Marijuana and Sleep: Does Cannabis Help With Sleeping Disorders?

The sleepy effect that cannabis produces is considered as its side effect, but for a number of users, it is a relief and the only hope from sleepless nights.

Marijuana and sleep disorders have a long history, lasting for centuries, if not even millenniums.

Today, many users swear that marijuana helped them overcome their sleeping problems, even the toughest of insomnias.

Sleeping disorders are actually omnipresent in everyday life. One study suggested that one in three young adults between 18 and 25 years of age have some kind of sleeping problems.

Is this something we should worry about?

The answer is of course yes.

Sleeping problems can lead to a number of other health issues and turning to doctors for help is crucial for your overall health in this kind of situations. However, one of the solutions for insomnia and other sleeping disorders is prescription sleeping pills which can put you to sleep in minutes.

Unfortunately, sleeping pills are classified as “sedative hypnotics” and doctors usually prescribe them just for short-term use.

The reason:

They are extremely addictive.

Therefore, many patients turn to a more natural solution…

I myself have been having sleeping problems for nearly a decade. I am a very light sleeper, every little sound wakes me up. Sometimes, I toss and turn in my bed for hours. It’s exhausting and frustrating.

I can’t even remember when was the last time I fell asleep and got up next morning without waking up at night at least once… Unless I take a few puffs before going to bed. Then I sleep like a baby.

So, why take addictive medication when there is the all-natural solution for a good night sleep – marijuana?

Science on Marijuana and Sleep

Believe it or not, the research on marijuana and sleep is still in its infancy. Since the studies are very limited, the results are confusing and the opinions are divided.

Everything we know about weed’s effect on sleep today is basically from a study done in 1973…

In this small research, a group of patients suffering from insomnia were given different doses of THC, from 10 to 30 mg.

Most patients reported that they fell asleep faster and easier, without waking up at night. The time to falling asleep had reduced, on average, for an hour.

However, there was one unpleasant side effect — the hangover.

In fact, whenever patients got higher doses of THC they reported that the hangover feeling was worse the next morning. Also, the study and the experience of the users found that taking too much of the substance before going to sleep can have uncomfortable after-effects such as being sleepy throughout the following day. Furthermore, it makes it more difficult to fall asleep in the first place.

More recent studies were all conducted on smaller groups, which is probably why the results are not taken seriously at the first place.

This study from 2013 looked into the sleeping patterns of 17 participants suffering from sleep disorders and apnea (disrupted breathing during sleep) after using dronabinol (artificially made cannabis).

After three weeks of first taking the lower doses and gradually increasing them, the group of researchers concluded that THC was safe for use, as it eliminated the breathing difficulties and provided better sleep overall.

Of course, the researchers pointed out that more clinical trials are necessary before we can say for sure that marijuana helps with insomnia.

One of the latest studies on the same issue concluded almost the same, but the subjects of the research were not just people having troubles with sleep who did not have an experience of using cannabis, but on the contrary, regular users of the herb.

Thirteen men who used marijuana on the daily basis were given 20 mg doses of THC during the day. The results were also promising:

All subjects fell asleep quicker but felt more sleepy during the next day.

Now, there is just this one thing that we need to address…

How Does Marijuana Affect Sleep?

When we sleep, we go through four cycles and then into the REM (rapid eye movement) phase:

  • Half awake stage, happens in the first 10 minutes upon falling asleep.
  • Light sleep stage, when the heart rate slows down and body temperature drops. It’s a little bit harder to wake up from this stage.
  • Slow wave sleep (or deep sleep usually) begins 35 to 45 minutes after falling asleep and it is much harder to wake up from this stage. Waking up from this stage usually results in feeling groggy for a couple of minutes after.
  • REM phase is when the dreams happen. It occurs about 90 minutes after deep sleep and lasts around 10 minutes.

So, what does marijuana have to do with sleep?

The endocannabinoid system in our body plays very important role, again.

This system has an important role in our body, like maintaining anxiety levels as well as regulating sleep and keeping the mind calm while doing so.

When the THC kicks in, as the studies showed, the time needed to fall asleep reduces, which leaves you more time in the third phase of deep sleep. Deep sleep is very important in our everyday recovery, it’s the phase when our body regenerates and produces energy for the following day.

As a result of that, using marijuana before going to sleep makes us spend less time in the REM stage and spend more time in the healing deep sleep stage.

It’s no wonder that people who use cannabis usually don’t have dreams.

However, this causes a “dream pile-up”, commonly known as the “REM rebound” effect.

After they stop using marijuana users experience very intense dreams for a next few nights or weeks, depending on the individual. But don’t worry, this phenomenon wears off and everything goes back to normal pretty quickly.

Also, some other substances in the herb play the part in sleeping cycles. Terpenes are the chemical compounds present in all the plants giving aromas and flavors, including marijuana. Some terpenes found in marijuana can be found in most herbs used as sleep remedies.

One such terpene is linalool. It is known that linalool lowers stress levels in the immune system to almost normal conditions. Also, it is a proven to be a good natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety remedy, as well as a sedative.

Which Is Better for Sleep: Indica or Sativa?

The easiest way to explain it is this:

Using Sativa is like drinking a cup of coffee. It boosts your energy, lifts creativity and helps you feel focused.

Indica, on the other hand, is calming, relaxing and it usually produces the “couch-lock” effect and munchies.

So, if you are looking for a strain to help you fall asleep faster, stick to Indica.

In general, Indicas have high levels of THC and other cannabinoids, which will be discussed further in this article.

Their chemical composition makes Indicas have a soothing effect on the processes in our brain, including sleep.

With that in mind, Indica is the best for nighttime use and is also commonly used for treating pain, symptom which goes hand in hand with insomnia, quite often.

Cannabinoids for Sleep: THC or CBD?

There are a number of cannabinoids in the herb, but the two most prevalent are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

Strains low in CBD and high in THC produce a cerebral high, while other high-CBD strains get you relaxed but clear minded, without altering your mind.

Strains with equal parts of THC and CBD keep the high at the minimum.

That being said, THC and CBD affect sleeping patterns differently.

Again, in general, Indica’s rich in THC should most likely put you to long lasting rest.

However, new studies suggest that the plants containing 1:1 ratio of both major cannabinoids are very effective in treating sleep disorders as well.

THC is known to reduce the time it takes those with sleeping disorders to fall asleep. Although, if you smoke too much of high-THC marijuana, you will probably have troubles going to sleep in the first place.

Recreational marijuana users usually use the herb to get high, choosing the strains with high THC content. There are some strains which are made to be as THC heavy as possible.

These strains will probably keep you awake for a while, so try to avoid them if you are looking for sleep solution.

On the other hand, CBD strains are usually low in THC and all sorts of patients use them.

Marijuana that’s high in CBD is mostly used in treating anxiety sufferers. Anxiety is one of the main reasons for keeping us awake at night, so perhaps a right CBD strain can also provide you with enough relaxation to help get your sleeping schedule in order.

Best Strains and Edibles for Sleep Disorders and Insomnia

Depending on your overall health and the cause of your sleeping problems, it might take some time until you find a strain which will work the best for you. Since marijuana affects us all differently, you will have to do your own research and try out different strains.

As a general guideline:

Stick to Indica-dominant strains with up to 20% THC. You don’t want to be too groggy next morning either, right?

Keep in mind that the following strains are recommended for nighttime and before bed use because almost all are “downers”.

Here are some strains for a good night’s sleep:

Northern Lights (THC 16 – 21%)

Northern Lights is one of the favorites among sleeping disorder sufferers, as it is very effective in treating insomnia. It gives your body numb and lazy feeling, so be ready for the couch-lock effect which will put you to bed right away. It’s also great for stress relief and, if you are a beginner, make sure to keep the dosage low.

Pink Kush (THC 20%)

Pink Kush is very high in THC, so even the smallest doses will put you to sleep immediately. This hybrid strain, with its sweet and flowery taste, is one of the best natural remedies for sleep when you need it the most.

Blue Cheese (THC 20%)

Good strain for the end of the day. It has a sweet berry and cheese taste and smell and, if the right dose is taken, it provides a relaxed high. It’s also slightly uplifting and will boost your appetite as a bonus.

Lavender (THC 27%)

Lavender is an Indica strain and a proven sleeping aid. It provides a relaxing feeling, followed by slight euphoria, which gradually puts you to sleep. With its high THC content, it is one of the most potent strains, so take it easy the first time around.

Skywalker (THC 15-23%)

This strain is best used after a long day, when you just want to chill a little bit before going to bed. After the short wave of euphoria, when it starts to wear off, Skywalker leaves the body calm and peaceful — ready for a good night’s rest.

LA Confidential (THC 19-25%)

This Indica strain, high in THC, puts most users to sleep after just an hour or two after taking it. LA Confidential is also good for treating pain, as well as stress and anxiety, leaving your body feeling lazy.

Afghani (THC 15-20%)

What you can expect from Afghani strain is a heavy couch-lock effect followed by a deep sleep. It is considered to be a classic among the strains for its blissful effect and sedative properties. Patients use it the most for treating pain and insomnia.

Granddaddy Purple (THC 17-23%)

Granddaddy Purple is an Indica strain with very sweet and fruity taste and after the short euphoric period, it will lull you to sleep. It is very popular among the medical users for its other properties such as pain and stress relief.

Grape Ape (THC 18-21%)

This strain is perfect before bedtime. It produces full-body relaxation, leading to a deep sleep. Grape Ape has sweet and fruity flavor and a grape smell and it’s also a very good painkiller.

Bubba Kush (THC 14-22%)

Almost a pure Indica strain, Bubba Kush makes you feel lazy and weightless, with very powerful body relaxation feeling. Its couch-lock high is strong, making it perfect for those having troubles falling asleep.

Smoking is one of the most common ways of consuming marijuana. However, if you would prefer to avoid smoking, you can use the strains as an ingredient in edibles, such as cannabutter.

If you have problem sleeping and would rather avoid conventional sleeping pills, marijuana could just be your best natural solution. Before you start using it as a replacement for conventional drugs, be sure to consult with a doctor.

In charge of Greencamp’s health section, with a decade long experience of using cannabis for stress relief. Her spare time is mostly divided between Irish dance and reading.

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