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Strange self-help treatment for a sleep disorder; nicotine

Nicotine is considered a stimulant which may be used as a self help tactic to stay awake.
Nicotine is considered a stimulant which may be used as a self help tactic to stay awake.

There are numerous sleep disorders with the most common sleep disorder being insomnia. Others sleep disorders include sleep apnea, night terrors, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and a rare but serious disorder known as narcolepsy.

In one specific case, an observation was noted from the unconventional self-help treatment the client implemented. The client used *nicotine to stave off her sudden sleep attacks.

Sleep disorders and sleep problems

The client stated she experienced sleep paralysis since approximately 10 years old. She did not realize at the time it was a sleep disorder and assumed it was only ‘nightmares,’ until she was an adult and accidently came across the term ‘sleep paralysis.’

The client quickly identified with the term. She decided not to mention it to her physician as she prefers not to take medications. She concluded she has dealt with this disorder since childhood and can continue dealing with this disorder without any prescription medications. The emotional relief came once she understood there was a ‘name’ for this and she immediately felt at peace.

But what she later realized was that this disorder can include other symptoms such as cataplexy and the sudden urge to sleep at the most inopportune times. Again, she learned this by accident.

This client has an addiction to nicotine as a lifelong smoker. A chance occurrence revealed she would subconsciously smoke a cigarette when she began to feel the onset of a sleep attack.

She explained the revelation came when she was driving a vehicle to run quick errands with her toddler in the back seat strapped in a car seat. She had a tremendous urge to smoke a cigarette but hesitated because of the child in her car. From this hesitation, within seconds, she became almost lethargic and was searching for a safe place to pull over.

In her desperation, she grabbed a cigarette and immediately felt better after the first inhale. This chance occurrence made her realize she has been self-medicating with nicotine her whole life.

Tests revealed she has no trace of substance use/abuse (an illicit drug user) and there is no indication of a mental illness presently, nor any past episodes of mental illnesses. Additionally, client claims other classic symptoms of narcolepsy such as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) intrusion during stage 1 of the sleep cycle and RLS.

With this specific observation, many questions arise.


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  • Profile picture of Belky Perez Schwartz
    Belky Perez Schwartz 4 years ago

    Interesting findings.

  • Profile picture of Yvonne P Mazzulo
    Yvonne P Mazzulo 4 years ago

    Informative and interesting!

  • Profile picture of Rachael Monaco
    Rachael Monaco 4 years ago

    Interesting, but wondering if nicotine gum would have the same effect as a cigarette?

  • Profile picture of Frances Childress
    Frances Childress 4 years ago

    Oh Rachael! I am so glad you wrote that! I wanted to add it but did NOT want to encourage ppl to use the gum. That is an EXCELLENT idea for research projects!

  • Profile picture of Kim De
    Kim De 4 years ago

    Interesting - and great question Rachael!

  • Profile picture of Richard Webster
    Richard Webster 4 years ago

    I'm so glad that sleep disorders are not amongst my numerous issues ;-) Although, last night I dreamed I ate a giant marshmallow - and this morning when I woke up my pillow was gone.

  • Profile picture of Frances Childress
    Frances Childress 4 years ago

    HAHA - you crack me up!

  • Profile picture of Susan Hillman
    Susan Hillman 4 years ago

    The nicotine gum would be a good idea for people with children in the car to try!

  • Profile picture of Frances Childress
    Frances Childress 4 years ago

    Yes, for this client. She can sub the gum or possibly chew? Her choice not to use scripts ...

  • Profile picture of Beverly Mucha
    Beverly Mucha 4 years ago

    This was different - very interesting article - you never know what can help some and hurt others.

  • Profile picture of Cleta Brookstein
    Cleta Brookstein 4 years ago

    Very informative. A lack of sleep can also effect your heart health.

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