Sleep disorders are growing increasingly common among the world population.
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 million Americans have consistent trouble falling asleep in the United States alone — and more than half of them are using one of a variety of sleep aids.
This had led to public interest in more natural alternatives, such as the utilisation of essential oils and medical cannabis use.
The emergence of authoritative cannabis research suggests that medical cannabis users just might be onto something when using marijuana as a form of sleep medicine; not just against obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, but even to reduce anxiety and stress — either of which could cause significant difficulty sleeping.
In this post, we go over the many ways using marijuana for sleep can relieve insomnia and provide other benefits, from chronic pain relief to a respite from treatment resistant nightmares.
Common Root Causes of Poor Sleep Cycles
There are a number of factors that can contribute to sleep problems. One of the most common is stress. When we’re under stress, our bodies produce hormones that can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Other common causes of sleep disorder include:
Can cause a number of disruptions to healthy sleep patterns, including insomnia, night terrors, and restless leg syndrome.
While some people with anxiety may only experience occasional sleepless nights, others may have chronic difficulty entering rem sleep, which is more commonly known as “deep sleep”.
In some cases, anxiety-related sleep problems can be so severe that they interfere with daily life.
Can also make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. It can cause a number of different sleep disorders like insomnia, which can manifest both from the pain itself or the medications used to treat it.
Pain can also disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to problems such as insufficient rem sleep and sleep apnea.
In addition, chronic pain can lead to anxiety indirectly (e.g. in the case of performance anxiety), which can lead to a variety of sleep disturbances in the long run.
Can cause sleep problems in a number of ways; one is by causing chemical imbalances in the brain that make it difficult to enter or maintain deep sleep.
Depression can also cause changes in the body’s natural sleep cycle, which can affect daytime productivity and even motor function if left unresolved.
Additionally, people who are depressed often have trouble relaxing and may find it difficult to quiet their minds at night, which can cause them great difficulty in falling or staying asleep.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Sometimes characterised by a nightly struggle to fall asleep. This can be due to intrusive thoughts and memories of a traumatic event, as well as to anxiety and hypervigilance.
People with PTSD may experience vivid dreams in which they relive the trauma. These nightmares can be so immersive and realistic that they cause repeated sleep disruption throughout the night.
People with PTSD may also have difficulty relaxing and letting go of control, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. All of these factors can lead to sleep deprivation, which can in turn worsen the symptoms of PTSD.
How Can Marijuana Help?
Contrary to popular misconception, cannabis doesn’t function as a sleeping aid in that it can directly induce sleep, or even help anyone fall asleep faster. Instead, it has been shown to have significant therapeutic potential, in that it can relieve the intensity of symptoms tied to common disorders associated with nocturnal sleep dysfunction.
The ability of cannabis — specifically, cannabis compounds — to indirectly promote sleep is increasingly well established thanks to large-scale studies and research within the medical community. Indica strains’ terpene profiles, for instance, are known to produce sedative effects that lead to not only better sleep overall, but the ability to sleep longer.
Examples of Marijuana’s Benefits on Sleep
Whether they be high THC strains or hybrids more dominant in CBD, marijuana can benefit a wide range of individuals in a variety of lifestyles, even at lower doses.
Let’s look at some of the ways long-term marijuana use can help in the process of falling asleep simply by its effect on common conditions linked to sleep dysfunction.
The ability of marijuana to relieve pain is well documented in scientific literature, which is why chronic and acute pain disorders are a top use case in medical marijuana prescriptions around the world.
Both THC and CBD interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors to modulate the nervous system’s response and sensitivity to signalling hormones associated with pain, such as prostaglandins.
Calming Anxiety Disorders
Marijuana use has also been linked with the reduction of anxiety via its regulatory effect on the brain’s uptake of key neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.
GABA helps to regulate communication between nerve cells in the brain. It’s known as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it helps to keep the nervous system functioning properly by keeping nerve cell activity in check.
When levels of GABA are too low, it can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and irritability. Research suggests that increased levels of GABA may be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, such as racing thoughts, worry, and restlessness.
This is how cannabis affects a wide range of anxiety disorders, including social phobias associated with anxiety (e.g. anthropophobia, glossophobia).
The anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana is rooted in CBD’s effect on ECS receptors in the immune system and peripheral organs, inhibiting chemical imbalances caused by inflammatory cytokines.
This interaction is shown to be helpful in treating a variety of conditions, such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties may also be beneficial for treating other conditions that are characterised by inflammation, such as asthma and allergies.
Ameliorating Mood Disorder
Cannabis compounds and medical marijuana are frequently prescribed in several countries because of its actions on the body’s levels of serotonin, a hormone that plays the defining role in regulating mood.
Low levels of serotonin are associated with feelings of sadness and anxiety, while increased levels are linked to happiness and well-being. By raising the body’s serotonin levels, marijuana can help to alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve mood.
Functionally, marijuana can serve as a natural alternative to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are another class of drugs that have gained notoriety for an array of potentially debilitating side effects.
Will It Work for Everyone?
While more research is needed to establish the viability of cannabis compounds for all age groups, there’s certainly plenty of promise in terms of its role in the future of natural sleep medicine.
Everyone from young adults to elderly individuals with a range of neurophysiological health conditions stand to benefit from marijuana’s beneficial effects on pain, anxiety, mood and inflammatory disorders — and in turn have a better chance at spending more time dreaming and getting more hours of deep sleep.