Sleep Potential of Cannabis

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  • Updated 439 days ago
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If sleep debt was a credit card, many of us would be way passed our limit. According to the National Sleep Foundation, close to 70 million Americans experience symptoms of a sleep disorder.

Close to half od the population will experience insomnia at some point in their lives, and about 15 percent of adults will deal with chronic insomnia. Left untreated, sleep disturbances can have a significant impact on your overall health and wellbeing. The effects are cumulative. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of numerous health concerns, including cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

If you've had disappointing results with some of the commonly recommended methods of improving sleep or are looking for an effective alternative to sleep medication, you may find it quite reassuring to learn about the sleep-promoting benefits found naturally in cannabis.

Cannabis Interacts with Numerous Receptors Throughout Your Body

The sleep-promoting potential of cannabis is explained by the way its plant-based cannabinoids mimic the effects of cannabinoids made in your body to interact with key receptors. Cannabinoids interact with the receptors of your endocannabinoid system, dopamine system, serotonin system, and more.

Although cannabis contains more than 100 plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) your body could respond to, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC are the most well-known. The plants are categorized by their THC content. Consider the following:


Marijuana contains varying amounts of CBD and higher amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Although THC is shown to have health and wellness potential, it can cause side effects, including the ability to interrupt sleep cycles. For sleep benefits, consider a strain with a higher CBD to THC ratio.


Hemp plants are high in CBD and low in THC, the cannabinoid responsible for marijuana's intoxicating effects. Because hemp contains 0.3 percent THC or less, there is no risk of intoxication. Cannabis users who prefer avoiding THC have the option of using hemp products made with CBD isolate.

Many researchers believe marijuana and full-spectrum hemp extract are more potent than CBD on its own because of a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. The entourage effect explains how the numerous minor cannabinoids and plant terpenes in cannabis interact to magnify and multiply the therapeutic potential.

The Sleep Promoting Potential of Cannabis

Your sleep cycles are directly influenced by your circadian rhythms, the internal 24-hour clock that regulates numerous processes throughout your body. Your endocannabinoid system, the system that responds to cannabis, regulates your circadian rhythms. Supporting your endocannabinoid system with cannabis is shown to stabilize sleep patterns over time.

In addition to stabilizing sleep cycles, you may also find benefit from the analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-emetic properties of plant-based cannabinoids. Just a few of the many sleep-promoting benefits of cannabis include:

  • Reducing Pain - The analgesic effects could soothe the pain that disrupts your sleep without the high risk of side effects from over the counter or prescription medications.
  • Minimizing Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety - If you lose too much sleep lying in bed awake, the anxiolytic effects could help calm your mind and fall asleep up to 30 minutes
  • Improving REM Sleep Capacity - If you have a REM sleep disorder, movements during sleep could wake you during the night. Cannabinoids can improve REM sleep and can also reduce the nightmares associated with PTSD.

Many cannabis users also find the anti-emetic properties help with digestive issues that can disturb their slumber. The anti-spasmodic properties could also reduce the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps.

A word about Strains

If your doctor has approved the use of marijuana to treat your insomnia, choosing a strain is important. Here are the three most common strains you’ll encounter:

  • Indica: This strain is known to be soothing and relaxing.
  • Sativa: This strain makes people feel excited, happy, and energized.
  • Hybrids: This is a combination of both indica and sativa, hybrids are blends that are often left up to the manufacturer or dispensary.

Tip: Always ask the people at the dispensary to help you find what you’re looking for and recommend a strain for you.

Dr. Jordan Tishler is a Harvard-trained physician and cannabis therapeutics specialist. He recommends a strain with less than 20 percent THC because anything more than that, will make dosing difficult. Too much THC might make you feel groggy and sleepy the next day.

Different strains will also have different amounts of cannabinoids in them, but when it comes to getting sleep, the most recommend is the indica strain to induce sleep.

Improving Sleep with Cannabis

Cannabis has been used for centuries to promote restful sleep. Although marijuana and hemp are considered safe, natural products, if you have a medical condition or take medication consult your physician before adding either of the cannabis plants to your nightly routine. Plant-derived cannabinoids can interact with prescription and over the counter medications.

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