Anybody who’s dabbled in marijuana knows that it can make you sleepy. Maybe not every time, or right away, but marijuana has certainly developed a reputation for getting people to doze off faster than they would naturally. It’s why many individuals use it as an informal, unprescribed sleep aid. Insomnia is a major feature of modern life, with a staggering one-third of American adults thought to suffer from the condition. It makes sense, then, that people would turn to an “organic” solution to help them get a full seven to nine hours of sleep at night.
But does marijuana actually help people fall asleep? That is, has its effectiveness been scientifically proven? And if it has, does the plant provide users with a healthy, restorative sleep, or something less than satisfying?
THC for Sleep
Marijuana is comprised of a range of cannabinoids—chemical compounds that interact with a person’s cannabinoid receptors and impact various physiological systems. The most well-known of these are THC and CBD. THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, does not have any psychoactive properties. In recent years, though, studies have begun to demonstrate that CBD can positively affect people’s health in various ways.
If marijuana helps you sleep, it’s more than likely the THC that’s responsible. Because of this, people interested in exploring the sleep-inducing potential of marijuana should look for strains that contain moderate or high levels of THC. Talk with your doctor about which strains may help most with sleep.
Reduction of REM
There’s a complicating factor here, though. While marijuana helps some individuals fall asleep, studies have shown that it actually inhibits people’s ability to reach REM sleep. REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep is one of the most vital, restorative unconscious states. When a person is in the REM phase, their body is able to repair the immune system, restore muscle tissue, and sharpen cognition. An oft-cited 2008 study found that while marijuana use helped people fall asleep faster, it limited the amount of REM sleep they were getting each night.
For many people, marijuana reduces the amount of time they toss and turn in bed before nodding off. For those struggling with insomnia, that can be very valuable. But marijuana’s relationship to healthy, restorative sleep is more complicated than that, as it’s been scientifically proven to hurt our ability to get REM sleep. Anyone considering using THC as a sleep aid should be aware of both its obvious benefits and this important, lesser-known drawback.
For more information or guidance on medical marijuana, contact our office and schedule an appointment today. We look forward to seeing you.