How marijuana affects sleep: An overview
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Anyone who has tried cannabis will attest to the fact that it can make you very, very sleepy. Hence, it is no wonder marijuana is a popular nightcap among both recreational users and medicinal patients dealing insomnia or other sleep disorders.
But just how does cannabis affect our sleeping patterns? Is weed really a reliable, natural night sleeping aid?
CANNABIS: WHY DOES IT MAKE YOU SLEEPY?
It is important to note that the effects of cannabis vary greatly depending on the user, the strain, the dosage, and the environment it is used in. While one user might consider a small joint with a Blueberry indica the perfect weekly nightcap, another may find it leaves them feeling anxious, nervous, and actually struggling to sleep.
Despite this, there is some solid evidence showing that cannabis (or, more specifically, THC) can help promote sleep. A 2008 review, for example, featured various studies that suggest that activating CB1 receptors, THC is able to induce sleep.
A slightly older study (published in 1973) by researchers from Napa State Hospital, California, and the Department of Mental Health Boston State Hospital, Boston, examined the effects of THC on patients with insomnia. The study found that the cannabinoid not only reduced the time it took for patients to get to sleep but also increased the overall time a patient slept for.
Apart from this, Dr. Rachna Patel, a medical marijuana expert based in California, has reported that many of her patients dealing with insomnia or sleep apnea find that medical cannabis helps them:
- Get to sleep faster,
- Stay asleep for longer, and
- Get back to sleep faster if disturbed or woken.
How the stimulation of CB1 receptors promotes sleep isn’t completely clear. However, the endocannabinoid system is known to be involved in a wide variety of neurological processes. Further studies into this field will likely help uncover what it is that makes cannabis such as promising nightcap for so many patients.
CANNABIS: INDUCING THE WRONG KIND OF SLEEP?
It is important to note that cannabis isn’t a miracle cure for sleep conditions. In fact, evidence suggests that, while it may help people sleep faster and for longer, it may not help them get the restful shut eye they’re after.
In fact, both CBD and THC have been shown to reduce the amount of rapid-eye movement (or REM) sleep in patients.
Furthermore, regular cannabis users are also believed to suffer from sleep issues, especially when they cut down on their use for some time. A common complaint among these types of users is noticeably vivid dreams.
The study examining THC specifically found that THC reduced eye movement activity and decreased REM sleep in users. REM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep and is important for feeling revived and recovered when waking up.
By suppressing REM sleep, compounds like THC and CBD may actually reduce the quality of sleep a patient gets, causing them to feel groggy, tired, fatigued, or possibly even hungover in the morning.
FINAL THOUGHTS: CANNABIS AND SLEEP
Unfortunately, it’s not exactly clear whether cannabis is beneficial for treating insomnia, sleep apnea, or other sleep-related issues. While there are many patients willing to support it, many others will also attest to its negative effects on their sleep hence, more research is needed before we can come to any concrete conclusions.