The Side Effects Of Quitting Smoking

May 25th, 2008

Making the decision to quit smoking is difficult. Actually following through and taking action on that decision can be an enormous challenge. When a person stops smoking, his body experiences a series of side effects. Most of them are related to nicotine withdrawals. Some of these can be nearly debilitating (especially true if the person has been smoking for many years). If you’re currently smoking and wish to quit, you’ll find this article valuable. Below, we’ll describe some of the most common side effects of quitting smoking.


People who quit smoking often experience insomnia. It’s a natural reaction to the lack of nicotine within their bodies. Like most withdrawal symptoms, insomnia is most prominent during the first 2 or 3 weeks after a smoker quits. Within a month, that person should be able to resume a normal sleeping pattern. During the first few weeks after quitting, the severity of insomnia can be relieved by reducing the amount of caffeine and alcohol. Performing some light exercise also helps. With exercise, you release endorphins into your body which is a natural stress reliever.

Low Blood Sugar

During the first several days after quitting smoking, a person’s blood sugar levels drop. This can result in the same symptoms that are experienced when a person’s brain is deprived of sufficient oxygen. They include increased levels of irritation, feelings of dizziness and even an inability to accurately discern time. While cigarette smoke doesn’t deliver sugar into the bloodstream, it does create a chemical reaction whereby the body produces sugar. When a smoker quits, this chemical reaction stops and blood sugar levels drop.

Weight Gain

Gaining weight is directly related to the blood sugar levels dropping after a smoker quits. Long-time smokers have relied upon cigarettes to deliver sugar into the bloodstream within a few seconds. It’s an incredibly-efficient process. When they quit smoking, they need to rely upon food consumption to release sugar. Unfortunately, it takes about 20 minutes for sugar to be released after food has been consumed. When a person has recently quit smoking, he still feels hungry after eating. This increased appetite leads him to gorge. In the 20 minutes it takes for sugar levels to rise, he can potentially eat several times more than needed. Eventually, he gains weight.

Gaining weight is not uncommon and probably the biggest reason why people do not quit smoking. By starting an exercise program the same time you quit smoking, you can double the benefits. You will get healthier as you get fit, and you will not gain as much weight if you were not exercising.


Many people experience varying levels of depression during the first few weeks after quitting smoking. This is usually linked directly to nicotine withdrawal (as opposed to a pre-existing psychological issue). When someone stops smoking, they often have feelings of loneliness and general lack of happiness. Assuming these feelings didn’t exist prior to quitting smoking, they will eventually dissipate. Often, exercising and a change in dietary habits can help relieve the depression. Other treatments can include nicotine replacement options such as patches or even Zyban (usually prescribed for a pre-existing condition).

Short-Term Pain For Long-Term Health

Withdrawal symptoms related from lack of nicotine are similar to those of any other addiction. They’re most severe in the beginning (right after quitting). Over time, they slowly grow less severe. Eventually, they disappear altogether. Some experts suggest that quitting “cold turkey” may not be the option that’s best-suited for everyone. Instead, a gradual reduction in the amount of nicotine introduced into the body makes the withdrawal symptoms less brutal and easier to cope with. In the end, the short-term pain and discomfort you’ll experience when you quit smoking is a small price to pay for your long-term health.

It depends on how tough you are. Some people can quit cold turkey just fine, while others can’t just stop no matter how much they try. You can always try a program designed specifically for quitting smoking if other methods have failed you.

Posted in Quitting Smoking

4 Responses

  1. zack

    Very good tips, useful…

  2. sarah

    Good article. I quit few days ago and I always feel hungry, now i understand why.

  3. mack

    hmm.. day 6, and i see what you mean about insomnia. Thats the thing thats bothering me the most, tired but not sleeping well.

  4. soren

    thank you so much

  5. Mark

    Really great accurate info. 5 days since quitting (15 per day, 20 years) and have had my usual hours of sleep half. Had 2 low sugar episodes also, shame I only just read this info.

  6. Mark

    First 12 hours I thought about smoking 40 to 50 seconds of every minute, the next day it dropped considerably to 20 seconds of every minute, now day five and I think it is down to less than 5 times a minute.
    Still early days yet and I am looking forward to the weight gain and depression.

  7. Fliss

    I have smoked since the age of 12 years and am now 59. I stopped smoking on nicotine patches 7 weeks ago. The side affects for me have increased as the nicotine patch mg has reduced. I don’t actually want to smoke ever again. I just feel so drained, tired and generally not myself. This has only been apparent since I started the 7mg patch. I have experienced the disturbed sleep but that has now ceased. I am aware that my mood is lower than usual which is not really my personality generally. Thank You for the tips!

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