If you have ever struggled to achieve a full and restful night’s sleep, you understand the desperation you begin to feel when the sleep deprivation begins to compound. Eventually, you recognize that you will try anything to get your body and mind back into a state of effective rest — and for some, that means trying cannabis.
The cultural shift toward acceptance and legalization of cannabis products has brought about a major trend toward using cannabis products to treat a wide variety of health and wellness concerns — to include sleep. As yet, research into the short- and long-term effects of cannabis use is slim; much of the advice regarding cannabis use is based on personal accounts which often come from well-established cannabis fans. Still, there is some evidence that cannabis might help you achieve the sleep of your dreams.
Research into exactly how cannabis compounds affect the human body is relatively new, and few studies have focused specifically on identifying which compounds work on sleep. There are several compounds in cannabis that can have the potential to have an impact on how you sleep. These include:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Recognized as the primary cannabis compound that provides weed’s notorious high, the interaction between THC and the nervous system almost certainly alters sleep patterns.
Cannabidiol (CBD). The second-most prevalent cannabis compound, CBD is highly regarded as non-psychoactive but does seem to cause change in the body’s systems, perhaps resulting in different sleep.
Cannabinol (CBN). A degraded form of THC, cannabinol is slightly psychoactive and generally sedative, meaning it could influence sleep to some degree.
Cannabigerol (CBG). Some researchers believe that CBG is the cannabinoid with the best potential to have positive health effects, which might include effects on disordered sleep.
Terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds found in a variety of different plants and some insects. The most obvious effect terpenes provide is aroma; smells like lavender, pine and citrus are caused directly by the presence of terpenes. Smells can generate psychological effects, but some research indicates that they have physiological effects, as well. Thus, the different terpene profiles in different cannabis strains might also contribute to changes in your sleep.
How Does Cannabis Affect Sleep?
Unfortunately, research on how cannabis use impacts sleep is frustratingly conflicted. Some cannabis users attest to feeling sleepy while others feel energized after taking the drug. Some claim that their sleep is much improved from a dose of cannabis before bed, while others wake up in the morning feeling groggier than usual.
Some of this variation might come from the dose. Researchers have found that the body reacts differently to high and low doses of THC and CBD; low doses of THC can be sedative, and low doses of CBD can be stimulating — and vice versa. The amount of exposure an individual has had to cannabis might also impact its effects in regards to sleep.
Short-term cannabis use seems to increase the amount of time users spend in deep sleep, but it does reduce the time spent in REM sleep, when the brain is processing emotions and storing memories. With long-term use, the effect on deep sleep begins to diminish, but the effects on REM remain, so sleepers become less refreshed and more forgetful over time.
Then again, genetics might also play a role in how your body and mind respond to different cannabis compounds. If you have not experimented with weed in the past, you might want to use the drug a few times to get a sense of whether you would enjoy relying on it as a sleep aid or whether it causes adverse effects that do not help you relax and drift off.
Will Cannabis Help You Sleep?
No sleep aid is perfect. Prescription sleep medications are notorious for their severe side effects, and even natural sleep aids have the potential to be addictive. Yet, if you have struggled with troubled sleep for some time, you might as well try introducing hemp sleep capsules to your bedtime routine. These sleep aids contain none of the psychoactive components of cannabis but maintain many of the other compounds that could have positive effects on your sleep. You might experiment with hemp for a few weeks before determining whether this solution will work for you in the long term.
As with any sleep aid, over-the-counter or otherwise, you should talk to your primary care provider about the potential benefits and risks before you begin self-treating. Then, you can have more confidence that you will safely achieve a good night’s rest.