Anybody who has used marijuana before will know that it relaxes you and makes you sleepy. Whether it’s in small or high doses, an evening session all but guarantees a wonderful night’s sleep. Therefore, if marijuana can be used as a natural sleep agent, could regular use help you to achieve better sleeping patterns and more deep sleep? Let’s find out.
There are several phases in a sleep cycle. The ‘deep sleep’ phase helps the body to recover, heal and restore – this is the third phase and takes place after your body has relaxed and prepared for deep sleep. It’s only during the ‘deep sleep’ phase that the body is able to repair and reboot.
Over the course of the day, waste products build up in the brain. These have to be cleared out by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which pours into the brain during deep sleep. In the daytime, CSF encircles the brain and acts as a protective mechanism. Scientific studies have shown that the brain shrinks in the deep sleep stage.
Many believe that the rinsing of toxic byproducts in the brain is essential, claiming that their build-up can cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Poor sleep patterns and limited deep sleep can lead to “brain fog”, making it difficult to concentrate and complete tasks efficiently. Deep sleep helps to refresh and reenergize.
This type of activity isn’t unusual in the body. Cell growth and reproduction happens thanks to the human growth hormone, and the body releases these into the system when required. The hormone is often used artificially by bodybuilders for muscle growth and maintenance.
Deep sleep isn’t quite as calming and sedative as some believe though. Sleepwalking, talking in your sleep and even bedwetting occurs during the deep sleep phase.
Marijuana and deep sleep
Marijuana has a bigger impact on deep sleep than any other phase of the sleep cycle. By smoking, vaping, or consuming an edible, you are changing the cannabinoid levels in the endocannabinoid system, which causes effects in variables such as appetite and mood. THC, the famous psychoactive compound, extends deep sleep and reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the dreaming and memory-storing phase of sleep.
While it’s not clear what the effects of more time spent in deep sleep are, less REM sleep can make it more difficult to save memories. However, being woken from deep sleep can leave you somewhat groggy and tired for a few minutes, and more likely to experience one or a combination of fatigue, brain fog, headaches, sleepiness and confusion later in the day. Therefore, if marijuana lengthens deep sleep, the chances of this happening are naturally increased. REM sleep is important as it helps the body to get into wake-up mode.
But it’s not all bad. For those with insomnia, other sleep disorders or simply a poor sleeping pattern, more deep sleep is actually extremely beneficial. Some conditions have been linked to not enough deep sleep, while a 2011 study found that a lack of deep sleep increase the likelihood of hypertension in men. The inability to regulate blood-sugar levels, caused by poor deep sleep, heightens the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a 2008 study from the University of Chicago Medical Center.
The body builds a tolerance to marijuana with consistent use, and this reduces the influence that the plant has on your deep sleep. Therefore, if you’re taking cannabis or extracts for sleep purposes, having a break every so often to bring down your tolerance is a good way of enhancing the herb’s effects when you do consume it.
Sleep deprivation and the endocannabinoid system
The body needs regular, consistent sleep or it will be unable to heal and clean out toxic byproducts. The endocannabinoid system also cannot function properly on limited sleep, which is important as it regulates circadian rhythms – these help you to wake up when it gets light and wind down when it gets dark.
Research is limited, but one recent study found that sleep deprivation dysregulates anandamide levels in the endocannabinoid system. Both CBD and THC boost anandamide levels.
The brain is forced into making more endocannabinoids to counteract the dysregulation due to a lack of sleep, specifically the 2-arachidonolyglycerol (2-AG) cannabinoid, which is similar to THC. In addition to increasing appetite, 2-AG also makes the body sleepy, and hence encourages you to sleep.
Insomniacs and other sleep-deprived folk tend to love cannabis products to help improve sleep patterns when they, along with the endocannabinoid system, are out of sync. CBD-dominant marijuana strains and extracts are very popular with users trying to regulate sleep although all strains can be useful. While not proven, sleep-deprived people could benefit from more time in the deep sleep phase, since it helps the body to heal and recover.
Which cannabis strain is best for sleep?
Not all cannabis helps you fall asleep, however. If you’re searching for some quality shut-eye, you’ll need to find the right strain. Sativa strains tend to be more energizing, like a strong cup of coffee. Sativa-dominant hybrids will have similar effects. For sleep, indicas are the best option. While sativas are more cerebral, indicas create a strong sensation of bodily relaxation. You’ll quickly feel your eyelids grow heavy, and dozing off will be a breeze. Some great indica strains include:
When choosing marijuana for sleep, remember the differences between sativa and indica strains. Sativas are typically mood-enhancing and energizing, with stimulating effects – not what you need before bedtime. The same goes for sativa-dominant hybrid strains. Indicas, on the other hand, have a much more relaxing and sedating effect on the body. These help to bring the body into sleep mode, and the drowsiness induced will have you drifting off in no time. Any of Bubba Kush, Afghan Kush and Grandaddy Purple should serve you well.
A small dose of marijuana in the run up to bedtime will definitely make sleeping easier if you’ve been having difficulties. The anti-anxiety qualities of cannabis are good at slowing the mind down and bringing mental relaxation as well as physical. As we suggested, splitting up use to ensure your tolerance doesn’t get too high is a good way of using cannabis as a sleep agent efficiently.
Let us know your marijuana methods for improving sleep in the comments.