A lot of people claim that they smoke a joint to help them sleep better. But is there actually any science to support this claim, or does cannabis in fact make it more difficult to sleep?
It’s a big question, with more and more Americans, and people around the world, legitimately smoking cannabis for leisure and medical reasons, are we sleepwalking into a nightmare (excuse the pun).
So let’s take a look briefly at the science behind whether cannabis can help you sleep, why people believe it can, and what the effects of cannabis on sleep really are.
Why People Believe That Weed Helps You To Sleep Better
A lot of the belief around weed helping you to sleep better comes from people who smoke it, who because they feel chilled out, think that it helps them to sleep.
So it’s the whole culture around weed making people feel chilled out that is part of it. Also, weed is a central nervous system depressant, so you will feel more tired after smoking it.
However, that’s not the whole story; just because it promotes a feeling of calmness and makes you feel sleepy, it doesn’t mean it actually helps you to get to sleep well, or give you better quality sleep.
Is It THC That Promotes Sleep?
The assumption has mostly been THC, the dominant alkaloid in cannabis that gets you high is the thing that promotes sleep. However, it’s now been found that there are more than 100 alkaloids in cannabis, and so that assumption simply hasn’t been scientifically proven.
Plus, in the past few years CBD, the second most predominant alkaloid in cannabis, has come to the fore as having more properties for relaxation, pain relief, appetite regulation, and well-being than people previously realized.
That’s why there has been an explosion in CBD oils and other CBD products in recent years. It’s been proven to help with anxiety and serious mental and physical health conditions.
So the idea that THC is the king of cannabis effects simply doesn’t hold up any longer. The problem is that very little research into CBD has been done, with even the basics around it not fully understood.
Does It Make Any Difference If It’s Indica Or Sativa Strains?
Some people claim that different types of cannabis make a difference in how you sleep and dream.
There’s a claim that there’s a lot of differences between Indica and Sativa strains of cannabis in regards to the traits they have, especially with sleep. It’s claimed that Sativa is more energetic and keeps the mind more active when compared to Indica. The conclusion is therefore that Indica is a better type of cannabis to help you sleep.
However, research is showing that those black-and-white distinctions are simply untrue. What’s important is the cannabinoids, and their proportions, if it helps you at all.
What Science Says About Cannabis And Sleep
Another problem with all this is that science is clouded. There’s just no clear answer at the minute. Let’s take one study from 2019 when 400 people who had self-declared insomnia put themselves up for a three-month trial.
They used medical cannabis in that time. It was found that generally, a majority of people in the study improved their quality of sleep, from minor to major. But obviously so much can feed into that.
But there were varying side effects and problems depending on the dose, strain, and the way the cannabis was consumed.
Science has also found that THC is probably not what is helping people to get to sleep. Although THC definitely has sedative effects, lots of studies have found that THC actually creates problems when you are sleep.
Although people can get to sleep faster (but this isn’t always the case because THC can also create anxiety), the quality of the sleep wasn’t better. What was found is that REM sleep, the deep sleep when we dream, and when memories are formed, was sporadic and less deep.
So although cannabis high in THC content could help people get to sleep faster, the sleep quality was very poor and had knock-on effects for memory formation.
CBD seems to be the answer. But in 2019, one study concluded that 25% of the people in the study experienced worse sleep than naturally when given CBD. So that’s not clear either.
The best results seem to be when cannabis strains that are low in THC and high in CBD are used. It seems to be about a balance between dominant cannabinoids, rather than one.
This Is The Main Reason I Wouldn’t Recommend You Use Cannabis To Sleep
But look, guys, as you can see, this is not something that has a clear answer. Does cannabis help you sleep? The answer is yes and no. For some people yes. They will get to sleep faster. But once they are asleep it doesn’t mean they will have proper sleep.
But part of the problem is also anxiety and withdrawal symptoms. If people don’t have a joint close to bedtime, they can’t sleep because of those problems. So it’s cannabis side effects being calmed which create the ability to sleep, rather than anything to do with the cannabis itself.
For me though, the reason I wouldn’t rely on cannabis to help me sleep is the memory problems.
Everyone knows that cannabis dumbs you down, you struggle to recall things, and that “yeah man” dropout thing can be real. You’re not as sharp, you can’t recall things, you just not the best version of yourself.
Now you know the serious problem is that THC can dampen down the ability of REM sleep to help you to form memories. That’s why people who smoke a lot of weed struggle to remember things and be sharp.
So if you are relying on weed to get you to sleep, I’d try and stop. Look at whether you have to smoke to calm your anxiety and withdrawal symptoms prior to going to bed, look at the quality of sleep you’re having, and consider the long-term damage it’s doing to the formation of the memories throughout your life.