Fatigue is a common symptom of quitting tobacco. Nicotine is a stimulant, and eliminating it suddenly from your body, along with the long-held routine of smoking, can disrupt your energy patterns. A slow taper or using nicotine replacement therapy like the nicotine patch, gum, or lozenge can ease this transition, as can prioritizing sufficient rest.
While we sleep, our bodies and brains do much repair and replenishing work. Sleep hygiene, a set of practices and habits that provide beneficial nighttime sleep quality and daytime alertness, is a key self-care practice because it’s the rising tide that lifts all ships. When sleep improves, so does just about everything else: healthy food choices, digestion, creativity, immune response, communication, productivity, joyfulness, you name it. The human body desires a consistent sleep schedule. Just a few gradual adjustments to your daily routine can help you go to bed and wake up at the same time most days.
Prioritizing healthy sleep is important for physical, mental, and emotional health. In addition to giving lungs, heart, muscles, and stress response a rest, sleep promotes tissue repair, regulates hunger hormones, lowers inflammation, and boosts energy, mood, attitude, immune function, productivity, concentration, intellectual recall, and overall quality of life. Quality sleep may even reduce your cancer risk. Everyone from children to older adults can benefit from consistent practice of healthy sleep habits.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for adults age 18 to 64 and an average of 7 to 8 hours for adults over age 65. But sleep scientist Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, is concerned that too many people are falling short of this recommendation. Sufficient sleep becomes even more essential when the human body is facing serious illness like cancer.
"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. Lack of sleep — quality and quantity — can have serious consequences. Sleep deficiency is linked to problems in memory, concentration, and poor immune system function. It may even shorten the human lifespan. "Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep," he says. Walker shares his thoughts on the importance of sleep and offers strategies for targeting the recommended 8 hours in his book, Why We Sleep.
Despite the myths of needing less sleep as we age, we need just as much sleep in our 60s, 70s, and 80s, as we do in our 40s. However, our aging brain becomes less capable of generating the sleep that it still needs. In addition, with increases in pain, stress, and urination frequency, sleep becomes more interrupted and fragmented.
The deepest stage of sleep — non-rapid-eye-movement or non-REM sleep — is especially impacted by the aging process. Many have lost nearly 40 to 50 percent of that deep sleep of their teenage years by the time they’re in their 50s, and almost 90 percent by age 70.
One of the most important sleep hygiene practices is to spend a consistent and age-appropriate amount of time asleep. These healthy sleep hygiene practices can help.