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Does weed help with insomnia?

Does weed help with insomnia?

There are two lenses through which to think about CBD and THC treatment for insomnia. Those are, the developing brain versus the developed brain. It’s clear that there is probably no benefit to the developing brain from THC and CBD for insomnia. Meaning, if someone asked if you should give cannabis to a teenager in order to help them treat insomnia, the answer would be no. However, there is abundant evidence that suggests that CBD can have beneficial impacts on your sleep quality. 

Is THC a pro-sleep compound?

Technically, no. Anyone who has smoked various types of cannabis will tell you that sativa is likely not helpful with sleep, whereas indica strains might have more of a benefit if you experience insomnia. However, strains evolve quickly and there is little regulation around names. Therefore, it’s impossible to say if one strain truly benefits insomnia or sleep better than another. 

Acute use of THC (so not chronic use!) typically has a beneficial effect in that it will decrease the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep. The amount of time it takes you to fall asleep is called sleep latency. When considering using THC or CBD for sleep, it’s important to know that the only thing it impacts is sleep latency. Because of this, you might feel as if you are asleep for a longer period of time overall, but that might not be the case.

Does cannabis affect your sleep in the same way as alcohol?

Alcohol has been shown to be a very robust blocker of your dream, or REM, sleep. This is something that alcohol has in common with cannabis, which has also been shown to negatively impact your sleep. Additionally, if you use cannabis chronically, you build up a tolerance to the benefit of falling asleep faster. This means that you eventually have to start consuming more cannabis to get the same reduction in sleep latency. 

A lot of people find that when they stop consuming cannabis for sleep they have a pretty horrific insomnia rebound effect. What that means is that when they stop smoking, they have miserable sleep that forces them to seek out more cannabis to continue to have a positive effect on their sleep. If abstinence is the goal, then a lack of sleep can make not smoking cannabis incredibly difficult. 

Why is REM sleep important?

There is a lot of evidence to support the fact that cannabis negatively impacts REM sleep, which is unfortunate because, in the long term, the REM cycle of sleep is the one that makes you feel well rested. 

However, while THC might block REM sleep and therefore cause you to have worse sleep overall, CBD is starting to gain traction as a sleep aid on its own. However it can be difficult for scientists to obtain funding to complete studies that would definitively prove that CBD has a positive impact on sleep. This is due to the ethics of possibly depriving someone of quality sleep (and the societal stigma around cannabis use). 

So should I use CBD for sleep?

The data that supports CBD use for sleep shows that you fall asleep faster. More importantly, it does not have the same adverse effect on REM sleep as THC. So you can get all the same benefits of regular cannabis use, but without the overall cost to the quality of your sleep. 

Another positive of CBD is that your body does not develop a tolerance to it in the same way. Meaning, you don’t typically see the same dependency issues or rebound when you stop using it. There is also evidence that CBD can have benefit on sleep disorders! It can reduce the severity of sleep apnea, for example, but more research must be done in order to know for certain. 

Do I need to know anything about using CBD for sleep?

The positive impact that CBD can have on your sleep is dependent on dose. Because of the relative lack of research, it’s not exactly clear what the optimal dose of CBD is to help with sleep. Some doses have even been found to promote wakefulness rather than promoting sleep! This means that there might be a “sweet spot” dose that has an optimal concentration of CBD without promoting wakefulness. 

How does CBD help with sleep disorders?

There is evidence to suggest that CBD may actually increase the amount of deep sleep. Another interesting thing that appeared in one small study was that CBD helps with thermoregulation. That means that CBD might actually help the decrease core body temperature, which helps you sleep better. There are many things that increase your core body temperature and therefore negatively contribute to your sleep quality. For example, substances like alcohol, sleeping in a hot room, or eating a big meal before bed. 

Another theory about CBD is that it is anxiolytic. That is, it has clinical efficacy for anxiety, which definitely helps contribute to the good sleep you get when you use CBD! In modern life, anxiety is a huge and pervasive issue that harms people’s sleep quality. The only time that our brain goes from reception to reflection is when our head hits the pillow. Unfortunately, that is the WORST time to be ruminating, catastrophizing and running through every single thing that makes you anxious. That’s why CBD can be such a great help for you if you suffer from sleep disorders. 

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