Research isn’t fully conclusive, but many people report experiencing more vivid dreams when using nicotine patches.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) includes options like nicotine patches, gums, and lozenges. NRT can be an effective way to improve someone’s chances of quitting.
Side effects can occur from quitting smoking, both from nicotine withdrawal and the NRT method used during quitting.
One of these NRT side effects can be changes in dreaming ― especially abnormal dreams.
Below, we share the research on the potential link between nicotine patches and abnormal dreams, including some alternative options to nicotine patches if you’re trying to quit smoking.
Nicotine patches are one of several types of NRT that can help people quit smoking. Nicotine patches contain enough nicotine to help limit cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
A possible side effect of using nicotine patches is abnormal dreaming. One of the earliest studies on nicotine patches and dreams, published in 2006, explored the effects of a 24-hour transdermal nicotine patch on 15 participants’ sleep and dreams.
Researchers found that nicotine patches appeared to have two distinct effects on sleep and dreaming.
First, participants using nicotine patches spent more time awake and experienced more micro-awakenings than those wearing placebo patches.
Second, participants using nicotine patches reported their dreams being more vivid and having more visual imagery.
Researchers found that abnormal dreams were in the top three most reported side effects, with 72% of participants reporting abnormal dreams.
Seven participants had to adjust their medications because of the vivid dreams. One participant decreased their nicotine patch dose because of it.
A more recent
Researchers found 1,673 adverse events involved nicotine patches. Of these adverse events, 49 were for abnormal dreaming.
If you experience vivid, unpleasant dreams while wearing the patch at night, the packaging for nicotine patches says to remove it and apply a new one in the morning.
Lucid dreaming is a type of vivid dreaming that happens when you’re aware that you’re in a dream.
A 2016 meta-analysis suggests that roughly 55% of people have experienced at least one lucid dream, and 23% of those people had lucid dreams at least once a month.
Although there’s some research on lucid dreaming, there’s no research on whether nicotine patches can cause lucid dreams. But there may be some evidence to suggest that vivid dreams, which can include lucid dreams, might be a side effect of nicotine patch use.
Results found that over 16% of participants using the nicotine patch reported experiencing vivid dreams. In addition, roughly 13% of participants using a combination of both the nicotine patch and nicotine lozenge also reported having vivid dreams.
How long do the vivid dreams last?
If you find the patch working well for you, vivid dreams may only be a temporary side effect.
A 2021 analysis of adverse events with NRT use found that participants using the patch had abnormal dreams more frequently than other smoking cessation therapies, like bupropion and varenicline.
Researchers also note that the median onset of abnormal dreams was about 1–2 weeks and lasted for a median of 4 weeks.
Stopping nicotine use can cause mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
- nicotine cravings
- sore throat
- appetite changes
- nausea and stomach pain
- changes in bowel habits
- weight changes
- tingly hands and feet
- trouble concentrating
- frustration and irritability
- anxiety and depression
- sleep disturbances
There’s not much research on the link between nicotine withdrawal and dream changes specifically. But one small
Other smoking cessation aids
If you’ve noticed that nicotine patches have caused changes in the way you dream, you can consider a few alternative options to help you quit smoking:
- Smoking cessation medications: Certain medications can help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban) are commonly prescribed medications to help people quit smoking.
- Different NRT products: There are several other NRT options, such as gum, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays. However, if nicotine patches are the cause of your abnormal dreams, these alternative forms may cause similar symptoms.
- Complementary and alternative approaches: Complementary approaches can potentially help people cope with the withdrawal symptoms of quitting nicotine. Therapy, hypnotherapy, and acupuncture are some approaches that may be helpful during the process.
Research on the effect of nicotine patches on dreaming is fairly limited, with only a handful of studies exploring this relationship.
However, the current literature does suggest that nicotine patches may be associated with changes in dreaming, such as causing abnormal or vivid dreams.
If you are considering quitting smoking or using nicotine, many options are available to help you do so safely and effectively. Consider reaching out to a doctor to discuss which therapies and medications might be best for you.