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Cannabis affects everyone differently. Many people love the way they feel while high, while other people do not. It helps a number of people manage pain physical ailments and illnesses and causes adverse reactions in others. Some people can smoke or vape or ingest cannabis all day long and function on a completely normal level, while some will have a single hit and become dragon-eyed and overcome with giggles.

This is because the chemical makeup varies between different types of marijuana.

Simple, right?

Much research has been devoted to discovering the different effects that different strains/types of marijuana have on different people.

Two main chemical compounds are what make cannabis what it is: Tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana – getting you high. THC has been shown to have some medicinal properties, but it is CBD that is at the core of research on the healing, and therapeutic effects of marijuana: While CBD does not get you high, removing the recreational component of use, studies have consistently show it can help with pain management, inflammation, seizures, and, of course, appetite.

And sleep? Can cannabis help you fall, and stay, asleep?

The Science of Sleep

Just as cannabis affects different people in different ways, people also have varying sleep patterns and schedules. Some people consider themselves “night people” and others enjoy waking up early; some of us have no problem falling asleep, and others toss and turn for hours.

Sleep is regulated by our circadian rhythm; internal clocks that regulate our bodies and tell us when we should be up and when we should be asleep. Humans are not unique in this: Circadian rhythms can also be found in plant and animal life. Circadian rhythm usually undergoes the greatest change from 2:00 to 4:00am, and from 1:00 to 3:00pm.

There are other factors, especially light and noise in your surroundings, that influence your rhythm as well.

Read more about circadian rhythms here: National Sleep Foundation: What is Circadian Rhythm?

But while everyone is different, and will react differently to outside factors, one thing is clear across the bed: Sleeping through the night is a very important piece of health and longevity. Not getting enough sleep will leave you sluggish, irritable, unfocussed, and, simply with low-energy throughout the day. This affects both your emotional and physical health, and can ultimately affect day-to-day interactions, relationships, and productivity levels.

Plenty of factors can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep: Stress over school, work, children, roommates. Social interactions at night, maybe. And, as the world moves faster, many people find it hard to commit to the recommended 7 to 9 hours a night in the first place.

It can be hard being human.

And aside from outside influences that might be keeping you up at night, sleep disorders can and will affect your sleep schedule even if you’re doing everything right.

There are studies that show cannabis can help with sleep – people kept awake by chronic pain or PTSD, for example, benefit greatly from the effects of CBD. As we mentioned earlier, however, marijuana does affect everyone differently: It can help some people fall asleep and have the opposite effect on others.

Smoke, Sleep, Repeat

Cannabis use can be traced back thousands of years: It was used in ancient China for both medical, as well as industrial, purposes, for example.

Medicinal marijuana has seen a recent resurgence in the United States: A growing number of states, while still wavering on recreational use, have legalized medical marijuana for the treatment of disease, illness, and other conditions. Specific conditions like multiple sclerosis, cancer, and epilepsy (treatment of seizures, especially), have benefited from unprecedented relief offered by cannabis.

Continued research and application into cannabis use has been sluggish, however, as its legal status as a Schedule I drug on a federal level has greatly limited clinical trials and research on the drug. The National Institute of Drug Abuse also has a heavy hand in regulating the distribution of research grade marijuana, which makes it not only difficult for those interested in conducting research to obtain research-grade marijuana, but also to get funding in the first place.

Thus, marijuana that is obtained from the University of Mississippi (the only research facility currently allowed to conduct research at that level) often does not accurately reflect the marijuana that patients would actually use when self-medicating.

Despite these setbacks, however, forward progress has been made and continues to be made every year: Researchers are constantly making new discoveries on how best to apply the healing effects of cannabis.

One area that remains limited in study, however, is the relationship between cannabis and sleep. Research here is limited, and much of it comes from studies that are now decades old.

We do know, that the two most common compounds in cannabis – the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), known as cannabinoids that we mentioned earlier – interact with the endocannabinoid system, a complex system of neurotransmitters found in the brains of mammals.

As we know that this system plays an important role in regulating health and disease, the therapeutic potential of studying endocannabinoid system is boundless.

And good news has also come in the form of research that shows CBD does not get you high in the traditional sense (it’s the THC that does that). This could help with the social stigmas surrounding medical use of marijuana and helps those in search solely of medical benefits get them without feeling the intoxicating effects typically associated with cannabis use.

The psychoactive properties of cannabis have been shown to be what would keep people awake at night – again, these properties live in THC and are not found in CBD. Studies have also shown that cannabis can decrease Rapid Eye Movement (REM) during sleep, and as REM is believed to be the portion of our sleep cycle in which dreams are produced, cannabis can also them those who suffer bad dreams/nightmares. One study also showed that those who had quit marijuana had trouble falling asleep in the initial aftermath, but their REM increased.


CBD medications, then, are your best bet when looking to use the plant to help you fall asleep: Cultivation and extraction processes have led to the creation of cannabis medicines that have little or no THC in them, leaving only the calming, therapeutic properties of CBD.

And while we can’t say definitively that cannabis is the answer to a good (or at least better) night’s sleep, evidence suggests both on a clinical and anecdotal level that it is more than worth a try: Given that marijuana use is low-risk, with fewer side effects than other prescribed sleep medications, it just might be worth a try when searching for the elusive Mr. Sandman.

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