Cannabis for Sleep — Does Marijuana Help People Catch Z’s
Cannabis for sleep? Isn’t that one of the most tried and true motivations for marijuana use?
According to recent statistics, insomnia affects about 10% to 30% of the general population worldwide. Some studies even suggest that its prevalence can go as high as 50% to 60%. While conventional medications can help control insomnia, long-term use of these is accompanied by a host of adverse side effects that can be pretty worrisome.
Cannabis has relaxing and sedating effects. It is also known to suppress night terrors. People with insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder oftentimes use cannabis to help them sleep and prevent nightmares.
But how does cannabis promote better sleep? More importantly, is it a safe and effective sleep aid?
Understanding Sleep and Dreams
Sleep has four stages, and we go through several cycles of these stages per night.
The first two stages prepare your body for deep sleep. Your muscles relax, and your breathing slows down. Brain activities also start to calm down. This stage is fairly light in nature, however, so any stimulus and you’re up once more.
The third stage is called the deep sleep. It is the longest and most important stage. In this stage, your body repairs itself. Rousing you out of a deep sleep can be pretty difficult. People with sleep conditions often have a shorter deep sleep stage which prevents them from getting a restful slumber.
The fourth stage is where dreams and nightmares occur. Called the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, it is during this stage that your body prepares to wake up. Your heart rate and breathing increase as your brain becomes more active. Patients with PTSD often have REM sleep abnormalities that worsen their vivid and violent night terrors.
Sleep deprivation contributes to the development and progression of chronic medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension. It also increases chronic stress and anxiety.
Cannabis for Sleep – What are the Effects?
Cannabis has several significant effects on sleep. It relaxes our muscles and, at the same time, soothes away our body aches and pains. These relaxing and analgesic effects prepare us for a good slumber. Additionally, cannabis also suppresses REM sleep. It helps prolong deep sleep and reduces night terrors.
A 1975 study on cannabis for sleep showed that using cannabis before sleep significantly decreases rapid eye movements. Rapid and random movements of the eyes are associated with dreaming. The same study also revealed that cannabis decreased the duration of the REM sleep and increased deep sleep.
A more recent 2008 study also showed similar findings. It revealed that smoking cannabis or ingesting oral THC has the ability to reduce REM sleep. Using it before sleep also allows the individual to fall asleep faster.
A Fair Warning
While some people find it beneficial to use cannabis for sleep, you should know though that there are some risks involved.
Chronic use of cannabis for sleep can increase the risk of developing cannabis dependence. Long-term use of cannabis for sleep can also result in more sleep problems as the body develops tolerance to the substance. The risk of withdrawal symptoms is also increased when you stop using cannabis.
If you want to try cannabis for sleep, do so with caution. It’s also wise to discuss this option with your physician first.