Fall is here, the days are getting shorter, pumpkin spice is in season, and many of us may find ourselves winding down earlier to fend off chilly evenings. If cannabis is an integral part of your relaxation routine, here’s a look at everything you need to know about using cannabis to encourage sleep.
Why Use Cannabis For Sleep?
According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million adults experience symptoms of a sleep disorder, with 40 million affected by insomnia. Despite many pharmaceutical sleep aids, an increasing number of individuals are turning to cannabis for natural relief. The Sleep Foundation reports that 70% of young adults who use cannabis do so to help them rest, and among users who have been using cannabis for 10 years or more, half use cannabis to improve their sleep.
The Role of Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids bind to receptors in the brain, suppressing the brain’s arousal system and increasing a sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine. Several sleep-related cannabinoids—including THC, CBD and CBN—can have varying effects on the body but may work in concert to help a person fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
THC: THC is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid that causes consumers to feel intoxicated with sedating effects for many.
CBD: CBD is the most commonly used nonpsychoactive cannabinoid and is linked to relaxation, decreased anxiety and an overall sense of well-being.
CBN: CBN is a more recently acknowledged cannabinoid that shows promising results for promoting sleep. The effects of CBN are typically enhanced by THC.
A study published in Canadian Pharmacists Journal in 2022 examined the effects of medical cannabis on individuals with sleep disorders. Though looking at a relatively small sample size, the study found that 39% of patients were able to completely discontinue the use of prescription medication for sleep. On follow-up, 71% reported a subjective improvement in their sleep when using medical cannabis. Only 21% reported adverse effects but qualified them as manageable and did not require the disuse of cannabis.
Exploring Sleep-Related Strains
There are many strains that may promote sleep, but effects vary person to person. In general, indica strains are thought to be more sedative and better for promoting sleep, as well as strains higher in CBD and CBN. While THC can have sedative effects for some, it can have simulating effects for others. New users should start slowly while finding a dose that works for them. For sleep assistance, it may also be best to use flower or cannabis vapes to ensure more immediate and reliable results. Alternately, edibles can take about an hour for users to feel results.
How Does Cannabis Work To Support Healthy Sleep?
According to a 2008 study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, consuming high-THC strains reduces REM sleep. A reduction in REM sleep means less dreaming, and for those with PTSD or anxiety disorders, a reduction in dreams can mean a decrease in nightmares. Research posits that if you spend less time in REM sleep, you may spend more time in deep sleep, which is believed to be the most restorative type of sleep in the sleep cycle