If you browse through our various strains, you’ll find quite a few whose common usage is to treat insomnia or whose description warns of couch-lock and sleepiness. It’s no secret that weed can promote a little laziness, but that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. If you find yourself particularly wired or have a case of the toss-and-turns, a little bit of marijuana could be an excellent solution. Cannabis isn’t necessarily a cure-all, though.

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According to Wikileaf’s medical advisor, Dr. Baran Erdik, patients that use cannabis are more likely to report that it reduces sleep latency, with less consistent positive effects on awakenings during the night, total sleep time and satisfaction with sleep. But long-term use may actually be associated with a negative impact through habituation and sleep disturbance if undergoing withdrawal.

Many Adults Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

Sad and lonely man seated on his bed iStock / paolo81
Only about 10-15 percent of American adults are affected by chronic insomnia, but 50-70 million experience symptoms of some sort of sleep disorder according to the National Sleep Foundation. 30 to 40 percent will experience insomnia at some point in their lives, costing around $100 billion USD annually in accidents and poor productivity (productivity costs alone are around $63 billion a year.) If you’re struggling to get the amount or the quality of sleep that you need, you’re not alone. Though people may talk about their inability to get enough sleep as casually as they talk about the weather, sleep deprivation is a big deal and could be affecting your day-to-day life more seriously than you imagine.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), getting enough sleep is essential for “healthy brain function and emotional well-being.” Sleep deprivation alters brain activity in a way that makes you more susceptible to mental illness symptoms and limits your ability to make decisions, solve problems, and control your emotions and behavior. When you get enough sleep, however, you’ll be able to pay attention, hone your creativity, and learn new skills at a normal.

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In addition to affecting behavioral health, sleep deficiency puts you at a higher risk to heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, according to the NHLBI. It also can create an unhealthy imbalance of hormones and hinder your immune system.

How Does Marijuana Affect Sleep?

Marijuana’s effectiveness when it comes to inducing sleep largely relies on the strain, which varies depending on their cannabinoid makeup. There are two main cannabinoids that affect a strain’s ability to help you sleep:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties that have made it many people’s go-to when it comes to pain management.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): THC is the most well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, as it the psychoactive factor that causes you to feel high.

According to Dr. Erdik, recent research has shown THC to have a short-term sleep benefit, however, chronic administration is associated with habituation of sleep-enhancing qualities. Furthermore, THC has been associated with less pronounced circadian rhythm and daytime sleepiness. But preliminary research suggests dronabinol and nabilone have a potential therapeutic effect on obstructive sleep apnea and nightmares.

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CBD, on the other hand, has demonstrated differential effects based on dose. Low doses have been shown to be stimulating. But high/medium doses to be sedating. Medium/high dose is thought to be associated with an increase in the percentage of total sleep, supported by a pilot study in humans showing high dose CBD was associated with improved sleep, but if combined with THC may result in a decrease in slow-wave sleep. A preliminary study also suggested that CBD may suppress REM behavior disorders in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Long Term Use Of Marijuana As A Sleep Aid

Marijuana and sleep aid or risk as an herbal cannabis use nightcap helping insomnia concept as a health care symbol in a 3D illustration style. iStock / wildpixel
It’s important to note that REM sleep is an important stage of sleep, and your body naturally alters between REM and slow-wave sleep. You don’t want to completely suppress REM, as it disrupts your body’s sleep cycle in the long term and could hinder you from experiencing the full restorative effects of sleep. While marijuana can be extremely beneficial for nights that you really need a solid rest, you should be wary of its ability to affect your natural biological sleep cycle in the long term. Doctors don’t typically recommend long-term use of any sleep aid because it can be such a slippery slope into complete dependency.

Many people swear by cannabis or melatonin, but experts say that making lifestyle changes like keeping your electronics out of bed, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before you sleep, and creating a consistent sleep routine will be more effective in the long run. As stated earlier, remember that long-term cannabis use is associated with detrimental sleep effects.

Best Strains For Promoting Sleep

If you’re looking to marijuana to improve your sleep, it’s important you employ the right strain. Indicas that are high in THC will be your best bet, as sativas will likely be a little too high-energy and stimulating to allow you to fall asleep in the first place. Here are a few of our favorite strains made for catching a few Z’s.

Ogre Kush: This strain will effectively get you stoned like a typical heavy Indica, making it perfect to smoke right before bed. It can alleviate anxiety and stress, too, making it a great option for those whose sleep is hindered by racing thoughts or a busy life.

9 Pound Hammer: This high-THC indica is likely to knock you out within just a few minutes of smoking. It’s known for its sedative effects and actually relaxes your muscles and allows you to breathe more easily.

Americano: Is another high-THC indica, but it's also a little stimulating, so it’s good for the insomniac who wants to unwind a little bit before they get to bed. Immediately after smoking, you may feel a heavy rush of creativity and calm, allowing you to enjoy a little “you” time right before the sleepy comedown.

Final Thoughts

There is both anecdotal and academic evidence pointing towards marijuana’s ability to increase and improve sleep. Users should be aware, however, of cannabis’s ability to promote dependency and disrupt the natural biological sleep cycle in the long term. Using a light dose right before bed can push you into that sweet spot of getting a good night’s rest, but you want to make sure you give your body a break every once in a while to get some normal cycle and normal REM sleep and create a natural cycle.