JUN 11, 2021 1:39 PM PDT

Can Cannabis Help Regulate Your Sleep Cycle?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

According to the Sleep Association, around 50-70 million adults in the US have a sleep disorder. Some claim that cannabis may be able to help improve sleep quality by restoring the natural sleep cycle, but is this really the case? 

Some research suggests that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, may improve sleep. One study, for example, found that a CBD dosage of 160 mg increased sleep duration. This may be as CBD has also been shown to decrease cortisol levels, which is associated with fewer nighttime awakenings. 

However, a more recent analysis of CBD on 103 participants taking various prescribed medications who had anxiety or poor sleep found that CBD had a mixed effect. While 66.7% of people at the first follow up reported improved sleep, 25% reported worsened sleep. 

At the second follow-up, 56.1% of participants reported improved sleep, whereas 26.8% reported worse sleep. This, says the researchers, means that while CBD may have short term benefits, these benefits may not be long-lasting. 

They did find however that among those who reported benefits from CBD, the lowest dosage studied (25 mg) was most effective for reducing anxiety whereas higher doses (up to 175 mg) tended to work better for troubled sleep. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound in cannabis, may also have some effect on sleep. A study from 2008 for example, found that consuming strains of cannabis with higher levels of THC reduces REM sleep, and thus the incidence of dreams. This may be beneficial for those who have PTSD, as it may reduce nightmares. 

Less time in REM sleep theoretically entails more time spent in deeper stages of sleep which are thought to be more restorative and restful. However, it should also be noted that REM sleep is important for healthy cognitive and immune functioning. Thus, long term use of THC for sleep purposes may have some negative side effects. 

What about synthetic cannabinoids? Research has found that synthetic cannabinoids, such as nabilone (a synthetic analogue of THC) and dronabinol (an enantiomer of THC) may be able to relieve sleep apnea when used short-term due to their effects on serotonin-mediated apneas. Nabilone may also be able to improve sleep quality among those with chronic pain.

Cannabinoid concentration, timing and route of administration may also affect how effective cannabis may be in improving sleep quality. Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard-trained physician and cannabis therapeutics specialist, said to Healthline that strains of cannabis that contain more than 20% THC may make people feel groggy the next morning.

For those who dislike smoking cannabis, vaping devices or THC-rich tinctures which are dropped under the tongue can be used around an hour before sleep. Taken in these ways, the effects of the plant may last for three to four hours, just enough to fall asleep. Tishler added that starting to feel the effects slightly before bedtime reduces the risk of excitability which in itself could prevent sleep. 

Edibles, however, says Tishler, can be unpredictable, sometimes kicking in hours after ingestion. As such, he rarely recommends them as sleep aids. This also comes as their effects can last for longer, resulting in feelings of grogginess the next morning. 

How often a person uses cannabis may also affect sleep quality. One study examining 98 young adults, for example, found that daily users of cannabis had higher rates of insomnia and sleep disturbances than non-daily users and non-users.  

Due to peoples’ different underlying physiologies, different strains of cannabis, routes of administration and cannabinoids affect different people in various ways. Some people may be best to avoid cannabis altogether. This is especially true for those who report that high-THC strains make them feel anxious or paranoid, and for those with poor cardiovascular health who should avoid cannabis due to the increased risk of myocardial infarction. 

All in all, it is difficult to say whether cannabis has a definitive effect on sleep quality. Although it seems to help some people to improve their sleep, it is difficult to predict exactly who it will and won't help. While some should avoid cannabis due to underlying health conditions, others may find it useful to consult their physician before using the plant, or any of its derivatives, to improve sleep quality. 

 

Sources: HealthlineMedical News TodayJournal of Addictive DiseasesTopical Collection on Sleep DisordersPub Med

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
MAY 27, 2022
Plants & Animals
Strong as Steel: Hemp Reinforcing Bar
MAY 27, 2022
Strong as Steel: Hemp Reinforcing Bar
Can hemp building materials prevent dangerous crises such as the recent Surfside building collapse in Miami, or crumblin ...
JUN 06, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Price and Convenience: Key Reasons Why People Continue to Buy Illegal Cannabis
JUN 06, 2022
Price and Convenience: Key Reasons Why People Continue to Buy Illegal Cannabis
A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that price and convenience are the two main reaso ...
AUG 21, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Synthetic Cannabinoid Poisonings Decrease as More States Legalize Cannabis
AUG 21, 2022
Synthetic Cannabinoid Poisonings Decrease as More States Legalize Cannabis
Synthetic cannabis, also known as Spice, AK-47 or K2, has received extensive news coverage after overdoses and deaths in ...
SEP 02, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
How to harvest really good cannabis
SEP 02, 2022
How to harvest really good cannabis
What's the secret to growing a great crop of cannabis? There's several factors.
OCT 26, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Study Suggests FDA Oversight of Vaping Makes Minimal Impact
OCT 26, 2022
Study Suggests FDA Oversight of Vaping Makes Minimal Impact
A recent study published in Tobacco Control suggested that current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of the A ...
NOV 08, 2022
Health & Medicine
Study Recommends Revisiting Heart Transplant Criteria Candidacy for Cannabis Users
NOV 08, 2022
Study Recommends Revisiting Heart Transplant Criteria Candidacy for Cannabis Users
Researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine analyzed pre- and post-operation consideration and clinicians&rsq ...
Loading Comments...