You need a good night’s sleep for your body to carry out its restorative processes. Yet around 70 million American adults suffer from some form of sleep disorder with insomnia being the most common threat affecting 30% of the population (1).
The pharmaceutical companies with their benzos do make you fall asleep, but with consequences. Cannabis, on the other hand, had been used for centuries to aid sleeping and pain relief and currently, there is a lot happening on the subject.
Cannabis and its Effect on Sleeping
Many studies have shown that cannabis and related products can help you fall asleep and have a rested sleep. The relationship between cannabis and sleep is still being explored, but we are making some interesting discoveries.
The physically relaxing effects of cannabis and its sedative properties are responsible for affecting the different stages of sleep – this is what makes cannabis one of the best natural sleep aides around!
A study conducted with 2,000 patients tested the effects of a cannabis-based medicine on sleeping. The subjects of the study also had difficulty falling asleep in the first place as they suffered from chronic types of pain including cancer pain, peripheral neuropathic pain and multiple sclerosis (2).
The researchers studied 1,000 patient-years of exposure (the total exposure to treatment) and found 40% to 50% patients had attained good to very good sleep quality after taking the medicine.
Let’s explore exactly how cannabis and sleep are related.
The Sedative Properties of THC
You must know by now that marijuana has two main active components- CBD and THC.
- CBD has different health benefits but is not psychoactive; that means you don’t get high on it!
- THC is responsible for making you high and is a psychoactive cannabinoid.
Turns out, THC also has some impressive sedative properties! Researchers found that 15mg of THC can promote sleep and help you fall asleep quickly. CBD, on the other hand, has alerting properties and increases awake activity while you are sleeping (3).
There is an interesting thing to note here- if you want to use cannabis for sleeping, you need to find a strain that has more THC content than CBD! Generally, the Indica is a good choice as it’s soothing and relaxing.
Now let’s see how cannabis induces a deep slumber to make you feel rejuvenated and high in energy in the morning.
Cannabis Enhances your Deep Sleep State
The final state of your sleeping, the Rapid Eye Movement or REM is the time when you have your deepest sleep and your body recovers most.
This is also the time you have dreams. According to some studies, using cannabis before bedtime decreases the time spent in REM- that means you lose out on your dreams (4).
It works out this way- the less time you spend dreaming, the more you spend in deep sleep. Your body can carry out its restorative processes while you have undisturbed sleep.
But if you depend on cannabis as a sleeping aid for a long time, then you may have REM rebound where you find yourself lucid dreaming (4)! There is another implication here for PTSD patients as cannabis reduces dreams, it will also cut down the nightmares paving the way for a peaceful sleep (4).
Cannabis and Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders
Various types of breathing disorders can hamper your sleeping and make you toss and turn for the whole night. One of the most common types of breathing disorder affecting 18 million Americans is sleep apnea where you keep waking up time and again suffering from obstructive breathing (5).
Though research on the subject is still in its nascent stage, some studies have found cannabis to normalize breathing during sleeping. A study conducted in 2013 revealed that ingesting an exogenous cannabinoid for 21 days improved sleep apnea in 15 out of 17 participants (6). The study concluded that their findings hold great potential for treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders.
If we go back a few years, a 2002 journal studied the role of cannabinoids on respiratory stability during sleep. It discovered that THC can actually modulate serotonin signaling resulting in respiratory stability while sleeping (7).
Few Words of Caution, as with any sleeping aid, there are few things to keep in mind-
- It can be tough to discontinue long-term use as it can cause deteriorated sleep quality (8)
- If you are less than 15 years old, you shouldn’t be using marijuana as it can impair sleep quality (9)
- You can feel a bit groggy in the morning after toking at night
The Way Ahead for Cannabis as a Sleep Aid
The soothing and relaxing effects of cannabis can help you fall asleep and stay asleep as research shows. But there is still a long way to go and more discoveries are to be made for establishing a strong relationship between the two.