Marijuana and the Effects It has on Sleeping
Updated May 26, 2020
Table of contents
- 1. Effects Of Marijuana On Sleep
- 2. Using Marijuana As A Sleep Aid
- 3. Effects Of Marijuana On REM Sleep
- 4. Effects Of Marijuana On Your Sleep Apnea
- 5. Effects Of Marijuana On Your Sleep Cycle
- 6. Effects Of Marijuana On Sleep Quality
- 7. Smoking Marijuana To Help Sleep
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Marijuana is a touchy subject. I know people who are completely against it and I know people who can’t function without it.
Personally, I don’t care if you do it or if you don’t, it’s your choice. The one thing I can tell you is that most of the people I know enjoy using marijuana as a sleep aid-my brother in law happens to be one of them. He’s one of those people who can take one hit and fall asleep just a little while after, but why does this happen? Let me fill you in on the effects of marijuana on sleep.
#1: Effects of Marijuana on Sleep
Marijuana has a number of effects on the human body. It can make you feel weightless, hungry, happy, sick, or in this case, sleepy. The main ingredient in pot is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. This is the chemical that’s responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana. Our bodies naturally create cannabinoid chemicals, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the pot just puts it into overdrive essentially.
If you smoke pot to help you sleep, there are a number of health effects it has on your body. It can have an effect on your REM sleep, sleep patterns, cycle, apnea, and quality. Believe it or not, marijuana can actually help these things, resulting in a better sleep.
#2: Using Marijuana as a Sleep Aid
As I said before, my brother in law smokes to help him fall asleep if he’s in pain or if he just can’t seem to fall asleep. Depending on a person’s biochemistry, certain types of pot can have psychoactive results on them. So when you hear that some people end up being hyperactive after smoking rather than mellowing out, this is because of that biochemistry reaction to whatever was in the blend.
Back in 1973, a study was performed on a group of insomniacs. These people were given different doses of THC. These doses were found to significantly decrease the time it took to fall asleep. There was also improvement shown when it came to sleeping throughout the night.
If you are thinking of smoking a joint before bed to help you fall asleep quicker, you should know that there are many different strains of “bud” and they can all affect you differently.
It is suggested that you use an indica dominant strain. This will give you a mellow, body high, instead of making you hyper and disoriented.
#3: Effects of Marijuana on REM Sleep
The final stage of sleep for us is called REM or Rapid Eye Movement. This is the stage in which dreams occur. It’s not for certain as to why, but smoking before bed reduces REM sleep and reduces dreaming. Some say that it’s because of pot’s tendency to blunt dopamine response. Dopamine is what directs our attention and creates dreams.
If you suddenly stop smoking after doing it for a long period of time without having dreams or even having minimal dream episodes, your dreams are likely to come back with really angry with you. This is because smokers regain their sensitivity to dopamine, sometimes at a really unstable level.
My brother in law does not report having dreams while he is sleeping after smoking. If he does, he cannot remember them. I do, however, recall him telling me about some crazy dreams he was having after not smoking for a while before a surgery he needed. He was smoking almost every night for a month or so and he had to stop abruptly.
#4: Effects of Marijuana on Your Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is the disruption of breathing patterns during sleep. This is something that affects millions of people, making them really sleepy because they aren’t getting enough z’s. In 2002, a study was performed that suggests that the use of marijuana for sleep has the ability to suppress sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can cause someone to wake up many times throughout the night. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you can be moody, suffer from headaches, your chance of accidents is increased, and there could be other health issues that come along with it.
Another study was performed on 17 participants over a 21 day period. This study measured the efficacy of a cannabinoid called “dronabinol”, which is a THC mimic. Improvement in sleep apnea were shown in 15 out of these 17 people. Another study showed an improvement in respiratory stability.
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#5: Effects of Marijuana on Your Sleep Cycle
As you may already know, there are 4 stages of sleep and REM that we go through. Each one of these stages play a different role in how we sleep. Let’s break them down.
This stage is the initial time it takes for us to actually fall asleep and it’s the time where the body transitions into a comfortable sleep. This stage is usually only active for 7 minute and if someone is experiencing pain or stress, this could take longer. Marijuana is best known for its sedative and relaxation effects, so it’s a no brainer that it would help you drift off to sleep quicker by relaxing you more.
In this stage, your eye movement stops and your brainwaves slow down. This puts you into a light sleep and you are more likely to be easily woken up. This stage seems to be the least affected by pot, but nobody knows for sure as to why.
Stages 3 and 4
These stages involve slow sleep waves. Since these stages are referred to as a single cycle, they seem to be the most restorative out of the four stages. This stage is also lengthened with the use of cannabis. This could be linked to an increased reduction of beta-amyloid, a plaque that is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. Although more research needs to be done, which is tough due to the legality of pot, it still looks promising.
In REM sleep, breathing is more rapid, your eyes twitch, and your limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed. When you smoke, your dreaming is reduced or stopped. You’re less likely to wake up from a dream, especially if you aren’t having them.
#6: Effects of Marijuana on Sleep Quality
Marijuana has the ability to do many things to your body. Your body has what’s called an “endocannabinoid system” which is what regulates sleep, along with some other things. Marijuana also has these chemicals, as aforementioned. So how does this all link together to help you?
Falling Asleep Easier
My brother in law can personally attest to this method. If he’s stressed or in pain, he smokes, but not much. Even one or two hits can instantly make him feel drowsy. Him and his girlfriend ditch the clothes, snuggle up in bed, have a few of those cliched laughs, and fall asleep quickly and easily.
Early research of marijuana shows that THC can reduce the time it takes for both healthy people and insomniacs to fall asleep. THC was found to ease falling asleep in a 2013 study of healthy individuals.
Longer & Deeper Sleep
Yup, my friend and brother in law can relate to this one too. The next morning, they always ask each other how they slept, and the answer is always the same, “Great.” They don’t find themselves waking up in the middle of the night, they don’t toss and turn as much, and they wake up feeling refreshed.
Early studies show that the use of THC or CBD can lead to an increase in sleep. One study showed that an increased dose of THC increased the amount of time spent asleep. As a word of warning, really high doses of THC can leave you with a hangover feeling, as if you drank all night and only got an hour of sleep.
When it comes to deeper sleeping, THC can increase the amount of slow-wave sleep, which is our deep sleep. Deep sleep plays a huge role in the restoration process that we go through during sleep, so getting that deep sleep is essential to our health and moods.
#7: Smoking Marijuana to Help Sleep
Smoking marijuana to help sleep is something that a lot of people do, more than you know actually. Even though it’s illegal in most states, people still do it regularly. My brother can smoke it all day and somehow still function. My friend takes one hit and she’s down for the count. But, smoking isn’t only beneficial to sleeping, it’s also pain relieving.
Marijuana and Research Results
Research shows that smoking can help people who suffer from chronic nerve pain. These people report feeling less pain and sleeping better. A clinical trial compared placebo with three different types of cannabis. 21 men and women with an average age of 45 who suffered from chronic nerve pain.
Each person was evaluated for 2 months, using all 4 strengths of cannabis and the placebo. They were rotated through the strengths and they didn’t know which ones they were using. A single puff was taken and inhaled for 10 seconds three times a day for five days. The patients were then put on a pain scale of 10 being the highest. Those who were on the placebo put their pain at a 6.1 and those who were on the highest dose reduced their pain to 5.4.
Any reduction in pain is a success. If your pain is keeping you awake, this is good evidence that cannabis can be a great pain reliever, which can help you sleep better at night. If I’m in pain, I sleep like crap. If I smoke, my pain goes away, it’s great.
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As you can see, there are many clinical trials, research papers, and studies that show marijuana has some positive effects on your body. The only reason you would have a negative effect is if you didn’t use to the blend, it was too high, you smoked too much, or you got a bad batch, which I can personally relate to.
If you are frequently in pain and can’t manage it or you just need to sleep better, cannabis is the most natural way to go. Forget the sleeping pills and forget the drinking. If you’re still absolutely against the idea of smoking weed to fall asleep, no worries. Grab yourself a comfortable mattress, snuggle up next to your partner, and drift off as best you can.
As always, if you enjoyed this article or have any questions for us, drop us a comment and share the heck out of it if you’re a believer.
Marijuana is a touchy subject. I know people who are completely against it and I know people who can’t function without it.
Ask Miss Grass: How to *Not* Fall Asleep After Smoking Weed?
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Staying woke while you smoke could come down to what you toke—but it may have a lot to do with more psychological factors as well.
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Dear Miss Grass,
I have a weird problem. Smoking weed makes me *super* sleepy. Like, my eyelids get immediately heavy and I pretty much just have to go to bed. I know that doesn’t sound terrible, but TBH it actually sucks. I’d love to enjoy weed the way my friends do—deep thoughts, fun giggles, sexy vibes—but even sativa makes me completely pass out! What’s a weed-girl wannabe to do?
Sleepy Head in Venice, CA
Don’t beat yourself up! That’s really not such a weird problem: Falling asleep after smoking weed is really common; cannabis—and specifically the cannabinoid CBN—is celebrated for its calm-enhancing and sleep-inducing properties, and there’s a whole lot of people who use it solely for that. And, because everyone has a unique biochemistry that reacts to individual substances differently, it’s also not surprising that some people, such as yourself, might experience the sleepy effects of cannabis more strongly than others. Miss Grass personally has more than a handful of buds who share this same conumdrum.
Eliminating shame, stigma, and expectations from the equation is really, really important when it comes to consciously and safely consuming any psycho-active substance.
So, at the very least—and before we get into what to do—please take heart in the fact that you’re certainly not alone and it’s definitely not “weird.” Eliminating shame, stigma, and expectations from the equation is really, really important when it comes to consciously and safely consuming any psycho-active substance. We’ll get more into that in a bit.
But first, let’s talk about why you want to get high without passing out immediately. You mentioned some of the reasons—deep thoughts, fun giggles, sexy vibes—and they’re all good ones. Here are a few personal favorites of mine, just for kicks: an enhanced feeling of whole-ness and connection, increased bodily awareness, more compassion and self-acceptance, and sometimes, even more energy and an enhanced ability to focus. (And, of course, there’s all the potential ways cannabis might help soothe certain physical ailments, too.) So, yeah, it totally makes sense that you’d want to experience any and all of that. Life is short, and, as long as you’re not using cannabis thoughtlessly—and it doesn’t sound like that’s your intention, SH—it can definitely be one of the most magical natural experiences on earth.
Life is short, and, as long as you’re not using cannabis thoughtlessly, it can definitely be one of the most magical natural experiences on earth.
However, as we all know, wanting to experience something and actually being able to are two very separate things. There is a such thing as science after all (contrary to what some people in the current administration think)—and the science of the body can be a fickle mistress indeed; just ask anyone who’s tried to shed a few unwanted pounds or kick an addiction. Shit’s complicated. Metabolisms. Homeostasis. Etcetera etcetera.
When it comes to cannabis and sleep, the science, in a nutshell, is this: cannabinoids and terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid receptors in our brains, causing us to react in certain ways depending on our own biochemistry. “ THC can be helpful in calming down the activity in the frontal cortex—which can be helpful for people whose mind can’t slow down, ” says Samantha Miller, chief scientist at Pure Analytics. Introducing THC to your particular brain, SH—if you’re the type who likes to make a lot of lists and can’t stop thinking—sounds like it may be fully allowing you to relax, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But that isn’t what you always want, so Miller recommends experimenting with a “ CBD-dominant cannabis for a mood shift without drowsiness. ”
It may take a bit of experimentation to find out what works best with your individual biochemistry. Practicing doesn’t just apply to getting good at the piano or surfing, you know?
And, it turns out that the amount of CBD in a strain can really make a difference—maybe more so than if the cannabis you consume is sativa or indica. But it may take a bit of experimentation to find out what works best with your individual biochemistry. For example, in some studies, high CBD has been shown to help induce sleep, while low dose CBD can actually have stimulant effects. You mentioned you’ve tried sativa. It’s definitely true that sativa is marketed as being more stimulating than indica, but assuming that any indica will calm stress and any sativa will lift your spirits is not a good idea because a lot of other variables can come into play—like the terpenes and other cannabinoids in the strain.
Plus, some experts also think that it may take a several consumption sessions to get your endocannabinoid receptors turned on and working full throttle. If that ’s true, that means the more times you consume, the better at experiencing and parsing out the desired effects you ’ll get. Practicing doesn’t just apply to getting good at the piano or surfing, you know? There ’s a reason some so-called “ stoners ” are so high functioning—they “practiced” a lot and figured out what works for them.
If all this sounds like a whole lot of conflicting info, that’s understandable. Bottom line is there just isn’t a ton of research into why people react to smoking weed differently than others and there are no hard and fast rules. But you know what there is more research on? A little thing called set and setting. And, for what it’s worth, I personally suspect that set and setting might be just as important as—if not more important than—a substance’s chemical properties.
Set and setting might be just as important as—if not more important than—a substance’s chemical properties.
The phrase, which was coined in the ’ 60s by one of the most important pioneers in psychedelic therapy, Timothy Leary, refers to how the combination of two factors— the mental state you bring to the experience, like thoughts, mood, and expectations (set); and the physical and social environment that the experience actually occurs in (setting)— can influence a psychedelic experience for better or worse . And more recent research also suggests that set and setting can completely change how a person experiences a substance. (Just google the placebo effect to go down that rabbit hole.)
SH, you didn’t mention how many times you’ve smoked weed or in what situations, but I highly recommend keeping set and setting in mind next time you consume. Not to over simplify, but if you expect to fall asleep every time you consume weed, you may actually be setting yourself up to do just that. Self-fulfilling prophesy, right? So, set some new intentions for your experience and make sure to put yourself in a setting that isn’t your usual smoking situation. Changing up the time of day, the place you smoke, the people you smoke with, what you’re doing while you smoke (some people even like to toke and work out!) and even what you’re wearing can have a bigger effect than you may realize. (There ’s a reason shamans make everyone wear white before a ceremony! This stuff matters.)
Cannabis and other psycho-active substances lift the veil of everyday consciousness, which has the potential to bring thoughts, memories, and feelings to the surface that, for whatever reason, you may not be willing to deal with.
Also, perhaps most importantly, know this: because cannabis (and other psycho-active substances) lift the veil of everyday consciousness, it has the potential to bring thoughts, memories, and feelings to the surface that, for whatever reason, you may not be willing to deal with. It’s completely possible that, without you even realizing it, your ego or intellect isn ’ t allowing you to be fully present to the entire cannabis experience, and therefore sleepiness is the main thing you feel. (This may also be why some people feel more anxious or paranoid after smoking weed.) It ’ s sort of like a physiological, self-protective cock block, if you will. It may be worth exploring (ideally with the help of a therapist) why that may be—especially if there’s past trauma in your life you haven’t fully dealt with.
Because, ultimately, facing challenging thoughts and uncomfortable feelings is precisely what makes smoking weed and using other psychotropics so healing—and why they’ve become the basis for a lot of really promising types of new treatments and therapies in the realms of PTSD and depression. Dealing with those types of feelings with assistance allows us to move past them so we can fully enjoy everything else in our lives—including the full effects of cannabis, if that ’ s what we choose.
In Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience, he emphasizes the importance of surrendering to the substance: “whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream,” he writes. He was referring to LSD, of course, but there’s no reason that advice can’t apply to smoking weed. And, fun fact, those words eventually became lyrics in The Beatles song Tomorrow Never Knows, so there you go.
Not falling asleep after smoking weed could have a lot to do with psychological factors like set and setting as well and not strains.