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New Study Links Smoking to Sleep Quality

It’s fairly common knowledge that smoking tobacco is bad for one’s health. The activity has been linked to numerous types of cancer, heart and lung disease, elevated blood pressure, stroke, and a laundry list of other medical conditions. Now, a new research study published in the 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal is claiming that smoking can negatively affect the way we sleep.

The reason is simple: smoking interrupts the sleeper’s circadian rhythm, a biological clock that resets every 24 hours and dictates when we feel tired and how tired we feel. Disrupting circadian processes in just one part of the body can upset the entire organism’s sleep rhythm, and scientists have established that certain extraneous factors can effectively alter this cycle. Temperature is one example; we tend to sleep more when it’s cold outside. Light, heat, and other stimuli can also influence (or ‘entrain’) circadian cycles. And according to this latest study, so does smoking.

Dr. Irfan Rahman, a researcher who works with the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and co-author of the journal article, told Science Daily earlier this month that smoking produces inflammations in the lung while simultaneously depressing locomotor functions in the brain. Smoking suppresses an anti-aging molecule called SIRTUIN 1 (or SIRT1), which in turn can alter one’s levels of BMAL1, the protein linked to circadian rhythm; researchers have observed this phenomenon in the lung tissue of both short- and long-term smokers, particularly those who have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Prolonged entrainment of circadian rhythm has been linked to a handful of physiological and psychiatric conditions. According to the National Institute of General Sciences, these include obesity, diabetes, depression, and bipolar mood disorder. Other consequences include cognitive dysfunction and anxiety. In other words, just a few more reasons why you–yes, YOU–should quit smoking as soon as possible. “Only Santa Claus has a list longer than that of the ailments caused or worsened by smoking,” Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, told Science Daily. “If you like having a good night’s sleep, then that’s just another reason to never smoke.”

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