Physical healing of the body and mind
The smoking dream
The smoking dreams are common if not universal among ex-smokers. It is especially common when a person is off a short time period, and if it occurs within days or weeks of a quit, it is likely to be extremely disturbing and very realistic. Realistic enough in fact that the ex-smoker will wake up smelling and tasting a cigarette, convinced that he or she has actually smoked. I have had numerous clients search the house for the butt, it was that realistic of a sensation. Let me explain first why the physical sensation is so pronounced.
When first quitting, one of the early physical repairs that start up is cilia production. Cilia are tiny hair-like projections that line your trachea and bronchus, constantly sweeping particulate matter out of your lungs. When you smoked, you first slowed down, then paralyzed and would eventually destroy cilia. This is why smokers often have more colds and flues, they wipe out the first line of defense against the incoming microbes causing these illnesses.
When a person stops smoking, usually within 72 hours or so, cilia starts to regenerate. The ex-smoker may start cleaning out the lung in a matter of days. One of the early symptoms first encountered is coughing and spitting out, this is mucous and trapped matter that was never being cleaned out efficiently while smoking but now has an escape route and mechanism to start sweeping it. Ugly but good, you are starting to clean out a lot of garbage in your lung. Much of the garbage is tobacco tar--tobacco tars that have a very distinct taste and smell.
Let's say you are dreaming now, maybe a totally innocuous dream having nothing to do with smoking. While sleeping, cilia are sweeping, tobacco tars get brought up, reach sensory nerves for taste and smell and low and behold, you create a dream sequence involving a cigarette. But not only are you now dreaming, physical sensations of taste and smell persist upon awakening. This then becomes a real smoking sensation.
This gives a plausible explanation of why the dream occurred and why it was so vivid. But that is not the end of the significance of the dream. The dream can be interpreted in one of two ways upon awakening, and quit often, the ex-smoker takes it as a sign that they actually want to smoke. After all, they had been off smoking and just dreamt about it, that means they want to smoke, right?
I used to get calls in the middle of the night for clinic participants panicked by the dream. They would start off saying, "They can't believe it, off all this time and they still want to smoke." They knew they wanted to smoke because they dreamt about it. I would then ask them to describe the dream. They would tell about the vividness and realism, and they would almost always say it started to take on a nightmarish proportion. They would wake up in a sweat, often crying, thinking that they just smoked and blew the whole thing, that they were now back to square one. That all that time off smoking was wasted.
As soon as they would finish describing their feelings, I pointed out one very obvious fact. They just dreamt they smoked and assumed that meant that they wanted to smoke. They woke up and upon further clarification, they describe the dream was a nightmare. This is not the dream of someone who wants to smoke; it is the dream of someone who is afraid of smoking. This is a legitimate fear considering the ex-smoker is fighting a powerful and deadly addiction. Hence, it is a legitimate dream too. It kinds of gives you a sense of how bad you would feel if you actually do go back to smoking. Not physically speaking but psychologically. If the dream is a nightmare it makes you realize how bad this feeling is without having to actually have smoked and fallen into the grasp of nicotine addiction again. It can give you some perspective about how important not smoking is to your mental health.
The dangerous dream is when you smoke a whole pack in it, hack and cough, get socially ostracized, develop some horrible illness, end up on your death bed about to let out your final live breath-and all of a sudden wake up with a smile on your face and say, "that was great, wish I could do that when I am awake." As long as that is not the dream you were having, I wouldn't let myself get to discouraged by it. If that is the dream, then we may need to talk more.
In regards to smoking, no matter what you do in your dreams, you will be OK as long as you remember in your waking state to Never Take Another Puff!
Video version of this topic:
Last edited by Joel on March 4th, 2011, 12:50 am, edited 4 times in total.
Geeesh Joel, been so long since I was a smoker that when I read the title "The Smoking Dream," I naturally, but wrongly, assumed that the article was going to be about some hot romantic past encounter that you'd experienced : ) Just kidding! Great article! Zep : )
Last edited by John (Gold) on July 12th, 2009, 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Thanks again Joel
Last edited by Darcy on July 18th, 2009, 2:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
Thank you GrumpyOMrsS! That explained a few things to me and answered some question.
relieved that not all dreams come true .... PAPILLON
Four days, 16 hours, 5 minutes and 30 seconds. 186 cigarettes not smoked, saving $23.35. Life saved: 15 hours, 30 minutes.
Thank you very much Joel,,just bad dreams.
I'm sorry if this sounds dumb, but I have a question for you.
You state in the "smoking dreams" the celia is sometimes destroyed. To me... destroyed means Irrepairable. You also state before that damage etc
**you first slowed down, then paralyzed and would eventually destroy cilia. This is why smokers often have more colds and flues, they wipe out the first line of defense against the incoming microbes causing these illnesses.**
All that in itself I understand, but what I am curious about is.. Do the destroyed celia come back as well? Do you limit the amount of celia you have to help your body? Enquirering minds would like to know.. sorry
Do your lungs ever repair themselves completely to the before smoking state? If so how long does it take? Thanks.
Hello Ann and Chewing Gum:
There are about a dozen chemicals that are present in tobacco smoke which are cilia toxic agents. Exposure to these chemicals first slow down, eventually paralyze and then destroy the cilia, and basically wipe out the cells carrying them. New cells eventually replace the ciliated cells but do not offer the protective mechanism, and many of these cells are basically precancerous lesions.
If you quit smoking, these new cells well start to be sloughed off and the ciliated cells will start to regenerate. Usually within three days ciliated cells can start to return, in 6 months, they all can be back. Within ten years, the lining tissue of the bronchus do return to normal.
This is significant because over 80% of lung cancers that happen are from this tissue. Quitting before lung cancer actually occurs thus reduced the risk as the healthier cells replace these cells again.
Now, with that being said, there is tissue in the lung that does not repair this way, actually the underlying lung tissue that is where we get our actual breathing capacity. This is why when a person with emphysema quits; they don't get normal breathing back. This tissue cannot be repaired. Although, if these patients to quit they often will experience some improvement in breathing. Not because they grow new underlying lung tissue, but because the cilia regeneration can start to clean out the small airways making easier air flow.
Again, the earlier the person quits the better. Once a diagnosis of lung cancer occurs, the risks are great. Once a diagnosis of emphysema is made, it needs to be understood that every drag on a cigarette is destroying breathing capability--not reserved capacity, but actual breathing ability.
So in summary, the lining tissue does repair, which is great in terms of reducing the cancer risk and cleansing mechanisms which reduce the risk of infectious diseases, basically being able to keep out lungs and breathing airways clear. Underlying tissue is permanently destroyed and every puff on a cigarette is permanently destroying more tissue.
Hope this clarifies the issues of the inquiring minds.
Talk to you all later.
Sorry for typos and brevity of explanation, but I am pressed on time today. Hopefully will be back to normal schedule tomorrow.
Oh yes, thought I better make a little time for this...Never Take Another Puff!
Thanks Joel! I'm printing this out for some new recruits. 2 more people here at work are quitting. I've sent them quit meters and a link to the site.
I'm afraid I may be getting addicted to this site. Will I need a cure for that?
Joel - thanks for this! I remember running across this in my reading, it's good to see it again after my dream.
May not be 100% relevant,but it helped me to know my sleep pattern changes were normal and would change. I know they will be able to post more in the a.m.
Thanks, Joel. I have read it before but it was good to read again.
Does this dream usually happen repeatedly, or is this one of those things that now that I have gotten past it, it's over and done with. It was very frightening.
It can happen again, but again, it is only a dream. Ypu may not be as shaken next time, but even if you are it will pass in minutes and if you really analyze the fear you will realize how grateful you are to still be an ex-smoker. In some ways it can reinforce your resolve even though it is so irritating when it happens.
Anyway, I wish you sweet dreams, but even if your dreams aren't always sweet, your waking state will be greatly enhanced as long as you never take another puff!
i know how scary that dream can be. i wake up and feel so upset withself because i could have sworn i had a cigarette in the middle of the night!!!! i actually get up and start looking to see if i did buy any!!!
i just think its very interesting so many people have this in common when they quit. it helps to know you are not the only one. thanks for the good posts!
starla-who is almost at 3 weeks smoke free!!!!
One week, one day, 17 hours, 27 minutes and 17 seconds. 174 cigarettes not smoked, saving $32.73. Life saved: 14 hours, 30 minutes.
I thought I had read this article before, but couldn't remember for sure. Reading the other posts to it has helped aswell. Now printed off incase I need it again!
Thanks Joel! And thanks Geo for pointing me toward this post. I feel better now and won't mind more dreams of smoking as you were right......when I awake and discover it was only a dream it's very SWEET! Onward, Dionne 3W & 3D
Thanks! This makes sense. This is one of the reasons I failed at other quits. The dreams freaked me out. At least now I now they're normal.
thanks hun... just wish it wasnt so darn life-like!!!!! i actually have been having cravings all morning long after "smoking a pack of cigarettes" in my dream GRRRR well that gives me new meaning to the "you can smoke just one" lie, we tell ourselves occasionally... i cant even DREAM abt smoking "just one"
thanks for this post, Joel, I was badly in need of this about 10 days ago, when i couldn't log on. I dreamt i was smoking 3 nights in succession.....secretive smoking,( which i've never done, but then again i've never stopped before!) and always got caught and felt dreadful but had to carry on smoking. It really disturbed me....i wondered if my subconscious was leading me to the next puff and it may be inevitable that i smoke again. After all, I always knew i couldn't stop! I remembered that i had downloaded a lot of your stuff, so although i couldn't get onto the message board, i had plenty to read. This helped a lot. It was only the old addiction playing mind games with me, and perhaps it was good to be reminded of how horrible i now feel smoking. I know for sure that i need never take another puff...even if i want to.
By the way, if you look at the number of times I have had to bring this up, you get a sense of just how prevalent these dreams are. Thought I would just mention that.
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Last edited by Joel on March 18th, 2009, 12:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Joel...Thank you so much for posting the dream article...I've been thinking about it all day and now have a better understanding of it...glad[but not glad] others experience the same thing as it freaked me out...but all is good a bit grumpy..but no tears today so the sun is definetly shining!!! I'm being as positive as possible and I WILL NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!!! Thanks Leslie
Thanks for the clarification!! I just had one of those dreams!Felt like I blew it until I actually woke and found just a dream.What a relief knowing I hadn't actually smoked!! Thanks~~~~~~EAZY
Joel, thanks so much for the info on dreams. Fascinating. It helps to clarify so much. In fact, all of your articles are simply amazing and full of facts that keep me headed on the Quitter Trail.