The new era of legalized cannabis use for medicinal purposes in many parts of the world brings us to investigate the various uses of the drug. Cannabis is typically known to make people feel more relaxed and sleepy.
With sleeping pills considered dangerous for long-term use, is cannabis a suitable alternative? Can cannabis help us get a good night’s sleep? Many people claim that, because of the relaxant properties, cannabis can help induce sleep, but what is the truth behind using cannabis as a sleeping aid?
The first point to remember is there are many different types of cannabis, each can produce a different effect, and as with all drugs, effects can vary from person to person. There have been no studies showing cannabis is a successful therapy to prevent snoring, but many anti snoring devices have shown success in clinical trials.
The active substances in the cannabis plant are called cannabinoids. The three main cannabinoids responsible for most of the effects produced are cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabinol (CBN), however, there are over one hundred different cannabinoids which can be present in different quantities in the multitude of marijuana strains around.
When considering a sleep aid, it's important to get the right qualities of the right type of chemicals to suit your body and your sleep issue.
THC is considered the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, that is, the part responsible for feeling high. It is also recognized as the part that makes people feel relaxed and sleepy.
CBD does not produce a “high” but has a variety of other medicinal effects. High CBD cannabis is trialed in the treatment of diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Although it does not generally produce drowsiness, some people do respond to CBD as a sleep aid.
CBN is also not psychoactive, but is known to relax muscles, and cause grogginess, and is considered a good sleep aid.
Sleep studies which involved animals with lights on and lights off sleep monitoring showed a remarked change in alertness with the lights on conditions. No major effect was displayed on the lights off conditions. This led researchers to conclude that high CBD cannabis may help keep people alert during the day. This may be relief for many insomnia suffers who sleep well during the day, even falling asleep at work, but cannot sleep at night.
Cannabis that has higher THC content is recommended as more suitable for inducing sleep in most people. When considering medical marijuana purely as a sleeping aid, it is best to start with one that has a higher THC than CBD content. The side effect of feeling high can be off-putting to many people. This high can also affect the quality of sleep and some report feeling a slight 'hangover,' that is slightly groggy in the morning.
High CBN content cannabis is medically recommended as the best for use as a sleeping aid. Some studies have compared it as similar in effect to small quantities of valium. The high CBN quantities help with sleep while not having the negative side effects of THC. The only trouble is, high CBN cannabis is difficult to obtain and quite costly to produce. One medical professional recommends leaving cannabis to age when used for sleeping, as this is known to increase the CBN content.
The three most common strains of medical marijuana are sativa, indica, and a hybrid combining both. Generally, sativa strains usually make people more active and excited, whereas indica makes people more relaxed and calm. When choosing a strain of marijuana for sleeping, it is best to begin by trialing an indica strain.
Like any drug, cannabis can affect different people in different ways. We've touched on the fact that high THC and high CBN, particularly indica strains are clinically proven to increase drowsiness in most people, and many people swear by medical marijuana as a sleep aid. There is also a number of people who will have a different reaction from medical cannabis. This may include being more alert, becoming paranoid, nausea, and panic attacks.
Sleeping tablets typically mean pharmaceuticals that fall under the umbrella of barbiturates or benzodiazepines. Both are highly effective in promoting sleep, but both are considered highly addictive, can have severe side effects, and are proven to degrade the quality of sleep leaving users with post sleep grogginess. As pharmaceutical chemicals, they also have a negative effect on the liver function if used long-term.
In contrast, cannabis is rarely addictive, does not usually produce significant physical side effects, and considered safer to use over the long term in the same way alcohol may be considered safe, in mild doses. In this way, many medical professionals consider cannabis a preferable option to sleeping tablets.
Most sleeping tablets that address melatonin production are classified as supplements, and normally similar to medical marijuana in their effects.
Using cannabis as a sleeping aid, like most drugs or alcohol taken before sleep, will reduce the quality and quantity of REM sleep. For this reason, although it will help sleep, and for those suffering from insomnia, any sleep is better than none, it may also hinder quality sleep.
A small number of people may develop severe side effects such as headaches, vertigo, and nausea, although this is uncommon. Anxiety or paranoia are more common side effects of high THC content cannabis; again this is less common than the usual euphoric or high feeling that occurs.
Cannabis can be effective as a sleeping aid for many people who respond well to the drug. Risks of trying medical marijuana are relatively small. Cannabis may not suit everyone, and a small number of people can experience negative side effects. To get the best benefits, it's important to choose the right strain and dosage, which may require some experimentation. A doctor specializing in medical marijuana can help you identify if cannabis is right for you and choose a treatment plan.