Marijuana can help you fall asleep at night if you suffer from insomnia.
Many people struggle with their sleep from time to time. Research shows that marijuana can make it easier to fall asleep when used before bed.
However, marijuana is best used as an occasional sleep aid. Over time, it can become less effective as the user develops a tolerance.
Using marijuana for sleep also has some mild side effects, such as “hangover” effects and reduced dreaming.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it hard for someone to fall or stay asleep.
Insomnia can be acute or chronic. Acute insomnia lasts for a night to a few weeks, while chronic insomnia occurs three nights a week for a month or longer.
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Sleepiness during the day
- Depression, anxiety or irritability
- Worrying about sleep
Insomnia is extremely common. According to the American Sleep Association, 30% of adults experience short-term sleep issues, while 10% suffer from chronic insomnia.
There are many ways to treat insomnia. A doctor may prescribe sleeping medication, treat an underlying condition causing insomnia or recommend behavioral therapy.
Can Marijuana Help Treat Insomnia?
Studies show that marijuana can help people fall asleep more easily, suggesting that it may be helpful for insomnia.
A number of studies have linked THC with an easier time falling asleep. In a 2017 review of recent research on cannabis and sleep, the authors concluded that THC could help people fall asleep quicker.
But marijuana’s other main compound, CBD, seems to do the opposite. A 2004 study on CBD found that the cannabinoid had wake-inducing effects.
Most marijuana strains contain significantly more THC than CBD. This explains why marijuana usually tends to help people fall asleep.
Different strains of marijuana may also have different effects on sleep. Indica-dominant strains are thought to be sedating and induce sleep more than sativas, which tend to create an energetic high.
Marijuana can be especially helpful for people experiencing insomnia related to pain. Along with treating insomnia, cannabis is also a well-known pain-reliever.
In a 2006 study, researchers noted that patients who were prescribed synthetic marijuana for pain continued to use the medication because it improved their sleep. A 2004 study found that THC and Sativex reduced pain and increased sleep quality dramatically.
Side Effects of Using Marijuana For Insomnia
Aside from helping you fall asleep faster, using marijuana before bed can cause side effects such as reduced dreaming and hangover effects. When marijuana is used as a sleep aid frequently, it may become less effective over time.
Marijuana reduces dreaming
Although marijuana helps you drift off more quickly, studies show that it reduces REM sleep — the stage where dreaming takes place. So, don’t expect to dream much if you’re using marijuana to help you sleep.
For some people, this may be a negative side effect. However, it may actually be beneficial for those suffering from bad dreams. A 2017 scientific review found that the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone could reduce nightmares for patients with PTSD.
Marijuana may result in hangover effects
One common issue with using marijuana before bed is that the grogginess can last into the next day.
In one small study, participants smoked marijuana or a placebo before bed. In the morning, those who smoked cannabis reported residual effects similar to a hangover.
In a 2004 study, researchers administered a cannabis tincture spray to participants at night before observing them in the morning. They found that higher doses resulted in hangover effects such as increased sleepiness, changes in mood, and memory impairment.
A 2013 study further confirmed these findings. They reported that participants who ingested THC in the evening reported more daytime sleep the next day.
You may develop a tolerance
Cannabis seems to be a good occasional treatment for insomnia. However, it can become less effective as tolerance builds.
Research suggests that THC may be less effective at inducing sleep after chronic use at high doses.
In addition, like prescription sleep medications, you may find it difficult to sleep when you stop using the drug. Cannabis withdrawal is associated with sleep difficulties and strange dreams.
Marijuana can be an effective treatment for insomnia. However, there are some side effects such as reduced dreaming and feeling sleepy the next day.
If used chronically in high doses, tolerance can build and marijuana may not work long-term. THC and CBD levels, as well as strain type also play a role in how marijuana affects your sleep.