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Cannabis and Sleep


Peaceful, restful, dreamless sleep that sets in naturally - some would argue that there is no better feeling in this life. Unfortunately, for many people, this type of satisfying sleep is a goal that is almost always out of reach, affecting their health and daily lives.

During the night, the body is programmed to hard-wire learned information and memories, rebuild cells, build up the immune system and process waste and toxins out of the brain. It’s all based on a self-regulating system of hormones within our bodies, releasing the perfect recipe for sleep at the right time based on signals from the biological clock. Without the vital downtime that sleep provides, millions of people of all ages walk around in a zombie-like state, more susceptible to cognitive performance issues and chronic illnesses.

Pharmaceutical sleep aid medications, though they have been popular for a long time, do not really treat the root causes of disordered sleep. These drugs can be habit-forming, often linger during the daytime when patients would prefer to feel more alert, and may even cause hallucinations or sleep walking. Perhaps these side effects are part of the reason why many sleep disorder patients have turned to a very different type of treatment - medical cannabis.

The Science of Sleep

Everyone sleeps...at some point. During the night, most of us are healing and relaxing our bodies from the activities of the day, but for many individuals this process is delayed or interrupted. On a daily basis, sleep disruptions can create imbalances in the body’s natural circadian rhythm, making a quality night’s sleep ever more difficult to achieve. Investigating the causes of the disruption is how scientists continue to learn more about the nature of sleep...and our dreams.

Disordered sleep is one of the most prevalent public health issues of the modern era, with an estimate of 50-70 million people in the United States reporting having trouble falling or staying asleep. There is a substantial ripple effect, with tens of thousands of sleepless souls causing auto accidents or work-related accidents each year.

Most of what has been learned about sleep regulation in the past few decades comes back to an essential lock-and-key within the body: the endocannabinoid system. This facet of the mammalian peripheral nervous system is linked to regulation of mood, pain, appetite, and sleep. If the body cannot run this vital system properly on its own, there is only one option: supplementation with medical cannabis and other endocannabinoid-stimulating foods and activities.

Cannabis: The Great Regulator

A 2010 report confirmed hypotheses that endocannabinoid signaling is responsible for almost all “rhythmic” processes of the body, including the circadian rhythm. Thus, it makes sense to supplement with cannabis in order to achieve a significantly more natural and balanced sleep cycle.

The endocannabinoid system is key to regulating the timed release of sleep hormones, along with the rest of the nervous system, of course. In particular, researchers have been intrigued by the novel relationship between CB1 receptors and a fatty acid neurotransmitter called anandamide. Colloquially known as “The Bliss Molecule,” anandamide is a type of endogenous cannabinoid that has been thought to regulate the sleep process since the 1990s.

Many medical cannabis patients are learning to use specific ratios of CBD and THC to treat their symptoms, and may be wondering which cannabinoid is a better match for treating disordered sleep patterns. The answer will almost always be THC. This, the psychoactive component of cannabis, has been shown to activate CB1 receptors, helping open the airways and modulate the sleep process. A minor cannabinoid called CBN has also been shown to play a role in inducing sleep, and usually occurs when cannabis flower is stored for a long time and the THC begins to degrade.

Some frequent cannabis users say that they find themselves dreaming significantly less when they sleep, or, simply not remembering their dreams. There is some scientific truth to this - since 2008 the effects of cannabis and other illicit substances on sleep have been common knowledge in the health community. Specifically, THC has been found to decrease the amount of time spent in “stage 4” or Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the least restful stage of sleep when the heart rate is elevated and the brain’s imaging centers are extremely active. This is good news for individuals with PTSD who struggle with nightmares and terrors brought on by traumatic episodes. With cannabis, they can finally get a restful night’s sleep free of uncontrollable distractions.

Strain Sense

Knowing what to look for in a cannabis strain will help you determine the perfect bedtime regimen. Indica-dominant strains that are dark in color and rich in myrcene tend to be the most popular sleep-inducing strains as reviewed by medical cannabis patients on Leafly.

In regard to terpenes, myrcene is not the only one that lends a restful quality to cannabis’ chemical profile. Strains that are high in linalool will have a signature floral aroma, and will produce soothing and relaxing effects similar to those of botanical lavender oil. Linalool is a natural precursor to endogenous production of Vitamin E, which is largely responsible for the production of melatonin, the most important sleep-inducing hormone.

Patients can actually use their senses to sniff out which strains may help them sleep. Spicy, herby, or berry-tinged aromas are evidence of high terpene content. Dark green, bluish or purple leaves, or a name that hints at family names like “Berry,” “Grape,” “Lavender” or “Kush” are other key identifiers for insomnia patients to look for on dispensary shelves.  

Due to its interaction with the CBD1 receptor, high-THC strains are the preferred medical cannabis treatments for sleep disorders. High CBD strains and products can sometimes be effective supplements for bedtime, but the timing is key. Cannabidiol can actually induce a feeling of energy and wakefulness in some patients, so those interested in the calming effects should take CBD early in the day, in order to wind down and eventually sleep soundly.

External Factors

Improving quality and duration of sleep is also achievable through other means besides using cannabis as a supplement, but patients are more likely to succeed in remedying their sleep patterns by combining efforts. Small changes in lifestyle can account for big improvements. Healthy nighttime and wake-up routines, regular diet and exercise, and fine-tuning the bedroom environment to be dark and quiet can all help the body remember to do what it already knows how to do: sleep through the night and wake rested at first light.

Just like combining cannabis with relaxing activities can help promote sleep, combining a lack of sleep with a “workaholic” lifestyle or a habit of heavy partying can be extremely detrimental to overall health. There are many external irritants and environmental factors that can put the endocannabinoid system at an imbalance, adversely affecting the body’s natural sleep cycle. Blue light from computers and mobile devices sends signals to the brain to stay awake. Occasional and especially daily use of drugs like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are proven to throw off the circadian rhythm and the endocannabinoid system.

Final Thoughts

Is cannabis the cure to sleep disorders? Absolutely not. However, it is a low-risk alternative to pharmaceuticals that may pose many additional therapeutic benefits to patients.

Considering all the preventative health benefits that it brings, especially relative to the risks of pharmaceutical sleep aids, isn’t it about time the sleep medicine community started taking medical cannabis seriously?

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Wikileaf fan
3:47, March 01, 2017
I smoke marijuanna for medical purposes, originally I started smoking recreationaly as a teenager. It wasn\'t till I got older and seen the effects it was having on people around me that never smoked until they got sick. My grandfather made some oil from his marijuanna plants in his garden when I was younger and I remember him using it by swallowing the oil to get rid of every ailment possible. It has completly changed my sister inlaw whom is 24 and has huntingtons Disease drastically for the better...It made it so she doesn\'t need a wheel chair all the time. I smoke it because it raelax\'s me and helps me sleep and to chill out when I have anxiety
Wikileaf fan
11:08, February 23, 2017
I choose to relax to free my mind from this world of stress and anxiety and insomnia. I think the reason I smoke is to be who I actually am
Wikileaf fan
3:47, February 14, 2017
There\'s a couple reasons I smoke, I smoke because it helps me eat and sleep and when I get an anxiety attack the cannabis kicks it rite away!!! I can truly say for me it is cannabis and my dog that keeps me positive and focused... I no people that drink and I\'d rather be happy and chill then sloppy drunk
Wikileaf fan
2:02, February 10, 2017
I chose to consume, because it helps with a rear skin condition i have, called epidermolysis bullosa (EB for short). Which is a condition that causes the skin to blister, everywhere and from anything. Because of it, i am almost blister free. I can finally wear socks, i can finally wear headphones, with out them hurting my ears. I can walk for long periods of time, i can finally wear shoes! It is incurable, and hurts more than word can describe. With cannabis, i can do things that i couldn\'t before. To add on to my list of problems, that it helps with, anxiety, depression, insomnia, severe menstual cramps, frequant migraines. The natural way, is the best way.
Wikileaf fan
12:35, February 09, 2017
I was constantly on pain killers and sleep aids. My anxiety would leave me awake and I did not feel like I reached my full potential as a being. Ever since I went on cannabis, I have deeper thoughts and my mind opens up to so many answers I\'ve never knew before. It is a truelly healing and loving experience and I never thought I would love myself now than I did before.
Wikileaf fan
7:04, February 07, 2017
I choose to consume because in 20 years of mental disorders this is the ONLY medication that has helped the symptoms yet allowed me to still be who I am...Vs a pill high zombie who can\'t function properly. That isn\'t an option when you have 3 kids. I smoke to relieve pain from my medical marijuana approved back problems, my anxiety, ptsd, to help me be able to eat by relieving nausea and to get some much needed rest from my insomnia.
Wikileaf fan
9:00, February 05, 2017
I choose weed not only for a creative mind, or even to relax but, I have a serious issues with depression, and when I get in that state of mind, I tend not to eat for certain amount of weeks. Also, I have scoliosis in my lower spine, which doesn\'t help me cause I can no longer sleep more than 4 hours. I consume it cause it helps me gain an appetite and it eases the pain for me to sleep.
Wikileaf fan
4:14, February 02, 2017
Well, why I smoke! I smoke because of an back injury I received when I was young. Weed has helped me to not take dangerous pain pills. I\'ve lost friends to pills and didn\'t want that to be me. I also don\'t sleep well and helps me get to sleep. I\'d really like to see it shown in a better light. So many lives could be saved from proper Marijuana use.
Wikileaf fan
8:42, February 01, 2017
I love everything to do with marijuana. The Tricombs, aroma, different colors. It\\\'s a beautiful plant. I use pot to stay relaxed. I\\\'ve been prescribed Benzo\\\'s to help my anxiety but I don\\\'t want to be restricted by a pill. The side effects are just on going and a downfall for people who are recovering addicts which I am. It helps my appetite since I lack on eating a lot. Makes my migraines go away. AND ITS NOT ONLY THE THC PART. CBDS saved me as well. I was born with my hips not aligned,they were able to fix it but once in a while the pain is unbearable. Putting some cbd cream after a shower and relaxing makes me so calm. My insomnia has been terrible since I was a child. Weed does help and so does applying CBD around my neck before bed n THC/CBD honey 1:1. I\\\'m blessed that this plant is on earth!
Wikileaf fan
8:52, January 31, 2017
choose to consume because, I had an epidural and they split a disc in my back also for insomnia eases pain in many ways pills cant.
Wikileaf fan
11:11, January 30, 2017
I choose to consume because it helps me relax, it helps with my insomnia, and boosts my creativity especially in the kitchen.
Wikileaf fan
9:36, January 29, 2017
Me and my husband smoke together. He has ADHD and insomnia, I have anxiety and PCOS. We were both in a car accident and suffer from back pain. With cannabis, we can actually sleep, relax, and not be in pain.
Wikileaf fan
10:32, January 28, 2017
I choose to consume marijuana because, I love the way it helps me relax, stay calm if I\'m nervous, helps me sleep and eat. I honestly consume marijuana to help me get through my day. I am constantly smoking lol
Wikileaf fan
9:54, January 27, 2017
I have Crohn\\\'s disease and smoking helps me be able to relax when I\\\'m going threw really bad days and can\\\'t eat or sleep I was diagnosed about 2 years ago and have been smoking just about ever since then I think that without smoking it would be really hard for me to get threw day by day I\\\'ve struggled with my doctors to find some medicine that helps me but so far the only thing that\\\'s really help me make it day by day without being in a lot of pain is cannabis
Wikileaf fan
6:56, January 26, 2017
I choose to consume, because it helps with insomnia, my depression, gets me eating, and makes me a happier person, even while working.
Wikileaf fan
4:21, January 26, 2017
I consume because I choose to not have anxiety, to not be in constant pain, to be able to sleep through the night, and to eat a meal each day.
Wikileaf fan
2:20, January 17, 2017
I choose to treat my insomnia, Depression, anxiety with cannabis. It\'s a beautiful plant. So many uses, helpfulness and love.
Wikileaf fan
7:02, December 30, 2016
As a family, we chose to consume for many reasons... pain relief, insomnia, ptsd, anxiety... we truly feel that marijuana can not only improve your quality of life, it could save your life as well. Mary Jane is a family member!
Wikileaf fan
2:51, December 20, 2016
I consume because of my severe anxiety, mood swings, sleepless nights. It helps me to live a more peaceful life and helps me get in touch with nature. Also because I was once addicted to prescription drugs, and other hard drugs that could\'ve ended my life. I consume because it liberates me and helps me to understand myself better. It brings me peace
Wikileaf fan
2:34, December 13, 2016
I choose to consume for multiple reasons:
1)my mind is always running on overdrive about what I need to do and how to go about doing it. Consumption helps to slow my mind down to better put things in perspective
2) I like it
3) I have mild insomnia. It helps me stay asleep through the night
Wikileaf fan
5:59, December 08, 2016
My dad is dying of stage 4 liver cancer as we took a long tough hard journey he is left with 48 hours to live. Cemotheropy only made the matter worse. We resorted to THC and CBD! We live in lantana Florida so to obtain CBD oil was near impossible, but managed to get it mailed from sources through Colorado. I am personal user of marijuana myself. Helps me to sleep, create an appetite and for anxiety as well. This vacation would be the escape from this tough hard journey that my family is going through. Thank you for taking the time to read this!
Wikileaf fan
3:51, December 08, 2016
My name is Joseph and I choose to consume....bcuz 3 years ago i could barely get out of bed some days bcuz of Fibromyalgia(chronic pain disease). I quit cigs n McDs, began working out, continued to say no to pills and consumed only cannabis.

On April i left Oakland and WALKED to San Diego and then back up through to Gold Beach Oregon.

167 Days, 1530 Miles with 70 pounds in my backpack.

Ive dealt with mtn lion, hid from a bear, barely escaped a series of coves at high tide and had to race thru sea tunnels in Malibu with water waist high (and i cannot swim), had to do a controlled fall down a 30 foot cliff (deathly afraid of heights too), walked highways as semis flew past me with only inches to spare (the Pacific Coast Highway is no joke) and i barely missed 2 major wildfires.

I slept inside a redwood, in a fort made of driftwood on a beach, along lakes n lagoons n rivers n creeks n bays and the ocean.

Ive seen a gray whale n calf in Malibu, dolphins surrounding a paddleboarder, watched sea lions fall in love on a beach within inches from me, woke in a field surrounded by a herd of sleeping deer, woke n had 20 white lil butterflies all floating about me.

My trek has been all about
Fuck Fibro
Fuck Fear
Fuck Limitations
and most importantly
Fucking Thinking That You Cant

and when i tore a calf muscle in Pismo Beach at mile 350, i scored crutches and hobbled down highway 1 on them for a week because:
Quitting Is Not An Option.

And the ONLY thing i used Constantly to deal with the pains of Fibromyalgia is Cannabis.

I choose to consume because i choose to live. Because i choose to Not be stuck in bed contemplating suicide.

Thanx to cannabis i have a new life!
Wikileaf fan
8:36, December 07, 2016
I choose to consume to help my insomnia, anxiety and menstrual cramps
Wikileaf fan
7:13, December 06, 2016
I choose to enjoy so I can focus on the things that matter the peace I make and the friends I love instead of going to work, eating, and sleeping and then just repeating daily
Wikileaf fan
9:38, December 03, 2016
I am a disabled Navy Veteran with PTSD, night terrors and PMDD. I consume because without cannabis I would have to take several different medications. After terror filled nightmares it is the only thing that can get me back to sleep.
Wikileaf fan
1:09, November 27, 2016
Hello... my name is Danny. I\'m 23 and live in New Bedford, ma. Ever since I was a kid, I suffered from depression. Marijuana helps me control and clear my mind whenever I need it. And I know its healthy and has a boat load of benefits and healing properties. It helps me with my anxiety, joint/muscle pains, headaches, insomnia, and my eating disorder. I love this plant!!!
Wikileaf fan
8:45, November 26, 2016
I choose to consume to not be in pain every day, to sleep and to help educate my father on why consuming is a better choice for his back than moving up in pain medications.
Wikileaf fan
6:16, November 26, 2016
I choose to not let my chronic pain from siatica, spinal stenosis ,ruptured L4 & L5 discs, severe anxiety disorder , insomnia amd bipolar ruin my life. Since ,smoking medical weed I only take meds for my bipolar which the dose has been lower. I was on a opiates ,anxiety pills and sleeping pills. I am grateful to medical marijuana for helping me.
Wikileaf fan
7:37, November 18, 2016
#Ichoosetoconsume because it helps me focus and process my thoughts while in college (psychology major). #Ichoosetosmoke because it connects me to nature, my creative abilities, mars , brings laughter into my day, calms my ptsd symptoms, helps me sleep and eat...pretty much does everything an antidepressant does..without the side effect 
Wikileaf fan
1:29, November 17, 2016
Am 25 name edgar i have chronic back pain n knee pain becouse my kidney disease i was ababy when i hsd my first kidney transplant but gave o ut when i was 13 again to dialisis now am in wating lists at ceters cinia so close by the wry going to physical therapy Tuesday n thursdays n monday wensday n friedday am at dialisis i smoke weed becouse it help manage lot of pain love it feels great befor sleep
Wikileaf fan
4:08, November 16, 2016
Because it helps my anxiety, depression, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, relaxing, sleep.
Wikileaf fan
12:55, November 15, 2016
I consume to be calm and relax. I suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety. It\'s helps me with my appetite and my insomnia.
Wikileaf fan
8:33, November 15, 2016
I choose to relax, be calm, & in control. I choose to be able to sleep at night. I choose creativity. I choose to not be anxiety ridden. I choose to not poison my body with government approved drugs. I choose to be happy!
Wikileaf fan
3:43, November 15, 2016
I have pressing for legalization for Cannabis for a long time now in Massachusetts. Our time finally has come. Well soon enough. My motto is this, If you have a chest cold you don\'t buy sinus medicine. That\'s what illegal Marijuana is like. It\'s like going to a street dealer and buying bootleg sinus medicine for a chest cold. Cannabis has many different strains, a strain for pain, a strain for help sleeping, a strain to help eat. A strain for day time activities( which I love) Sativa all the way baby! Ie: agent orange, sour tang.. Winning this trip would mean the world to me. A way to celebrate for my father who unfortunately lost his battle to cancer before this reform and legalization took place. Cannabis Sativa helps me in many ways in my life. I want to start taking classes so I can actually make a career from something I care so much about. Thank you for considering me #ichoosetoconsume
Wikileaf fan
4:40, November 12, 2016
I chose to use cannabis because it relaxes my stress, helps me get to sleep at night and pain relief for my arthritis. So much better than the pills Drs. Prescribed.
Wikileaf fan
11:26, November 11, 2016
I choose to smoke because it helps me relax, unwind, and mostly sleep throughout the night.
Wikileaf fan
11:22, November 11, 2016
I\'m a senior studying public relations at San Jose State. I use cannabis for medical purposes. Cannabis helps with my anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Wikileaf fan
3:07, November 11, 2016
Retired USA Captain, founded VMMJA (Veteran\'s Medical Marijuaua Association) in 2011 as a delivery service in Fresno/Clovis Ca. I smoke every night (an Indica) because of insomnia. I haven\'t had to take narcotics for insomnia for years. My heart and passion is for my veteran\'s; many who suffer from PTSD. God Bless our Veteran\'s.
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