented bath salts, and let the day's stress go. A warm bath is an excellent way to relax your body and mind in preparation for sleep.
  • Get a massage: Enlist your partner or another willing pair of hands to help work the stress out of your muscles. While a luxurious a full body massage is great, even 10 or 15 minutes spent on your neck, shoulders, face, and scalp can work wonders to help you unwind and get ready for a good night's sleep.
  • Drink a cup of herbal tea: There are a variety of herbal teas blended specifically to help soothe and promote sleep. Take a look at the tea section in the supermarket or visit your local health food store and ask for suggestions.
  • Listen to soothing music: Soothing, mellow music can help you loosen up enough to drift off to sleep. Try listening to a recording of waves crashing on the beach. Sounds of rain, thunder, and nature sounds may also be relaxing.


If you listen to music on your phone or tablet as you fall asleep, make sure it is set to turn off automatically. You don’t want to have to get up and do it yourself, as that defeats the purpose.


Follow a Regular Sleep Schedule

Because quitting smoking can affect your body's natural circadian rhythm, it is important to take steps to help normalize your sleep-wake cycle. Even though you might struggle to wind down in the evening or feel sluggish in the mornings, sticking to a consistent schedule is important when trying to get back on track.

So work on establishing a regular bedtime and set an alarm to be sure that you wake up at the same time each morning. Having a nighttime routine and creating a restful sleep environment can make it easier to consistently stick to your sleep-wake schedule.


Create a Digital Curfew

Because your sleep-wake cycle is already disrupted by nicotine withdrawal, other factors that make sleep more difficult can be even more disruptive. For example, using electronic devices right before bedtime can make it harder for you to fall and stay asleep.

The artificial blue light emitted from electronics like smartphones, tablets, and laptops suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.

Consider turning off your electronics one to two hours before you plan to go to bed. Instead of screen time, try incorporating wind-down activities such as reading (an actual printed book, not one on your phone) or meditation to prepare your body for a good night's rest.


If you find yourself waking up during the night, consider spending a few minutes meditating before trying to fall back asleep. As you practice learning to focus and relax your mind, you may find it easier to fall back to sleep.


Consume More Tryptophan

When dealing with insomnia linked to quitting smoking, you may find it helpful to increase your intake of a sleep-inducing amino acid called tryptophan. Your body uses tryptophan to make the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is then converted into the hormone melatonin.

Melatonin levels increase naturally in the evening, which helps promote sleep. Increased melatonin may be particularly helpful while quitting smoking since difficulty falling asleep (known as sleep latency) is characteristic of smokers and exacerbated during the cessation period.

Benefits of Melatonin

One study found that a single, low-dose melatonin effectively improved mood symptoms related to nicotine withdrawal. The researchers also suggest that melatonin might be a safe and effective way to help reduce insomnia symptoms after quitting smoking.

More tryptophan is available to your brain when you also eat a carbohydrate. (Which might explain why milk and cookies have long been a favorite bedtime snack.)

Other foods that contain tryptophan include:

  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts (such as pistachios, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts)
  • Poultry (such as chicken and turkey)
  • Seeds (including sunflower seeds)
  • Soy products (such as tofu and soy sauce)

L-tryptophan supplements are not generally recommended as they were previously associated with eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome. Food and drink that naturally contain L-tryptophan are safer choices. You might also consider trying a melatonin supplement.


Don’t Drink Alcohol

Even though a drink or two may make it easier to fall asleep initially, it's best to avoid alcohol. Alcohol suppresses rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, meaning that even if you sleep through the night, you won't feel rested in the morning. Alcohol in your system may also disrupt sleep, causing you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night.

Research suggests that practicing good sleep hygiene by avoiding alcohol, limiting caffeine, and following a regular sleep schedule can help promote sleep in people who are quitting smoking.


Get Some Exercise

If you can't sleep, try taking a nice long walk a few hours before bed. Even a short 15-minute walk can help.

Sleep disturbances are particularly common during the acute period of nicotine withdrawal. Insomnia and other sleep problems are associated with an increased risk of smoking relapse during the first four weeks of quitting.

Research suggests that exercise can help reduce the frequency that people wake during the night and promote sleep maintenance during the acute withdrawal phase.

However, timing can be important. While evening exercise can also be beneficial, try to avoid vigorous exercise at least an hour before bedtime as it can make falling asleep even more difficult. Vigorous exercise in the late evening can rapidly decrease melatonin levels in the body, which may play a role in disrupting sleep.


Practice Relaxation Techniques

Because nicotine withdrawal can lead to anxiety, tension, and restlessness, consider relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga to calm your mind and relax your muscles at the end of a long day.

For example, you might utilize several strategies right as you are going to bed. Perform a few gentle yoga stretches to relax your muscles before you lie down. Next, close your eyes and begin to alternatively tense and relax the muscles throughout your body, starting with your feet and working your way up.

As you continue to lie comfortably in bed, shift your focus to the thoughts in your mind. Acknowledge each one as it comes, and then let it go. Let your mind drift and flow, releasing stress and worry as it goes.

Adding meditation to your morning routine (in an upright position) will reward you with improved control and calmness throughout your day, as well.


Don't Nap During the Day

Because quitting smoking disrupts sleep, people often experience an increase in daytime sleepiness when they give up cigarettes. Taking naps during the acute withdrawal period can be a useful way to deal with the immediate effects of nicotine withdrawal, but over the long term, daytime napping can interfere with your ability to stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule.

While it may feel good to finally get some shut-eye, if it's during the day, don't do it. Power naps are not your friend if you're struggling with insomnia. You'll pay for it when it's time for bed.


Consider Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is an effective treatment for chronic insomnia. It can have lasting effects that improve sleep for up to two years following treatment.

CBT-I combines cognitive therapy with relaxation techniques and sleep hygiene practices: 

  • Cognitive therapy is used to help identify and change negative beliefs about sleep and insomnia. 
  • Relaxation techniques include meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Sleep hygiene focuses on environmental factors, including taking steps such as limiting alcohol intake and following a consistent sleep schedule.

Evidence has shown that CBT-I can be effective in the treatment of insomnia. While research on its impact on smoking cessation is limited, one study found that CBT-I showed promise in aiding quitting smoking efforts.

A Word From Verywell

If you struggle with insomnia during smoking cessation, you might wonder just how long you can expect such symptoms to last. Research suggests that sleep problems are at their worst in the first 24 to 36 hours after quitting. Such symptoms may continue in the first several weeks after quitting, but evidence indicates that sleep deficits will largely resolve within three months to a year.

The physical withdrawal phase of smoking cessation is a temporary condition. Your sleep patterns will return to normal soon, provided you didn’t have insomnia before you quit smoking. If symptoms persist beyond the first month or so, schedule a visit with your doctor to ensure smoking cessation is responsible for how you feel.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Terry Martin
Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction.