Can marijuana help me sleep better?

By: Contributor Culture

Many marijuana users choose to smoke in the evenings, when they can relax on the sofa after all the daily activities are finished. However, whilst many people believe that cannabis helps you sleep, there are some scientific studies that discourage its use for this purpose. In this article we reveal the secrets of this tortuous relationship between sleep and the plant of our dreams.

There’s a general perception among cannabis users that marijuana helps you sleep. This may be due to the effects produced by this plant’s ultimate psychoactive cannabinoid: THC. THC showcases sedative properties that help induce relaxation, which is why cannabis is perceived as a good sleep aid.

A review of existing scientific literature related to cannabis use and sleep disorders helps put actual figures to this widespread belief. The results of this review were as follows:

  • About 70% of the young adults who use marijuana casually, use it to sleep better.
  • Among older consumers, this figure drops to 50%.
  • 48.1% of the patients who use medical cannabis, do so to fight insomnia.
  • 85% of the patients who take cannabis for pain relief, experience an improvement in their sleep.
  • This figure increases up to 93% among those patients who also suffer from mood disorders.

Therefore, many users experience an improvement in the quality of their sleep, especially when their difficulty to enter the world of Morpheus is caused by a disease or disorder. This is because marijuana can also help fight certain conditions that affect the sleep of their sufferers.

Sleep disorders that can be improved with cannabis

Another study published in the journal Nature and Science for Sleep in 2022, describes two sleep disorders that can be improved with the use of cannabis:

Use of marijuana for the treatment of restless legs syndrome

This disorder of unknown origin and with no effective treatment to date, causes the need to move the legs at night, which obviously worsens sleep quality. Fortunately, though, cannabis has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of this syndrome and thereby improve the quality of life of its sufferers.

Use of cannabis for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, can occur in those patients who have experienced a frightening, shocking, or highly dangerous situation. It can also affect sleep, as it often causes recurring nightmares.

According to some research studies, THC may have beneficial effects on PTSD patients due to its ability to shorten the REM phase of sleep. It is during this phase that dreams are generated, so reducing their duration can be a great advantage for those affected by this syndrome.

Cannabis for insomnia, the king of sleep disorders

When we talk about sleep disorders, we immediately think about insomnia. This disorder is seriously widespread in today’s society, with between 20 and 50% of people suffering from it to a greater or lesser degree.

In order to test the effectiveness of cannabis to combat insomnia, a study by the University of New Mexico followed the evolution of 400 patients through a mobile application. The results were conclusive: cannabis helped alleviate the symptoms of insomnia in the vast majority of participants.

Nonetheless, certain differences were detected between indica and sativa strains, as well as between different administration methods:

  1. Indica strains and their hybrids proved to be more effective in reducing insomnia than their sativa counterparts, which in turn also produced more side effects.
  2. The use of vaporisers and pipes was associated with greater effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of insomnia when compared to marijuana cigarettes.
  3. Strains with higher levels of CBD (cannabis’ non-psychoactive cannabinoid) proved more effective than high-THC varieties.

This is undoubtedly good news for insomnia sufferers, but how about healthy people who just need a little help to get a good night’s sleep?

Can marijuana help healthy people sleep better?

While the scientific community praises the qualities of cannabis to combat sleep disorders, there doesn’t seem to be an agreement when it comes to people who don’t suffer from any conditions.

According to a study published in 2021, marijuana can alter circadian rhythms, which are the set of physical, behavioural, and mental changes we undergo over a 24-hour period.

Circadian rhythms are marked by the cycles of light and darkness of the environment and act as an internal clock that determines when to wake up and when to sleep. This is why an alteration of this clock can seriously affect the quality of our sleep.

Besides, we’ve already mentioned that THC can shorten the REM phase of sleep, causing us to dream less when we use cannabis.

The importance of dreams

Dreams, whether we remember them or not, are a crucial part of our existence. If you appreciate that we spend a third of our lifetime sleeping, and that, when we do so, we live in that strange world created in our mind, you won’t find it hard to give dreams the value they deserve.

In addition to all the poetic sense of the dream world, science supports this as well: the function of dreaming goes beyond simply filling the void of those dark hours. Some studies have proven that dreaming contributes to the consolidation of memory, thereby having an influence on learning and on the psychoanalytic process of our mind. Therefore, shortening the REM phase in healthy people doesn’t seem like a good idea.

CBN: a narcotic cannabinoid?

The connection between CBN and dreaming is also well known. Cannabinol is created as cannabis ages, when the THC is exposed to light and heat. This has given cannabis a bit of a bad reputation since you might not get as high as you’d like, but instead experience more narcotic effects.

But does CBN really benefit sleeping? Although there are many experiences that seem to suggest this (there are also numerous commercial products that contain CBN and promise to help you sleep), the link between the two has no scientific basis, as there are very few studies so far that back up its ability to do so.

In fact, only one study has suggested that this effect occurs, and only under very specific conditions: the results suggest that sedation is only achieved when CBN is used in combination with THC. This finding could be attributed to the phenomenon known as the ‘entourage effect’, in which cannabinoids work synergistically with each other, as well as with other components like terpenes and flavonoids, to produce a stronger effect.

CBD to sleep better

However, while THC can have negative effects on the quality of our sleep, CBD (cannabidiol) seems to offer a real solution. Unlike many anxiolytics and antidepressants such as benzodiazepines, cannabidiol doesn’t interfere with the sleep cycles. Due to its anxiolytic and relaxing properties, CBD can be a good aid to fall asleep without altering the different phases of sleep or the sleep quality.

Many people use cannabis to successfully control their pain or insomnia. However, some users find that it makes them feel more paranoid or anxious. If you don’t like the feeling of being high, a strain with higher CBD levels may be the best option for you to help you have the sweetest of dreams.

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Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.