How cannabis affects sleep patterns

A look at using cannabis for sleep

Those who have trouble sleeping typically turn to sleeping pills or supplements in their quest to obtain a solid night’s rest. However, there is another sleep-aid making waves: cannabis therapy.

Countless people have obtained considerable benefit from cannabis therapy; it helps people fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.

Furthermore, those who use cannabis for sleeping purposes typically wake up feeling extremely refreshed.

This is a stark contrast to those who rely on sleeping medications, who often wake feeling drugged and groggy.

Cannabis for sleep

Studies have shown that the use of cannabis therapy decreases the amount of time required to fall asleep.

This occurs because of the popular cannabinoid THC. Even as early as 1973, a study showed that THC decreased the time it took for people plagued with insomnia to fall asleep.

The study’s participants were able to fall asleep an average of one hour sooner when engaging in cannabis therapy prior to bed. These results were later confirmed in a 2013 study.

Numerous studies have shown that the use of THC or CBD prior to going to bed boosts one’s overall sleep. One particular study showed that boosting the dose of THC heightened the amount of time the individual slept as well.

What happens to your brain while you are sleeping on cannabis

Cannabis has a number of different effects on sleep.

The chemicals in cannabis called cannabinoids replicate the activity of chemicals that naturally exist within the brain.

Cannabinoids and their pathways comprise the endocannabinoid system of the body. This system regulates sleep cycles as well as other biological functions.

Studies show that THC boosts the length of one’s slow-wave sleep, also referred to as “deep sleep”. Such deep sleep is extremely important, as it plays a vital role in the restoration process that happens as one sleeps.

Cannabinol, commonly referred to as CBN, is the cannabinoid scientists point to as the source of cannabis therapy’s sedative effects. A study performed in 2006 also shows the effects of cannabis with high CBD provides therapeutic help for those plagued with egregious daytime sleepiness due to the inability to sleep soundly at night. This condition is called somnolence.

The use of indica cannabis strains is recommended for sleep enhancement. Indica strains calm the body and mind, allowing one to obtain a restful sleep. This is a striking contrast to sativa cannabis strains that kick-start the body and mind like a cup of coffee. As of today, DNA and chemical testing have not shown why indicas improve sleep, yet many believe the terpene content is responsible.

Terpenes are best thought of as the aromatic compounds that partially make up each cannabis strain’s unique fingerprint. It is believed that indica cannabis strains have an abundance of the relaxing terpenes compared to sativa strains.

Furthermore, aged cannabis tends to promote better sleep than young cannabis. As THC degrades across time, it transforms into the sedating chemical of CBN. Aged cannabis with high CBN is upwards of five times as sedating as THC.

An explanation of sleep cycles

The typical healthy adult’s sleep commences with NREM sleep, also known as “N1”.

This initial sleep stage is characterized by a low-voltage mixed-frequency pattern. One segues from wakefulness to N1 in mere seconds or minutes following the beginning of slow eye movements when one starts to nod off. This first stage of sleep typically lasts between one and seven minutes.

The second stage of sleep, known as “N2”, is next. It lasts between 10 and 25 minutes.

As N2 sleep occurs, the slow-wave and high-voltage activity of the third NREM sleep stage (N3) occurs. N3, also known as “deep sleep” lasts between 20 and 40 minutes. As NREM sleep occurs, the brain becomes less disturbed by external stimuli.

Once the N3 sleep stage is achieved, body movements typically occur that lead to a lighter NREM sleep.

REM sleep episodes are usually preceded by five minute periods of N2 sleep. REM and NREM sleep alternate throughout the duration of rest in a cyclical manner. The average length of the initial NREM to REM cycle is about 85 minutes.

The second NERM to REM cycle is about 100 minutes. Scientists are not sure why such cycles exist, yet it is widely thought that specific sequences of REM and NREM sleep enhance mental and physical recuperation and even memory consolidation.

Cannabis therapy and sleep cycles

There are all many harmful consequences of sleep deprivation. Data shows that minimal slow-wave sleep often leads to high blood pressure in older men. Cannabis therapy also reduces REM sleep.

Plenty of people who enjoy cannabis before sleeping report that they do not dream, which happens during REM sleep. Though some argue REM sleep is vitally important for health, the truth is that scientists are not exactly sure what (if any) purpose REM sleep serves.

Cannabis hastens the transition from stage one sleep to stage two. This quick transition empowers one to get to sleep without delay. It also reduces the amount of tossing and turning that occurs during the night.

Furthermore, cannabis therapy lengthens the amount of time one spends in the third stage of sleep. This is the restorative sleep stage. Since this stage is lengthened, many scientists believe that the reduced REM sleep caused by cannabis therapy might not be significant.

Waking up is easier on cannabis compared to other sleep aids

Ask anyone who has taken sleeping medication and there is a good chance they will testify to feelings of grogginess when waking; this is not the case with cannabis therapy.

The use of cannabis promotes a lengthy and replenishing sleep that allows one to feel energized upon waking. This is the type of refreshing and energizing sleep everyone deserves.

What research suggests about quality sleep and the aging process

As one ages, the sleep processes tends to become increasingly disturbed. Seniors are especially prone to a lack of sleep, as many live fairly idle lives.

In fact, insomnia is more prevalent in seniors than any other age cohort. The lack of sleep has the potential to cause memory loss, headaches, depression, cardiovascular disease and many other health issues.

Sleep apnea is also plaguing an increasing number of seniors as time progresses. This is a major problem, as it affects the general public as well as seniors.

Seniors who suffer from sleep apnea and continue to drive are a legitimate threat to public safety. It is also worth noting that the elderly tend to suffer from RLS, GERD and other illnesses that make sleep especially challenging.

Seniors plagued by sleep loss often endure resulting mental and physical illness. Countless seniors have found that cannabis therapy is helpful with treating these health issues.

In many instances, the use of cannabis therapy alleviates these ailments and makes it possible to enjoy a restful night of sleep.

As an example, cannabis therapy improves breathing during sleep. This is vitally important for those who suffer from sleep apnea.

Patients plagued with this sleep condition endure regular obstructions of breath. These breathing lapses often last upwards of several minutes. They cause people to wake several times during the night and endure health problems like mood disturbances, fatigue, inattention, daytime sleepiness, headaches and a greater chances of being involved in an accident.

Preclinical studies indicate cannabis helps reduce sleep apnea. A study performed in 2002 showed that THC restores respiratory stability with the modulation of serotonin signaling. This is quite helpful for sleep apnea patients.

Another study performed in 2013 showed that the exogenous cannabinoid called dronabinol helped the vast majority of sleep apnea sufferers enjoy a continuous night’s sleep.


Cannabis therapy promotes restful sleep in a number of different ways. It helps individuals get to sleep quickly, enjoy a solid night of sleep and wake feeling refreshed.

Cannabis therapy just might be the solution for those plagued by health and mental ailments, insomnia and restlessness that prevent a fulfilling night of sleep.

Add in the fact that cannabis therapy has few side effects compared to sleep medications and it is easy to see why so many are turning to cannabis to help them sleep.


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