Cannabis and Sleep: Here’s What You Need to Know

August 17, 2020

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Cannabis and Sleep: Here’s What You Need to Know by Harry Gordon

The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research recommends seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night for optimal mental and physical well-being. Even so, most of us struggle to get enough rest. 

There are various reasons good quality sleep eludes us.

Bad food habits, a fast-paced life, less physical activity, or maybe some underlying illness.

According to SleepStandards, insufficient sleep or poor sleep is bad for our physical and mental health. 

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the world. To conquer sleep disorders, there is a growing interest in using cannabis.

Although it is a controversial cure, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center suggests it can be an effective treatment with negligible side effects for various sleep disorders.

The Science of Sleep via Cannabis

Since ancient times, sages in India have been using the cannabis plant as an aid for meditation. The cannabis plant has been used for medical and recreational purposes for centuries because of its relaxing and sedative effect. 

As per some medical marijuana experts, Bhanuprakash Kolla, MD, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist who specializes in sleep medicine and addiction, marijuana can be very effective in helping people sleep because it can restore your natural sleep cycle, which has been ruined by hectic schedules and a modern-day lifestyle.

They believe that cannabis can work like an analgesic that can provide some relief for those with chronic pain and also possesses properties that can soothe your stress levels and help you to get rid of anxiety.

As per some studies, using cannabis may reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and lengthen time spent in deep sleep while shortening the time spent in REM sleep.

Cannabis has different natural chemical compounds that can affect your sleep.

Different strains of marijuana can have different effects, ranging from energizing,  to calming, or even sedating.

How a particular strain affects the user depends on the balance of the different chemical compounds in that particular strain of marijuana.

Cannabinoids and terpenes are the two main chemical components of marijuana.

Cannabinoids

A cannabis plant has hundreds of cannabinoids that can benefit your sleep and other health problems, including psychological conditions like depression and anxiety.

These can work as an analgesic and may help with seizure disorders, different forms of cancer, and chronic pain.

Three cannabinoids are known to affect sleep.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Cannabidiol is known to promote relaxation.

It does not possess any psychoactive properties, so one cannot get high with it.

CBD is known to balance the getting high property of another cannabinoid, THC.

Cannabidiol has been found helpful in reducing anxiety, relieving pain, and promoting alertness, mental focus, and clarity. It can also reduce daytime sleepiness.

Cannabinol (CBN)

Cannabinol is known to have powerful sedative effects. A combination of CBN with THC seems to enhance the sedative effect further. CBN is known to be a pain-reliever and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol is known to be the main element that promotes the psychoactive effect. THC is the cannabinoid that can make one get high. THC can have analgesic properties that can help in relieving pain and nausea.

THC is known to have sedative effects and can help one fall asleep faster.

Terpenes

Terpenes are natural molecules in many fruits, flowers, and herbs including cannabis plants that give them a distinctive smell and taste.

Scientists have been able to identify more than 150 different terpenes. Different combinations of these terpenes in different strains of cannabis give them distinctive taste and smell.

There are different strains of cannabis depending on the different types and amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes used to create them.

The two most common kinds of strains of cannabis.

Indica – It is known to have a soothing and relaxing effect.

Sativa – It is known to excite and energize and make people feel happy.

There is a hybrid strain as well, that is made by blending both indica and sativa strains.

Things to Consider Before Trying Cannabis

First and foremost, the use of marijuana should be legal in your area.

You should consult a sleep doctor before trying cannabis.

As there are many different strains of cannabis available, you should request the help of a medical practitioner who has expertise in prescribing marijuana.

Depending on the kind of sleep disorder you are suffering from, your doctor should be able to suggest the strain that is going to be helpful for your sleep problems.

Ingesting marijuana strains that have higher levels of THC reduces the amount of REM sleep and increases the duration of the deep sleep stage of your sleep. Deep sleep is the most restful stage of your sleep and when the restoration process takes place.

You should not use marijuana as a sleeping aid for the long-term as it can affect the cognitive functioning of your brain.

You should avoid smoking marijuana as smoking is bad for your lungs, especially if you suffer from any respiratory health issues.

You should not ingest marijuana if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Cannabis for Rest

Most people prefer to ingest marijuana by smoking. You can smoke it as a joint or by using a pipe.

You should either use vaping devices or THC-rich tinctures to ingest marijuana to protect your lungs or if you don’t like the smell of marijuana.

There is no standard dosage that can be followed for ingesting marijuana. You may need to experiment a bit to find the best dosage for your sleep disorders.

You should ensure that you don’t over ingest marijuana, as it can have a long-term bad effect on your health. Also, you should not repeat the dosage if you wake up from sleep during the night.

As per some experts, marijuana can be most effective when consumed one hour before bedtime although, it may vary depending on your physiology. Your doctor should be able to guide you on dosage and timing.

Consuming marijuana should only be used as a short-term fix for your sleep disorder. Other ways that should be able to help you to overcome your sleep disorders are, by following proper sleep hygiene, meditation and exercising, better food habits and creating a perfect sleep environment, etc.

You should ensure you are comfortable seated while you are consuming marijuana. To avoid any accidents and get the best use of marijuana for your sleep, you should lie on the right mattress that can support your body when sleep kicks in.

Conclusion

Sleep is very important along with healthy food and physical activity to conquer the rigors of modern life.

Consuming marijuana as a short-term fix can be very effective in getting you better sleep but precaution must be taken to avoid getting addicted to it.  You should consult your doctor even before you think of using it.

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