Are you losing hope for your sleep disorder? Maybe you’ve tried popping pills, listening to a hypnotherapy recording, or diffusing lavender oil in your room. Any of these may have worked for a time. But you haven’t stopped searching for a cure.
In this case, might you be interested in a controversial one? Try cannabis.
People who have used medical marijuana for sleep report about the drug’s positive effects. According to this study published on the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), cannabis can facilitate falling asleep.
After its legalization, however, little research has been done to prove its assistive power. So, for perspective, we would like to dig into how its impact on sleep disorders. We would like to provide you with some context before you try it. For your health and safety, read on about this drug and the lowdown on its sleep-enhancing properties.
Table of Contents
- Marijuana for Sleep: Does It Work?
- Things to Know Before You Try Marijuana As A Sleep Aid
- Choosing A Cannabis Strain
Marijuana for Sleep: Does It Work?
Pot or weed, happy brownies, and other colloquial terms all refer to recreational marijuana, the use of which didn’t become legal until 2012. The medical form of cannabis, however, was first legalized in California in 1996. The plant itself, including its chemical content called cannabinoids, is tapped for its pain and illness treatment properties.
We cannot cover the whole history of marijuana here. But we will shed light on its growing popularity as a sleep aid.
Cannabis is an approved cure for two kinds of epilepsy. Other than those, studies on the plant’s potency to treat other diseases are few and far between. The reason for this is Schedule I designation of the drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So federal law treats it as lacking medicinal value with a high potential for abuse.
However, the NCBI study we mentioned earlier touched on the effects of recreational marijuana on a person’s ability to fall asleep fast. The time it takes to transition from wakefulness to sleep is known as sleep latency. Another study showed improved sleep latency among cannabis-treated patients with insomnia and related issues.
There are about 100 cannabinoids (natural and synthetic) found in or derived from the cannabis plant. They’re used for their medicinal or psychoactive properties. Here are three common active ingredients you should know about:
- Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD lacks psychoactive features but is widely considered for its health benefits. When taken on its own, it can help manage anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, and of course, sleep disorders. It can also supplement the counter-activities of THC on pain and muscle spasticity.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This psychoactive cannabinoid is associated with the sensation of being “high” when someone smokes marijuana. THC can help in similar conditions as CBD, but it can specifically aid those with insomnia, anxiety, glaucoma, pain, and spasticity.
- Cannabinol (CBN) – CBN is a byproduct of THC. It has mild sedative properties. When used together with THC or CBD, it can be powerful as a sleep-inducing drug.
You should do further reading or consultation with a medical marijuana physician to fully understand the extent of cannabis use side effects. But here are several cases to know about:
- Nausea – Inhaling or spraying cannabis into the mouth can cause nausea, as well as headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness. If you must use cannabis spray, direct doctor-prescribed brand/product under your tongue.
- Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) – Taking large amounts of cannabis by mouth for long periods can lead to this disorder. CHS is characterized by recurrent nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Typical anti-nausea medicine can be ineffective in treating CHS. In some cases, this condition can cause death. CHS can also be a side effect of smoking too much weed over a long time.
- Death – There is limited information as to whether cannabis use can cause death. Some cases, however, show a link between the two. Complications resulting from CHS may eventually lead to death. It is also possible that smoking weed can affect cardiovascular activities, with adverse effects ending up in death. It is best to rule out other causes of fatality before concluding anything.
- Heart Disease – The negative effects of cannabis use on cardiovascular activities include fast heartbeat and high blood pressure. Together with other risk factors, such as obesity and cigarette smoking, it can potentially lead to a heart attack.
- Depression – Frequent cannabis use may increase the risk of developing depression. In people with depression, it can make the symptoms worse. It can heighten suicidal thoughts during depressive episodes.
Things to Know Before You Try Marijuana As A Sleep Aid
Cannabis Can Be Addictive
There’s a reason cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I drug. It contains psychoactive chemicals that can make users feel high. And they may continue to seek that sensation with or without a condition to cure. Frequent use of THC, especially in large amounts, can lead to dependence. Cravings can arise. And you may be unable to stop using it when you need to.
The solution may lie in the milder CBD. If solely applied, it may bring in sedative effects to individuals with anxiety and sleep problems. It can also be offered with THC. But larger doses of THC may promote being “high” and disrupt sleep.
It Can Impair Coordination and Judgment
Studies have yet to be consistent in linking cognitive and motor impairments with cannabis use. However, having looked at the brain of frequent users, researchers have found reduced activity in the area that controls motor functions, balance, and coordination. This can cause people to make errors in essential daily tasks, such as driving or walking.
Users also tend to have poorer memory than non-users.
It Should Not Be Used to Treat Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is one form of excessive daytime sleepiness. It is a neurological disorder that causes you to fall asleep at any time of the day, wherever you may be. When sleeping, you may go straight to REM (rapid eye movement), skipping the non-REM stages in which you reach deep sleep.
Marijuana can help you fall asleep fast when used at night. But it’s also shown to reduce stage 3 sleep (non-REM, also known as the deep sleep stage). Thus, it may worsen the symptoms of narcolepsy in patients.
Read: The Multiple Sleep Latency Test
It Can Lessen Time to Fall Asleep
Many studies agree that cannabis can lessen the time it takes for users to fall asleep. This result can benefit people with insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders. THC and CBD are two cannabinoids that are commonly tapped for their sedative properties. However, they are split in terms of which chemical should be prioritized.
THC is said to reduce REM sleep, the stage in which we dream. THC can help curb disruptive sleep among individuals with frequent nightmares and disturbing dreams. Meanwhile, CBD is reported to decrease the deep sleep stage, which the body requires to recuperate at night. But others caution against the “high” sensation that THC offers and prefer the milder effects of CBD.
It’s Recommended for Ages 25 and Up
Regular use of marijuana can have a lasting effect on the brain and mental function of humans. This is why it is recommended only for people who are 25 years old and above. Those in their developing years, particularly teenagers, may suffer from the long-term impact on their IQ and memory.
Researchers have found that heavy consumption of cannabis can lead to significant changes in the brain’s gray matter density. Regular versus occasional use may impair decision-making. Drug-dependent individuals may make choices with immediate benefits even if they come with negative consequences.
Choosing A Cannabis Strain
Once you get the green light to use medical marijuana for sleep, you’ll need to choose a strain. These strains are varieties of cannabis. They’re either pure or hybrid. You may have to go for the strain that will deliver your desired effect.
Most people with insomnia or anxiety may favor this strain for its relaxing properties. This variety originates from India’s Hindu Kush mountains. Some experts recommend looking for cannabinoid content instead of focusing on the strain alone. If you want a smooth, sleep-inducing experience, try an indica strain with less than 20% THC.
Generally, indica has more CBD and less THC. Other sleep-inducing indica strains are Afghan Kush, which can also improve appetite, and Granddaddy Purple, which can reduce stress as well.
The Sativa variety is often found in tropical climates, such as in Southeast Asia, Central America, and Africa. Its strains are popular for their energizing, productivity-boosting effects. Sativa is better taken throughout the day.
Sativa strains have less CBD and more THC, hence, the “high” feeling they bring. One strain, the Acapulco Gold can bring on euphoria. Sour Diesel can elevate your mood and relieve pain.
Blending Indica and Sativa, hybrids may take on the effects of its strain families. Mixing the two may be best left to the experts, such as the people at a dispensary or the manufacturer. Also, you will not know the effect of a hybrid unless you try. So consulting professionals is a must. Consuming a small amount is a good place to start if you’re trying out a hybrid for the first time.
But we cannot also discount your efforts to conduct your own research. It’s actually a smart move, as you’re now armed with the knowledge that will help you ask the right questions.
Taking marijuana for sleep is not a casual matter. But if you’re suffering from insomnia and similar sleep issues and have tried other, conventional solutions to no avail, go ahead and see your physician immediately.
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