Contributor: Franklin Edwards
Sleep is a critical part of our health, and many people have insomnia. But did you know that cannabis can help? It’s true! Cannabis has been used for centuries to treat sleep issues, and modern research supports this practice.
Cannabis and sleep go hand in hand. The natural compounds in cannabis, called cannabinoids, interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), responsible for regulating sleep. Certain strains of cannabis can help you get to sleep faster and more profound than normal.
It’s essential to learn about dosing (and the differences between THC and CBD) and the risks of side effects like paranoia. If you decide cannabis is right for you, there are a few different ways to consume it so you can determine which method works best with your body and lifestyle. Read on to learn about how cannabis can help you sleep better.
The Science of Cannabis and Insomnia
When we sleep, our body repair itself, the immune system is strengthened, and the brain and liver function optimally. However, sleep is also a time when the body collects and filters toxins.
Sleep is one of the body’s most important systems, so we must take care of it. Cannabis can be an excellent ally in supporting a healthy sleep schedule.
Cannabis contains a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive component of cannabis that doesn’t just get you high; it also acts on receptors in the brain and body to promote sleep.
THC boosts levels of a chemical in the brain called adenosine, which slows brain activity. Once the adenosine wears off, the brain becomes active again, signaling the body that it’s ready for sleep.
Research is mixed on whether CBD — another chemical in medical cannabis — has any impact on sleep. But CBD may help banish insomnia, according to a study published in 2016 in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology.
The researchers gave 65 people with severe insomnia THC or a placebo in a double-blind study. The researchers found that the THC group had less trouble falling asleep and slept longer. But CBD may have similar effects, so it’s essential to ingest both THC and CBD, especially for insomnia.
The THC and CBD in cannabis complement each other, and you need optimal levels for the best results. For insomnia, the ideal dose is about 10 milligrams of THC and 5 milligrams of CBD. A medical marijuana card in Illinois, for example, is the easiest way to get high quality medical cannabis. Your doctor may recommend the correct dosage and strain based on your unique needs.
Cannabis as a Sleep Aid
The sleep-promoting power of medical cannabis was first documented in 1999, when scientists looked at data collected from the University of California at San Diego. They found that frequent medical marijuana users had, on average, better sleep quality than infrequent users and that sleep was more likely to be interrupted among infrequent users.
Since then, researchers have found links between medical marijuana use and shorter sleep latency, decreased sleep-wake cycle disturbances, decreased insomnia severity, and increased sleep efficiency.
However, the sleep benefits of medical cannabis aren’t apparent to everyone. About 50 percent of habitual cannabis users report that it makes them drowsy, and 30 percent to 40 percent claim it makes them more awake.
Researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but it could have something to do with the way medical cannabis affects the brain.
Cannabis is most commonly consumed orally (by smoking or eating), but inhaling smoke may alter the brain’s natural sleep cycle. Research shows that breathing in marijuana smoke stimulates the release of a particular chemical messenger, called anandamide, in the brain. Anandamide has sleep-promoting properties, and it’s thought that smoking marijuana increases its levels.
Other research suggests that cannabis may boost levels of another chemical messenger called serotonin, which has soothing effects.
Researchers aren’t sure exactly how cannabis improves sleep, but they think the sedative effects may counteract the wake-promoting effects of THC.
While cannabis can be helpful for sleep, sleep aids work differently for everyone. If you are interested in trying cannabis for sleep, talk with your doctor first to see if it’s right for you. They can help you find the best dosage and delivery method that will work best for your lifestyle.