I quit smoking and I am now so tired

It is vital for your health that you quit smoking, but you will experience a variety of side effects that will make life difficult. Many quitters report that they are experiencing bouts of drowsiness during the day together with concentration issues.

Why does quitting induce fatigue and how do you stay alert?

Nicotine mimics acetylcholine

The human brain releases a chemical called acetylcholine. This acts as a neurotransmitter, keeping you awake and alert. Unfortunately, nicotine can bind to acetylcholine receptors, tricking your brain into thinking it is receiving acetylcholine when it is not. That’s why you feel an immediate lift and heightened awareness when you take a puff of your ciggie.  Continually sending nicotine to your brain results in your brain ceasing to produce acetylcholine because it thinks you don’t need it.

If you quit smoking, your brain will be caught unawares and won’t produce the acetylcholine you need to remain alert. You will experience bouts of fatigue and may struggle to concentrate. Drowsiness is most likely to be an issue if you quit cold turkey. Drowsiness is a natural response to the absence of either acetylcholine or nicotine. Using nicotine replacement therapies and gradually reducing your nicotine dose will help your brain to adjust to the new you.

Food and exercise

A few changes to your routine can help you to counter those feelings of drowsiness. Exercise during the day can provide the boost you need to fend of fatigue. You will find it hard to motivate yourself to get active after quitting but you must remind yourself that you need the adrenaline boost. A quick run at lunchtime can work wonders. However, always bear in mind that you shouldn’t exercise late in the evening as this could prevent you from sleeping at night.

Your diet could also contribute to your drowsiness. If your meals are loaded with carbs, you will feel tired 2-3 hours after meals when your body is working hard to metabolize what you have eaten. Decrease your carbs and increase the amount of both protein and fibre in your meals to keep yourself alert.

Quitting induces insomnia

Your feeling of fatigue during the day could also be the result of sleep issues at night. Smoking cessation is associated with disrupted sleep patterns. If you are suffering from insomnia, you will feel tired during the day and you will lack the acetylcholine or nicotine to perk you up.

It makes sense to address your sleep issues as this will alleviate drowsiness in the day. You can improve your sleep by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the six hours before bedtime and evolve a calming bedtime routine which may include meditation. If you do wake up in the night, don’t stress yourself by looking at the clock. If you are using nicotine patches, remove your patch before bedtime.

The impact of stress

It’s hard to stop smoking. You will experience all sorts of side effects thanks to nicotine withdrawal, and you will suffer as a result of missing the habitual aspects of smoking cigarettes. This situation will be very stressful. Sadly, stress is incredibly tiring but also causes insomnia.

Will you always feel tired?

The good news is that the drowsiness you will experience after quitting will diminish over time. You can expect your acetylcholine production to return to normal around 30 days after you quit smoking or stop using nicotine replacement therapies. Your body will adjust to your new circumstances and you will begin to benefit from a better quality of sleep. In other words, you must endure short term pain for long term gain.

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