The more scientists find out about cannabis, the more the claims of some advocates are validated. It’s no secret that cannabis research has been stifled due to its illegality. Despite a lack of conclusive evidence on cannabis as an effective treatment for sleep disorders, many people swear that cannabis helps them sleep better than anything else.
Currently, cannabis can be prescribed to treat sleep disorders in 7 different states. Sleep disorders can describe one or more of the following:
- Insomnia – persistent, sometimes chronic inability to fall or stay asleep
- Sleep Apnea – disruption of breathing during sleep
- Restless Leg Syndrome – tingling or burning sensation in the legs
- Narcolepsy – overwhelming daytime drowsiness, sometimes to the point of irresistible bouts of sleep that can occur anywhere
- Parasomnia – abnormal or unusual behavior of the nervous system during sleep including sleepwalking, talking during sleep, grinding teeth, night terrors, head banging, etc.
Studies have shown that cannabis can help treat sleep disorders. Here are the ways:
- Reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep
- Help experience fewer times waking up at night
- Help people suffering with PTSD to have fewer nightmares
- Can increase stage 3 sleep
Currently, doctors do not recommend medical marijuana for treating narcolepsy. Even though some strains that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) can help increase alertness, cannabis can cause narcoleptic symptoms to worsen in some cases.
When we sleep, our bodies cycle through four main stages – NREM (non REM) Stages 1, 2, 3 and REM sleep. Stages NREM 1 and NREM 2 are considered light sleep, while NREM Stage 3 is considered deep sleep. The cycle that comes after is called REM (rapid eye movement). REM sleep is the stage in which mammals dream the most, but the stage in which we seem to understand the least.
The good news is, research shows that THC increases deep sleep stages. The bad news could be that research shows THC decreases REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. If you are a heavy cannabis user, this is probably the reason you don’t remember most of your dreams.
In a study on young adults, researchers determined that THC is a sedative, while CBD has “alerting properties”. When participants took the same amount of THC and CBD together, it actually decreased their stage 3 sleep. THC by itself did lead to an increase in sleepiness.
As with any other drug or medical treatment though, cannabis for sleep disorders isn’t for everyone. There are several other ways to get some better shuteye. Getting more exercise, getting more sunlight and eating a better diet can help with insomnia. Natural sleep aids like melatonin and valerian can help with some cases of insomnia as well.
While we love talking about the science of medical cannabis here at the Marijuana Times, we are not doctors and do not give medical advice. This article is for educational and conversational purposes only.
What are your thoughts about marijuana and sleep? Does consuming cannabis help you sleep or does it keep you awake?