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92: What does marijuana do to your sleep?

sleep aides Jan 06, 2024
CBD and Sleep

Over the years, I’ve fielded many questions about marijuana and its use for sleep.  This is an active area of research, and the medical and scientific understanding has not been fully developed yet.  I think it’s worth noting that cannabis products are often used in managing health conditions that are associated with pain, nausea, or negative effects on sleep.  

Caution.  Cannabis may interact with prescription or over-the-counter medications and supplements.  Proceed with caution and consult the smartest healthcare provider you know about how this might affect you personally.  Also, be aware of the legal status of cannabis in your state before buying, consuming, or transporting.  

Marijuana is a plant that has multiple active compounds.  Here is a simplified description of three of them:  THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), and CBN (Cannabinol).

  • THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant– it produces mind-altering effects and gives a feeling of intoxication. 
  • CBD is not psychoactive and is primarily responsible for calming effects.  CBD may reduce pain, inflammation, and anxiety.  Some research studies suggest that CBD may actually increase alertness, especially at lower doses.
  • CBN is a lesser-known cannabinoid believed to produce sedative effects. CBN is unique in that it is not directly produced by the cannabis plant but is instead a byproduct of the degradation of THC.

Different strains of marijuana have varying ratios of THC to CBD, and these can have different effects.  Both of these compounds can have complex effects on sleep, and the impact can vary from person to person.  Additionally, factors such as the strain of marijuana, dosage, and the timing of use can create different results.  

Short-Term Effects.  Marijuana is known for its relaxing properties, inducing a hypnotic or calm state.  Some users report that it helps them fall asleep faster.  Low doses of THC may improve the time it takes to get to sleep, while higher doses can disrupt sleep.  

Reduction in REM Sleep.  THC may reduce the time spent in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the type of sleep most associated with dreaming, and some people find that marijuana decreases dream recall.  Emotion processing and memory formation are other important functions of REM and these may also be affected by use of ingested marijuana products.

Long-Term Effects.  Regular use of marijuana can lead to tolerance– this means that over time, higher doses may be needed to achieve the same sleep-inducing effects. Additionally, some people develop dependence.  So if you quit cannabis after chronic use, it can significantly disrupt your sleep.  Finally, regular marijuana use has been found to decrease the duration of REM sleep.

Withdrawal Symptoms.  Discontinuing long-term marijuana or cannabis use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including difficulty sleeping and disrupted sleep patterns.

Individual Variability.  Different people respond in unique ways to marijuana. While some may experience improved sleep, others may find that it disrupts their sleep or leads to grogginess the next day.

Timing Matters.   Using marijuana closer to bedtime may help with sleep onset, but it might have different effects if used earlier in the day.

Next steps.  There are many forms of use for ingested cannabis products– smoked, vaped, eaten as edibles, or taken orally (prescribed medication).  If you want to proceed with experimenting with marijuana’s effects on your sleep, heed the Caution above and take these guidelines into consideration:  

  • In general, people prefer indica strains to help with sleep.
  • Start low, go slow.  Seriously.  Start with a low dose and plan to take notes on your experience so you can get specific on how it’s affecting you.  Don’t increase your dose after just one experience, plan to spend at least a few days to a week observing.  Patience is key.
  • Have a plan for discontinuing.  Marijuana can have effects on you the following day, and long-term use for sleep may cause problems (see Long-term Effects above).  





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