When you wake up after a full night of sleep, you feel refreshed and rested and ready for the day ahead. We usually take this for granted, but for some people, a few hours of good sleep is quite an accomplishment.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is relatively common and negatively affects the onset, duration and quality of sleep for millions of people. There are several treatments for this, all of which work to varying degrees. One of which is cannabis. In addition to a long list of lifestyle changes that are usually recommended to people suffering from insomnia, our favourite plant can also help you sleep more soundly.
How Cannabis Helps
Cannabis contains several phytochemicals. These include more than a hundred cannabinoids. These are molecules that are largely found only in the cannabis plant. The cannabinoids THC and CBN, which are found in most cannabis strains, are known for their ability to relax the mind and help smokers unwind at night. However, recent research has shown that terpenes underlie the unique effects of each cultivar.
The Effects Of Terpenes
Terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to refine their effects. In addition, they have some impressive properties of their own. Some terpenes make you feel alert, while others, as we will see, make you feel relaxed. In addition, these aromatic molecules are responsible for the different flavors and aromas of each strain.
The first sleep phase – the process of falling asleep – takes about 7 minutes. This may be longer if you are experiencing stress, anxiety or pain. The second phase is that of light sleep, in which you are easily awakened. Phases three and four are called “slow wave sleep” or SWS. These two phases, sometimes blended into one, are the phases in which most of the recovery takes place. Marijuana use prolongs both of these phases.
Studies On Cannabis As A Cure For Insomnia
Research done in the 1970s on the drug as a sleep aid found the effect of THC to be similar to the effect the drug lithium has on sleep.
Most sleep studies done in those years (a time when the Nixon administration demonized the use of marijuana) were inconclusive about the use of the drug and why it worked. Today, of course, there is much more knowledge about how cannabinoids work in the brain and body. Just like there is on how marijuana helps you relax and sleep better.
Evidence is piling up that marijuana, for a variety of reasons, is an effective sleep aid for many users. A 2013 study funded by the U.S. government showed that THC “may be significantly associated with falling asleep faster and easier.”
Unlike other sleep aids, including sleeping pills, cannabis has far fewer negative effects. An important one is that cannabis is not addictive.
How Cannabis Works As A Sleeping Aid
There are several reasons for cannabis to be effective as a sleeping aid. For starters, the endocannabinoid system in the human body plays a major role in regulating sleep. Marijuana is a good antidote to stress and it has a relaxing effect. In doing so, numbing pain and eliminating anxiety are a good recipe for helping the body rest. And as a results helping the end-cannabinoid system.
But the main reason marijuana can help you get a deep and restful sleep is that marijuana seems to prevent REM sleep and dreams. Dreams take place in the last stage of sleep. Taking cannabis before you go to sleep seems to shorten the REM period. This means you will have fewer dreams and the dreams will be less vivid. People who suffer from restless dreams or PTSD nightmares can benefit greatly from this. The REM sleep phase lasts less and the images, both during sleep and while awake, are less intense.
Marijunana Use Effectively Remedies Sleeping Problems
Preclinical studies indicate that marijuana may also help improve conditions such as sleep apnea – in which breathing stops during sleep. There have been multiple studies showing the role of cannabinoids in breathing during sleep. These seem to show that serotonin agonists like cannabinoids can reduce breathing problems while sleeping. According to a 2013 study published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry magazine, this was caused by the interaction of THC with the brain. This study used Dronabinol which is pure (but synthetic) THC. This means that other factors are not in play (e.g. the interaction of terpenes). At least they aren’t in this particular aspect of sleep promotion.
Marijuana can also help with other conditions that cause interrupted sleep. For example, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, parasomnias (such as nightmares, sleepwalking, and talking in your sleep), and of course, that good old insomnia. One strain in particular that is great for this purpose is the Girl Scout Cookies strain as it is rich in THC.
Best Cannabis Strain To Remedy Insomnia
Indica strains are by far the best sleep aids because they produce a physical “high” that is deeply relaxing. There is no research yet to show why this is the case, although some studies suggest it might have to do with the presence of terpenes. People who want to use marijuana as a sleep aid are best off experimenting with indica strains first, and it’s best to stay away from sativa strains and hybrids because they can cause the opposite effect.
It is also likely that older cannabis plants will make you sleepier. This is due to the degradation of THC in older plants. The aging process converts THC into a narcotic chemical known as cannabinol or CBN (not to be confused with CBD).
Risk Of Marijuana As A Sleep Aid
People who use the drug regularly as a sleep aid report experiencing mild to uncomfortable effects when they stop using cannabis (temporarily). Symptoms, similar to abstinence from nicotine, include not being able to fall asleep properly or insomnia for several days or weeks, strange and vivid dreams, and irritability when awake.
Insomnia | Frequently Asked Questions
Do terpenes help against insomnia or is it the THC?
Terpenes work with cannabinoids such as THC to improve the effects.
Is it legal to use cannabis against insomnia?
That depends on where you live.
How does cannabis help against insomnia?
It helps you relax and take away stress and worries, which is a common cause of insomnia.
Are there risks involved by trying to remedy insomnia with cannabis?
There are some side effects when you stop using cannabis and these are similar to when you quit smoking.
Which strains are best to help against insomnia?
Indica strains are the best, because they are known to give you a relaxing high.