How Cannabis Can Help You Sleep
Many people know exactly how cannabis can help you sleep, especially those who frequently use cannabis; it alleviates nerves and stress, reducing physical pain and relaxing the body. This effect has a physical explanation; the active principle in cannabis, THC, is the cannabinoid that can most influence sleep, stimulating the receptors along our bodies. In 1973 a study was done with the participation of nine people that had insomnia, and it was proven how THC notable altered the time it took each individual to fall asleep, reducing it considerably, whereas an excess of the cannabinoid had the exact opposite effect, showing insomnia symptoms in some users again. In 2013 the study was repeated using healthy people who don’t have insomnia, and surprisingly enough it also heavily reduced the time it took those participating in the experiment to fall asleep.
There’s a ridiculously long list of sleep disorders that aren’t just classified as problems falling asleep; there’s a whole area of sleep disorders regarding problems staying asleep like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and parasomnias. Parasomnias include any kind of disturbance that occurs when asleep; nightmares, movements, bed wetting, sleep talking, bruxism etc. In 2014 investigators found a short term solution for sleep apnea; it turns out that THC actually manages to relax the muscle in the jaw that’s responsible for sleep apnea. It also helps to control and regulate breathing when asleep, also blocking the serotonin created due to the apnea, helping up to 25% of men and 10% of women that suffer from this illness. Those that have been diagnosed with this illness have to wear a special kind of mask so they can breathe correctly; the mask needs electricity and it’s rather large and uncomfortable. Hopefully when marijuana use is regulated, people will be able to take a simple pill for sleep apnea rather than having to use an uncomfortable mask.
Many sleep disorders are due to subconscious traumas and illegal or legal drug abuse. In fact, 16.5% of people that have abused alcohol in their lives tend to manifest extreme anxiety when asleep. Those who experience anxiety when sleeping tend to have low levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which is categorized as an amino acid even though it isn’t one. GABA neurotransmitters are our bodies weapon against stress, and they tend to reduce neuronal activity so that you can sleep more calmly, absorbing excess adrenaline and other products of anxiety and stress.
The results of administering THC to people with sleep disturbances were extremely favorable; the quality of sleep obtained was increased, increasing the “deep sleep” phase and decreasing the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase due to an increase in slow brain waves. This increases the amount of GABA neurotransmitters, which not only lowers stress but it also decreases depression symptoms. These chemical processes are due to the endocannabinoid system, which regulates many things to do with our health, how we feel pain, our metabolism and appetite, as well as how we deal with stress… The effect that you get will obviously depend on the strain that you’re using the fight whichever issue you may have; obviously a 100% sativa most likely won’t give you the effect you need when trying to fall asleep.
REM is known as the phase in which you’re most likely to dream; when this phase begins, your brain manifests an intense activity due to the dreams you’re having. These dreams can drastically reduce is you’re a frequent, chronic cannabis user which some people may consider to be a negative effect. If you stop using this substance, you’ll get a REM rebound effect; after a few days, when you go to sleep it will be as if you’re having all of those REM moments that you didn’t have before when using cannabis. This can take days to weeks to stop happening, depending on the person and how long they’ve been consuming cannabis. It can also lead to a sense of anxiety and restlessness.
Author: Fabio Inga
Translation: Ciara Murphy