Many users of both medical and recreational marijuana find that one of its most amazing benefits is its ability to act as a sleep aid. Not surprisingly, the research on this topic backs up these reports. Not only does it help treat certain medical conditions, but it actually has an impact on the biology of sleep, allowing those who use it to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
If you’re experiencing sleep disturbances, keeping some marijuana at your bedside might be the perfect tool to a good night’s rest. The right strain can provide a deep sense of relaxation, as well as other useful benefits that promote sleep. Even those with persistent insomnia find that cannabis before bed gives them the opportunity to drift into a peaceful slumber.
Marijuana’s Effect On Sleep
Marijuana affects your sleep in a variety of ways. As with most of the plant’s beneficial qualities, its interaction with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) produces these effects. Marijuana’s cannabinoids — such as THC, CBD and CBN — mimic the activity of naturally occuring brain chemicals and bind themselves to ECS receptors. The ability of cannabis to produce these effects is what allows it to regulate sleep on top of offering other medical benefits.
Specifically, both THC and CBD change a user’s sleep cycle, the process that occurs while we sleep that includes five different stages. These changes are primarily to the progression and length of the cycles. For example, the REM cycle may be shortened but the period of deep sleep is extended. However, the result is a more restful night’s sleep. Those who use marijuana as a sleep aid typically experience four key benefits.
1. Falling Asleep Faster
A moderate amount of cannabis before bedtime can be more effective than chamomile tea. Since the 1970s, researchers have found that those who use marijuana before bedtime fall asleep faster. However, moderation is key, as high doses of cannabis may produce the opposite effect.
2. Longer Periods of Sleep
Not only does marijuana help people fall asleep faster, but they also experience more extended periods of uninterrupted sleep. Increased doses of THC corresponded to increased time asleep. However, users should be aware that increasing the amount of THC they take could lead to symptoms resembling a hangover.
3. Increased Deep Sleep
One of the sleep cycles cannabis affects the most is the slow wave or deep cycle. THC allows users to stay in this cycle longer than average. During this stage, sleep is at its most restful and revitalizing, which means the body can get the complete benefits of a full night’s sleep. Most sleep deprivation is believed to be caused by shortened or interrupted periods of deep sleep that can impact a person’s health, leading to such conditions as high blood pressure and stress.
4. Rest for Those With Medical Conditions
Many disorders and medical conditions can lead to sleepless nights. Because of marijuana’s positive effects on sleep, patients who experience difficulties sleeping due to an underlying condition may experience a restful night as a result of medicating with cannabis. Patients with the following disorders have found that marijuana is a useful treatment option:
Insomnia: This pervasive condition affects millions of Americans. Most patients resort to over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, but many have found successful results by using cannabis. On average, those with insomnia were able to fall asleep over an hour faster than usual.
Sleep Apnea: This sleep condition — characterized by interrupted breathing while sleeping — affects a significant number of the population. Those with this disorder often stop breathing during the night, causing them to wake suddenly. As opposed to wearing a cumbersome CPAP mask to aid breathing, cannabis could be a natural treatment option. THC is a bronchodilator, which means it has been shown to calm and regulate breathing. Although there are limited research studies to confirm the plant’s treatment of sleep apnea, the few that do exist show promising results.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition one may experience after a traumatic event, such as a war, disaster or assault. One of the characteristics of this disorder is the prevalence of nightmares which lead to sleeplessness. Because marijuana shortens the REM cycle, sufferers of PTSD report fewer nightmares and higher quality sleep.
Chronic Pain: Pain is a common symptom associated with a massive list of medical disorders, from cancer to Parkinson’s disease to fibromyalgia. Painful sensations can disrupt a patient’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, so marijuana’s combination of pain-relieving and sleep-inducing properties is the perfect medication for those who struggle with chronic pain.
Factors To Consider Before Using Marijuana as a Sleep Aid
Before visiting your local dispensary, there are a few things to consider about using marijuana to help you sleep. Tons of different strains are out there, and if you pick the wrong one, it could have effects you don’t want or need for your unique situation. So, here are some factors to keep in mind to help you find the perfect cannabis strain for a good night’s rest:
Indica Vs. Sativa: When you’re searching for a strain, indica varieties tend to be the best choice for sleep. There are also a few hybrids that can be effective. However, sativa strains are known for their uplifting and energizing qualities, so you may want to stay away from them if you already have trouble sleeping.
Combine Terpenes To Maximize Effects: Some theorize that the terpenes present in indica strains — or the flavor and aroma profile of the plant — are what give it its sedative qualities. To maximize cannabis’ effectiveness, try combining it with natural remedies with similar terpenes, like chamomile or lavender.
CBD Vs. THC: Many users prefer strains with a large CBD content because this non-psychoactive cannabinoid will not get users high. However, CBD has been shown to promote wakefulness. So, you may want to consider a strain higher in THC before bedtime.
Talk To a Marijuana Doctor About Using Cannabis as a Sleep Aid
If you struggle with a condition that leads to sleepless nights and are interested in using cannabis as a sleep aid, you may qualify as a medical marijuana patient in your state. Make an appointment with a marijuana doctor near you to find out if you meet your region’s criteria.