How Does Cannabis Affect Sleep?


Cannabis is overall helpful for sleep, offering relaxation and relief from conditions that may keep you up at night. But, it’s not always helpful, and its effectiveness could depend on exactly what you’re taking, as THC and CBD can have different effects on sleep. Here’s what you need to know about cannabis and sleep.

Sleep is a Chronic Problem

If you think you’re not sleeping well enough, you may be right. Sleep deprivation affects many adults, as the pressures of daily life mean we may simply run out of time to sleep at the end of the day. And conditions such as anxiety and pain can keep you up at night even if you find that you have plenty of time to sleep.

Insomnia is common among adults, and sleep disorders can interfere with healthy sleep habits. And some adults are so tired that they report falling asleep during the day on occasion. While some people turn to medications, therapy, or lifestyle changes to treat sleep disorders, alternative options can help, too. And that can include cannabis use.

Cannabis Is Used as a Sleep Aid

We’ll explore why and how cannabis works for sleep, but for now, know this: many users of cannabis turn to it for help with sleep and relaxation. Among medical marijuana users, 76 percent use it for relaxation and 65 percent use it as a sleep aid.

How Cannabis Helps Sleep

Cannabis can be used to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from chronic pain to epilepsy. It’s especially helpful for anxiety, PTSD, and depression. And cannabis users can get relief from insomnia.

In fact, according to research from Kaiser Permanente, most adults with primary concerns of anxiety or poor sleep reported decreased anxiety scores and improved sleep scores within the first month.

Generally, cannabis helps with sleep by alleviating symptoms that can keep you up at night. For example, if you have a hard time falling asleep due to pain, you can doze off easier after using cannabis to relieve pain. Similarly, if you’re staying up at night with anxious thoughts, getting some anxiety relief can help you fall asleep. Essentially, cannabis clears a path to sleep, so you can feel more comfortable physically and mentally and get the rest you need.

Choosing The Right Strain For Sleep

Cannabis can have a calming effect, relieving anxiety. However, it can also induce anxiety. It’s all about the balance of THC and CBD in cannabis that determines whether it can help or hurt anxiety, and in turn, help you sleep. At low doses, THC can have a calming effect, but can induce anxiety at higher doses.

That means it’s a good idea to look for a strain that offers some THC, but is well balanced with CBD and other cannabinoids. And, if you’re just trying to get to sleep, be careful not to overdo it so you’re not reaching a consumption of THC that’s too high to help with anxiety. Generally, strains with a ratio at or near 1:1 CBD to THC are a good choice for sleep.

Cannabis Sleep Quality

Although Cannabis can be overall helpful for sleep, there is one drawback. It can help with overall sleep time, but may decrease the quality of sleep. This happens because with THC use, there is a mild decrease in deep sleep. This effect is similar to alcohol, which can help you get to sleep, but can lessen the amount of deep sleep you get.

Tips for Improving Sleep Using Cannabis

Use these tips to get the most out of using cannabis to sleep well.

  • Choose the right strain. Ask about the ratio of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD to find a strain that will be the most helpful for sleep. Consider whether you’re looking for relief from pain, anxiety, or another symptom cannabis can treat.

  • Support healthy sleep habits. Cannabis can positively influence sleep, but it won’t replace healthy sleep habits. You should maintain a regular sleep schedule, and bedtime routine, and make sure you’re not sabotaging sleep with late night caffeine or excessive screen time. And, your bedroom should be a healthy sleep environment, offering a cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable place to sleep at night.

  • Use other sleep aids. Combining cannabis use with other sleep aids can be especially effective. Use yoga and meditation, or take a warm bath or shower to make it easier to sleep at night.

Overall, cannabis can have a positive effect on sleep. But consider how it will work for you, and how you can make it a more effective sleep aid so you can get the rest you need to function at your best.

Amelia Noble is a researcher with the CBD Awareness Project. When she’s not working, you can find her playing board games.

Image – pexels


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