Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Restorative sleep is essential for maintaining optimal physical and mental health, and is, in fact, just as important as having a healthy diet and regular exercise.
However, many people don’t get to have their deep sleep because at some point in their lives they develop symptoms of insomnia. Marijuana has been long known to help with this condition, but there seems to be an ongoing debate about whether this is true for all users.
In this article, we’ll briefly discuss sleep problems related to insomnia and the relationship between this sleep disorder and marijuana, as well as look at some medical research on the matter.
Insomnia is Fairly Common
This may not come as a surprise, but insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders in the world. Research shows that 10-30% of the general adult population lives with symptoms of chronic insomnia and that about 23.8% of teenagers may also develop symptoms.
Insomniacs have difficulties falling asleep and/or staying asleep, they may wake up often during the night (especially if they have sleep apnea), or they may have an unrefreshing, poor sleep. This can last for days and weeks, eventually affecting their day-to-day life, and often physical and mental health. Everyday tasks feel more challenging, they feel fatigued more often, have difficulty concentrating, and have memory problems, which also impacts their mood.
Generally, the sleep patterns of insomniacs become disordered, and their ability to function as they normally would becomes impaired. This may later result in chronic health problems, like heart disease and strokes.
What Are the Risk Factors?
There is no age limit for developing insomnia, however, there are certain factors that may increase the risk, such as:
- Being exposed to high levels of chronic stress;
- Having recently experienced a traumatic event;
- Living with a mood disorder like anxiety or depression;
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle;
- Sudden changes in work hours, like working night shifts.
What Are the Causes?
Short-term insomnia may be caused by temporary events, like experiencing stress, changes in sleep habits, jet lag, certain medications, or experiencing physical pain. However, chronic insomnia will last for at least 2-3 months and it can either have no known cause or can occur due to another physical or mental condition.
The Connection Between Weed and Insomnia
With the legalization of cannabis and cannabis-related products, there has been an increasing interest in the use of marijuana for treating insomnia as many cannabis users report they sleep better after using weed or cannabis products.
The Science Behind It
The science behind it is in the main cannabinoids CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which produce different effects. They interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system by binding to its receptors located in the nervous system and the brain.
Different strains have different ratios of CBD and THC. Typically, Indica strains are higher in CBD, while Sativa strains are higher in THC. CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory effects and it’s often used for the treatment of different medical conditions, but it’s not psychoactive.
THC, on the other hand, is the ingredient that gets you high. It has mind-altering effects and it has sedative effects, causing feelings of relaxation and drowsiness. That’s why people who use marijuana to treat their symptoms of insomnia often seek strains that are high in THC.
Research on Cannabis for Insomnia
Some of these claims have been backed up by research, while some have been refuted. Marijuana and its components are constantly undergoing research as new findings are being constantly discovered.
Let’s see what some studies have discovered so far about the connection between weed and insomnia and whether it can cause insomnia and help treat it.
How Weed Can Help Sleep
Marijuana treatment with strains that have a high THC content has often been recommended for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whose symptoms include insomnia and nightmares. A 2008 study has discovered that THC reduces the amount of REM sleep, which is the dream stage of sleep.
Reducing the amount of REM for people with PTSD means reducing the nightmares, resulting in improved sleep quality. However, it should be noted that REM sleep is important for healthy cognitive functioning, and long-term use of weed high in THC could have a negative effect.
Another study done 10 years later has concluded that the consumption of medical marijuana has led to significant improvements in experiencing symptoms of insomnia. The severity of the symptoms was reduced following the use of cannabis via vaporization.
How Weed Can Contribute to Insomnia
At the same time, there’s evidence that marijuana can have a negative effect on sleep cycles. However, this evidence mostly revolves around heavy marijuana users. Research has shown that when long-term users go into withdrawal they experience side effects, of which the most prominent one is insomnia.
Similarly, a 2016 clinical study by the University of Michigan has discovered that the frequency of cannabis use affects sleep quality. This means that the longer someone is using marijuana, the more they are likely to develop insomnia.
A literature review on the subject has implied that CBD may also have therapeutic potential for sleep disturbances, and THC may make falling asleep easier. However, like the previous studies, it claimed that long-term use of THC may impair sleep quality over time and CBD may have stimulating effects.
A more recent, 2019 preliminary research supports this claim. They concluded that using medical marijuana may prove ineffective for patients with chronic pain who experience insomnia because they may start building up tolerance to THC’s effects.
Things to Consider if You Want to Use Weed for Insomnia
Using any sleep aid for longer than necessary is not recommended and may cause side effects, marijuana included. It’s better to address the underlying issue that causes insomnia and start from there.
If you’re interested in trying marijuana as a treatment for insomnia, we recommend you use it responsibly and monitor your reactions. Everyone will respond differently to the treatment, so it’s important to learn what works for you. If you need to, you can consult with a medical professional before you make your decision.
Finally, Can Weed Cause Insomnia?
Insomnia is a very common condition that can significantly impair many people’s quality of life. Marijuana use is still considered an unconventional treatment that seems to work for some people, but not all.
Based on the scientific evidence we provided, it’s difficult to say with certainty whether marijuana causes insomnia or not, but we can say that it highly depends on the individual and on the strain.
Given that long-term heavy use of weed has been associated with sleep disturbances, we can conclude that moderate use may be the safest way to use weed for insomnia, monitoring the body’s response to the treatment, and of course, consulting with a professional if needed.