Can Cannabis Increase the Quality and Quantity of Your Sleep?
November 17, 2022
Humans need sleep, and more importantly, we need to sleep well. For some, this comes easily but for others, getting to sleep or staying asleep is a nightly struggle. Without healthy and adequate sleep, you may be vulnerable to mood shifts, reduced cognition, and serious medical conditions like obesity and heart disease among other concerns.
If you’re regularly struggling with sleep, cannabis may be a solution to help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. We rarely go a night without plugging in our phones for an essential recharge. Why not find something that could help your mind and body recharge?
How does cannabis impact sleep?
There are dozens of natural chemical compounds found in cannabis. The two that have the biggest impact on sleep and the sleep cycles are cannabinoids and terpenes.
To understand cannabinoids and the way they function, you need a basic understanding of the endocannabinoid system. This is a vast and unique communications system that exists in the brain and throughout the rest of the body. The network of chemical signals and cellular receptors, known as cannabinoid receptors or CB1 and CB2 receptors, are responsible for transmitting information throughout the nervous system. Cannabinoid receptors regulate levels and activities of neurotransmitters that keep the body functioning at an optimal level. This system controls nearly all our critical bodily functions including memory, learning, emotional regulation, pain, eating, immune responses, and sleep.
Cannabinoids are chemical substances that join the naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors of the body to enhance and optimize their performance and functions, including but not limited to, sleep. These results are produced when the cannabinoids react and interact with specific CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the central nervous system. They regulate, enhance and alter how cells receive, send and process messages throughout the body. By doing this, cannabinoids allow you to feel relaxed and sleepy.
Three cannabinoids found in cannabis that have shown the biggest effect in enhancing sleep are CBD, CBN, and THC.
CBD is best known for promoting relaxation and calming the central nervous system to allow you to feel relaxed. It does not produce psychoactive effects, eliminating the experience of getting “high.” It can, however, significantly reduce pain and anxiety for many people while promoting mental clarity and focus.
- CBD for insomnia. Insomnia is a condition in which people struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. It’s the result of the hypothalamus utilizing rest time to regulate stress and/or arousal rather than utilizing conscious time. CBD counteracts this because it works with the hypothalamus to regulate these hormones. It essentially deregulates the overactive stress/arousal hormones and equalizes the sleep rhythms affected by them.
- CBD for Circadian Rhythm Disorders. These disorders occur when the body’s internal clock is not in tune with the environment around it, resulting in the inability to sleep at desired times. Because CBD can improve both the quantity and quality of sleep, it can be useful for people whose sleep schedule regularly changes due to a variety of factors such as work or home life. CBD allows the body to progress through normal sleep cycles including REM with little to no interruption, making it a natural option for those with circadian rhythm disorders.
- Potential concerns regarding CBD for sleep disorder treatments. CBD is a low risk cannabinoid; however, it may not be right for people who take medications that are metabolized by the liver, since it can increase liver enzymes. It’s important to talk to your doctor or a cannabis expert to help you determine if CBD might be right for you.
Indica is a specific type of marijuana that has been shown to improve quality and quantity of sleep. Its higher concentration of Myrcene (a common cannabis terpene known for its sedative effects) can help promote relaxation, sleep aid, pain relief, and is a good option for night time use.
CBN is produced when THC components in the cannabis plant age and break down. Like CBD, CBN is a milder cannabinoid that is largely non-psychoactive. However, although it interacts with the same receptors as CBD, CBN is the most sedative compound, producing different calming effects that may help people sleep deeper and longer. And, unlike CBD, CBN could produce mild psychoactive responses when consumed in large doses, so it is often treated more like THC than CBD.
- CBN for insomnia. CBN binds primarily to CB2, the receptor that produces a feeling of sleepiness. The sedative properties in CBN could help relieve insomnia in some people, but research on its efficacy has been limited. The current consensus is that CBN’s sedative properties could be attributed to its ability to complement and enhance other compounds in the cannabis plant, creating an entourage effect.
- CBN for sleeping with pain. CBN is commonly used to help treat inflammation and pain, which can make it easier for people suffering from chronic pain to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Potential concerns regarding CBN for treating sleep disorders. Research on CBN, especially for treating sleep problems, is still in its infancy, so it’s important to speak with your doctor and a cannabis expert about whether or not it’s right for you. CBN is slightly more powerful than CBD when it comes to promoting sleep, so proper use is also important.
THC is the chemical compound responsible for many of the psychological effects caused by cannabis. It has been shown to reduce pain and nausea and alter the mental state of its users, making it a treatment option for people experiencing anxiety and depression. It’s also been shown to have a significant effect on the REM sleep cycle, often enhancing sleep for people who struggle through REM. It can increase the amount of time spent in slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, allowing your respiratory rate and heart rate to significantly slow. During this time, your muscles relax and your brain begins its restorative and recovery recharge that occurs during sleep. When taken in small doses, THC may significantly improve the users ability to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- THC for PTSD. Because THC has been shown to have an impact on the REM sleep cycle, it may be a good solution for people suffering from frequent nightmares or disturbing dreams due to conditions like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Because dreaming occurs during the REM cycle and THC reduces the amount of time spent in the REM cycle, disturbing dreams have less time to develop, allowing for more restful and longer sleep periods.
- THC for sleeping with chronic pain. THC is widely known for its pain relieving capabilities. People who suffer from chronic pain often struggle to get to sleep because the central nervous system is actively responding to pain receptors. In order to get to sleep, the central nervous system has to calm down. THC assists the nervous system by suppressing these pain and stress receptors allowing the brain to calm and relax.
- Potential concerns for using THC as a sleep aid. REM rebound is a condition that may occur when a user has been using THC for sleep regularly and then stops. Some people experience a bust of dreams due to the REM cycle being suppressed for an extended period of time.
Terpenes are the other chemical compound found in cannabis that have been shown to have a significant impact on improving sleep. Terpenes are highly aromatic compounds found in most plants and are responsible for the strong smell that most people associate with marijuana, giving the plant a signature scent like lavender, basil, or rosemary. While terpenes are the natural form of the compound, they become terpenoids when a plant is dried and cured, a result of the oxidation of the compound. Some terpenes, including cannabis, have a similar effect on the endocannabinoid system as cannabinoids. The main difference is the way they are absorbed by the body.
Essential oils are often formulated with the use of terpenes because they generate such intense smells. Inhaling or topically applying essential oils can alter mood and stress and, when combined with cannabinoids, can help amplify and enhance the roles of different cannabinoids. With over 150 different terpenes currently identified, there are a variety of combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids that can assist with multiple sleep disorders.
A few common terpenes that may be helpful for sleep include:
- Myrcene, typically found in cannabis and other herbs. Myrcene generally has a sedative and anti-inflammatory effect.
- Terpineol, another terpene found in cannabis that has pain relieving and relaxing effects.
- Limonene, a citrus-smelling terpene that has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by elevating serotonin levels. It is commonly found in cannabis as well as other plants.
- Caryophyllene, a peppery scent that may help relieve pain, anxiety and stress while promoting sleep.
- Linalool, a lavender scented terpene that is found in cannabis as well as dozens of other plants. It is often used to help decrease depression symptoms and boost the immune system by protecting against damage from stress. It also increases adenosine, the hormone responsible for sedation which assists in falling asleep.
When cannabis is combined with existing, healthy sleep habits, sleep may become the necessary recharge you need to feel your best.
Tips for Using Cannabis for Sleep
- Research and look for strains labeled Indica or Sativa to aid in sleep disorders.
- Be sure that you are eliminating screen time and avoiding big meals before bedtime. Additionally, having consistent bedtimes, even on weekends, is another healthy sleep habit that can help you achieve your best sleep.
- Consult a doctor or expert. Every person is different and every strain is different. Finding the right solution for you may require some fine tuning and adjustment. Speaking with an expert with extensive knowledge can help make sure you find the safest, most effective solution.
- Start with a low dosage and work your way up. You may not achieve the desired effect if you’re a beginner consuming large doses. It’s best to start small and increase consumption slowly.
- Consider the timing of consumption. Because every body metabolizes differently, you may need to tweak when you consume your cannabis before sleep. Using cannabis too close to your desired sleep time or too long before may not produce the results you want.
- Consider any existing medical conditions and medications you are currently taking. If you have complex medical issues or take multiple medications, it is strongly encouraged that you discuss any changes in the substances you consume with your doctor.
- Keep in mind that improper long-term cannabis use has been linked to memory, learning or attention problems. Long-term use can result in withdrawal symptoms including returning insomnia or REM rebound, but being a responsible cannabis consumer can help reduce these risks.
- Because cannabis for sleep is still being studied, it’s unknown whether long term use of cannabis for sleep is beneficial or detrimental to the quality of sleep. It’s important to listen to your body and consult a doctor or expert to make sure that your cannabis use is actually helping your sleep quality and not hurting it.
Let the Experts at Freedom Road Help You Discover Better Sleep with Cannabis
If you are struggling to get good sleep, the experienced and knowledgeable professionals at Freedom Road can help you navigate the science behind cannabis and sleep so you can finally get the good night’s rest you’ve been dreaming of. We’re a licensed, full-service dispensary and grow house committed to providing exceptional cannabis products of uncompromising quality. In Oklahoma City and Trinidad, Colorado, we’re here to help you find the right strain and the right dosage to best serve your sleep needs. If you’re interested in finding a better path to better sleep without relying on medication, consider cannabis. Contact us today and let us help you on your journey to better health.