Cannabis and the various compounds found within this plant have been found to have numerous benefits for sleep
As more states are making the use of medical marijuana legal, more people are considering the use of cannabis to aid with sleep and sleep disorders. While all effects of cannabis on sleep are still unknown, scientific research to date has confirmed beneficial relaxing and sedative effects. One study found cannabis was helpful for falling asleep, while another found that it could lengthen the time spent in deep, slow wave sleep.
Cannabis as a Sleep Aid vs. Traditional Methods
If you have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep throughout the night, it is likely you have considered the use of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills are classified as sedative hypnotics and come in three different groups of medications – benzodiazepines, barbiturates and other hypnotics.
Benzodiazepines are generally used as anti-anxiety medications but also increase drowsiness. Due to the potentially addictive nature of this subset of sedative hypnotics, they are not recommended for extended use. People with breathing difficulties, muscle weakness or a history of drug or alcohol addiction should also avoid these medications.
Barbiturates work to depress the central nervous system causing muscle relaxation. This group of sedatives is synthetic and regularly used in the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia. While effective as anxiolytics, hypnotics and anticonvulsants they do have the potential for physical and psychological addiction and are fatal in high doses.
Newer sleep medications include Ambien, Rozerem, and Belsomra. Each of these work in different ways to the above two groups and can work to increase drowsiness and sleep. Each are less likely to be habit-forming medications; however, all sleep medications do come with side effects from burning and tingling in limbs to impairment the next day, and should only be taken after consultation with a doctor.
Cannabis and the various compounds found within this plant have been found to have numerous benefits for sleep and a minimal to zero chance of building tolerance or physical dependence in the human body. The CBD, CBN, THC and Terpenes found in cannabis have all been found to have positive effects on sleep, from creating a mild sedative and relaxing effect to relieving pain and minimizing disturbing dreams.
How Cannabis Can Benefit Sleep
Each of the compounds found in cannabis have a slightly different effect on sleep and our bodies.
CBD or cannabinol, one of the more commonly known compounds of cannabis, has the ability to reduce anxiety, relieve pain and promote mental clarity. CBD does not create a psychoactive effect and there is no ‘high’ associated with its consumption.
CBN or cannabidiol, was the first cannabinoid to be identified by scientists and is also thought to be non-psychoactive. However, it does have a powerfully sedative effect, pain relieving capabilities and can even prolong sleep time.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the prominent psychoactive component in cannabis and responsible for providing the ‘high’ in marijuana users. Relatively new research has found it to also be useful in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and can improve breathing during sleep. THC also changes the time spent in various sleep stages, most notably reducing REM sleep and increasing low wave sleep. This is great news for PTSD suffers as REM is the dream-stage and a reduction in this can result in decreased dreaming and nightmares.
Finally, Terpenes, the aromatic molecules in cannabis and other plants, are thought to enhance the effects of the compounds described above and have their own impact on mood, sleepiness and alertness. Myrcene, caryophyllene, and terineol are all terpenes commonly found in marijuana and have been found to have sedative, anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties of their own.
If you are considering the use of cannabis to aid your sleep, it is wise to consult with your doctor and check the legal status for your state.
By Elise Morgan
Image by pexels