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The Surprising Link Between Cannabis and Sleep

Published on October 11, 2019 7:55 AM EST
The Surprising Link Between Cannabis and Sleep

Cannabis is an effective natural sleep aid that makes users feel relaxed, comfortable, and calm. Marijuana can ease physical pain and tension and encourage restfulness. For the 50 million Americans living with a sleep disorder, cannabis may be the answer to their problems. 

Marijuana is able to help with a wide array of sleep disorders, including insomnia, sleep apnea, and more. Smoking weed before bed can help you fall asleep fast and stay asleep. Many individuals with sleep disorders choose cannabis over sleeping pills because it’s all-natural and has few side effects.

The Surprising Link Between Cannabis and Sleep

However, there are still some surprising drawbacks to medicating with marijuana. The relationship between cannabis and sleep is complex, complicated, and downright fascinating. 

Cannabis and Sleep Disorders

Insomnia

Marijuana can help you fall asleep fast, making it a great solution for insomnia. The reason that cannabis promotes sleep is because the buds are packed full of natural compounds called cannabinoids. The two best known cannabinoids are THC and CBD.

THC is the psychoactive chemical that gets you high, while CBD is a compound that promotes healing and reduces pain and inflammation. THC, CBD, and the lesser known CBN help you fall asleep when they bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These compounds work together to relax the muscles and promote tiredness. Additionally, cannabis contains terpenes, which can help you feel calm and drowsy. 

Consuming cannabis before bed reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increases the overall duration of sleep. Although entirely anecdotal, most users agree that indica strains make them more tired than sativa strains. 

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious medical disorder that affects more than 22 million Americans. This condition is characterized by frequent lapses in breathing during sleep.

Currently, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advises against cannabis use as a treatment for the condition; however, promising studies from 2002 and 2013 may point to cannabis as the answer. Researchers believe cannabinoids could help stabilize respiratory function during sleep.

More evidence is needed to determine whether marijuana could be an effective treatment for sleep apnea. Experts are hopeful that continued research will confirm their initial findings and prove that cannabis use can promote stable breathing. If this treatment is effective, sleep apnea patients can rest more peacefully and decrease their risk of heart attack and stroke.

Nightmares & PTSD

For people living with PTSD or chronic nightmares, falling asleep and staying asleep may be extremely difficult. Someone with this condition may be constantly woken up by frightening thoughts, flashbacks, and images. Marijuana helps individuals with nightmares because THC disrupts the dreaming cycle of sleep. 

Consuming cannabis before bed will reduce the amount of time you spend in the REM cycle of sleep, when dreaming occurs. If you’ve ever smoked weed at night before, you may have noticed that you didn’t have any dreams at all. For someone with nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralysis, or PTSD, a dreamless night is the ideal treatment.

How Marijuana Disrupts Sleep

Ineffective REM Cycle

Marijuana use disrupts the REM cycle of sleep, which is unhealthy and unnatural for most people. Some individuals with chronic nightmares or PTSD can benefit from an altered REM cycle, but most individuals get positive effects from dreaming. Research suggests that dreaming may benefit our memory, emotion regulation, and cognition skills. 

Having your natural sleep patterns altered by cannabis use is unhealthy for the brain. Long-term marijuana users often have no dreams at all, and suffer from lower quality sleep. Once you stop using cannabis, however, the effects will reverse and you will be able to dream normally again.

Fatigue & Hangover

Marijuana is so good at helping you fall asleep, that sometimes it makes it difficult to wake up again. After a night of consuming THC, you may find yourself tired, nauseated, or confused in the morning. This negative effect of using cannabis as a sleep aid is a marijuana hangover. 

Some experts believe marijuana hangovers are caused by dehydration, while others suggest they are caused by residual THC lingering in the brain. Inexperienced users are especially prone to cannabis hangovers. This is likely due to their low tolerance and their lack of familiarity with the sensation. 

Symptoms of a Cannabis Hangover

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling distracted or confused
  • Dry, red eyes
  • Headaches
  • Dehydration. 
  • Dry mouth

Best Cannabis Strains for Sleep

Some marijuana strains are better for sleep than others. Indica strains in particular are beloved amongst the cannabis community for their powers to relax the body and mind.

Each strain produces unique effects based on their THC content, levels of CBD, and terpene profile. These are the top five cannabis strains to try if you need help falling asleep.

Granddaddy Purple

Granddaddy Purple is an infamous strain that is popular for both medical and recreational users. Sometimes called GDP for short, this strain is potent, powerful, and of course, purple.

To get this strong, colorful plant, weed growers blended together the Purple Urkle and Big Bud. Granddaddy Purple is commonly used to treat insomnia, PTSD, chronic pain, muscle spasms, and other symptoms that disrupt sleep.

9 Pound Hammer

9 Pound Hammer is a heavy-hitting strain that will help you fall asleep fast. This indica strain produces an intense high that relaxes both the mind and the body. Consuming 9 Pound Hammer is a good way to alleviate stress, muscle tension, pain, or anxiety. Many users report feeling drowsy and dreamy shortly after smoking this strain. 

Not only does 9 Pound Hammer deliver high levels of THC, but it also promotes sleep with its relaxing terpene profile. These buds produce calming scents that are reminiscent of lavender, lemon, and pine. Consuming this cannabis strain before bed will help sedate you entirely for the whole night.

Blackberry Kush

Blackberry Kush is a potent indica strain named after its sweet flavor profile of wild blackberries and earthy soil. This strain is often recommended by medical professionals to manage insomnia and chronic pain.

Blackberry Kush is ideal for nighttime use only, since it can leave your body feeling heavy and sedated. This alluring strain will knock you out quickly and ease the symptoms of other sleep-related disorders. Users who smoke Blackberry Kush before bed report feeling uplifted and euphoric before falling asleep.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights is a well known cannabis strain often used to relieve stress, relax the muscles, help the mind drift off to sleep. This marijuana strain produces a calming, mellow effect that makes users feel tired and comfortable.

Northern Lights is great for alleviating the symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD, insomnia, chronic pain, and other disorders. This strain is the ideal treatment if you’re having trouble sleeping due to either physical pain or mental conditions.

LA Confidential

LA Confidential is a powerful indica strain that will make you feel calm, cozy, and ready for bed. This strain produces strong sedative effects that will make your eyelids heavy. LA Confidential gently uplifts the mood, which makes it great for treating stress, anxiety, and insomnia.

Many cannabis users prefer this strain as a natural sleep aid. Due to the high THC content of this strain, LA Confidential is also popular for managing chronic pain, fibromyalgia, appetite disorders, and more.  

How to Wake Up After Weed

Not every cannabis user wants to feel tired after smoking weed. If you enjoy using cannabis during the day, it can be difficult to deal with that drowsy feeling that comes later.

After the peak of your high, you could feel less energetic or more sleepy than usual. Additionally, waking up with a marijuana hangover can leave you feeling tired and fatigued all day. These tips will help you feel revitalized if cannabis is making you feel sleepy.

  • Hydrate
  • Try CBD oil or CBD flower
  • Eat
  • Take a nap
  • Consume caffeine
  • Exercise

The relationship between cannabis and sleep is promising to individuals with sleep disorders and to medical marijuana researchers.

As more studies are done around the globe, we hope to better understand the benefits and drawbacks of cannabis use. For now, it’s safe to say that cannabis use can help with sleep in many surprising and amazing ways.

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