Cigarette smoking is a severe health burden being related to a number of chronic diseases. Frequently, smokers report about sleep problems. Sleep disturbance, in turn, has been demonstrated to be involved in the pathophysiology of several disorders related to smoking and may be relevant for the pathophysiology of nicotine dependence. Therefore, determining the frequency of sleep disturbance in otherwise healthy smokers and its association with degree of nicotine dependence is highly relevant. In a population-based case-control study, 1071 smokers and 1243 non-smokers without lifetime Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Axis I disorder were investigated. Sleep quality (SQ) of participants was determined by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. As possible confounders, age, sex and level of education and income, as well as depressiveness, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity, alcohol drinking behaviour and perceived stress, were included into multiple regression analyses. Significantly more smokers than non-smokers (28.1% versus 19.1%; P < 0.0001) demonstrated a disturbed global SQ. After controlling for the confounders, impaired scores in the component scores of sleep latency, sleep duration and global SQ were found significantly more often in smokers than non-smokers. Consistently, higher degrees of nicotine dependence and intensity of smoking were associated with shorter sleep duration. This study demonstrates for the first time an elevated prevalence of sleep disturbance in smokers compared with non-smokers in a population without lifetime history of psychiatric disorders even after controlling for potentially relevant risk factors. It appears likely that smoking is a behaviourally modifiable risk factor for the occurrence of impaired SQ and short sleep duration.