Cannabis and Sleep: Does Medical Marijuana Hurt or Help Insomnia?
Updated: Jan 8
Cannabis is well-known for its sleep-promoting properties. Smoking marijuana or consuming an edible is likely to boost relaxation, potentially making it easier to fall asleep.
Yet, falling asleep faster doesn’t always mean better sleep. Take alcohol, for instance. Alcohol has a relaxing effect that can help lull you into sleep. After you fall asleep, however, alcohol becomes a hindrance to healthy sleep. Alcohol causes people to wake up frequently during the night and wake up too early in the morning. These effects have led experts to conclude that alcohol is not good for sleep, even though many consumers believe it is.
The alcohol example provides evidence that a substance can help you fall asleep while still being bad for your sleep quality. Is the effect of cannabis on sleep the same as alcohol? Or is marijuana a cure for insomnia?
What is the Relationship Between Cannabis and Sleep
There is no question that cannabis can help people fall asleep. Its ability to quell anxiety combined with its natural sedative effects makes for an easy transition into slumber.
And for people who use medical cannabis to relieve symptoms like chronic pain, sleep without cannabis therapy can be next to impossible. In research examining the effects of cannabis-derived therapy on those with chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and posttraumatic stress disorder, better sleep outcomes were observed.
But some research explores potential negative effects of cannabis on sleep. In a 2017 article published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, researchers found that the complete story of THC and sleep is much more complicated.
While multiple studies have found low-dose THC in newer cannabis users to benefit sleep, those who chronically consumed THC can experience negative sleep outcomes. For frequent cannabis consumers (defined as those who have used marijuana for two or more years and have consumed cannabis five times or more weekly for three or more months), the following deleterious effects were noted:
Longer time to fall asleep
Shorter total time asleep each night
Poor sleep efficiency (a measure of how much time someone spends asleep during the total time that they are trying to sleep)
Less deep sleep (deep sleep is largely responsible for how rejuvenated you feel come morning time)
Another concern is that abruptly stopping cannabis use can make sleep even more challenging. Research suggests that long-term users who quit cold turkey often experience sleeping difficulties.
What these studies suggest is that long-term, frequent cannabis use might cause insomnia symptoms in some individuals. However, the research into the effects of medical marijuana on sleep is still ongoing. There have been very few human studies, particularly long-term studies in those who use cannabis to treat a medical condition.
While casual cannabis consumers may experience poor sleep after chronic use, it is possible that those who use medical marijuana to relieve symptoms of illness could continue to sleep better.
More research is needed to determine exactly how cannabis influences sleep. THC dose, frequency of use, when you consume cannabis, and what products you use could lead to different effects on sleep quality.
Most cannabis users take it for granted that marijuana helps insomnia. But the truth is more complicated. Early human studies suggest that cannabis can help people fall asleep faster and improve sleep quality for those with chronic health conditions. Other studies tell a different story, one where long-term heavy use leads to symptoms that mimic insomnia.
Talk to your doctor if you experience any trouble sleeping while using medical marijuana. And if you find that cannabis relieves your symptoms and enhances sleep quality, enjoy the added benefit.
If you are an Arkansan suffering from one of these 18 medical conditions you may be eligible to treat your ailment with medical marijuana, which includes both THC and CBD products.
Click here to learn more about what Arkansas Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at (844-249-8714) and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.