Can cannabis help? Well, like other wellness uses, results can vary by person and by strain, but generally speaking, studies have shown cannabis can be an effective measure against anxiety, sleep apnea, PTSD, pain and other things keeping you up at night. Cannabis consumers report that they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, whether occasionally or chronically. It can have any number of causes and different cannabis strains have different results for different people. As a sleep aid, you’ll want to consider high-THC/low-CBD strains, and usually an indica plant. Most people find these strains not only make them drowsy, but relax the body, leaving limbs feeling heavy. It’s definitely better for use at home, preferably when you can sit or lie down in comfort. Timing and method matter. You’ll feel the effects much faster if you inhale cannabis versus ingesting it, so if you’re new to the experience, plan accordingly until you know exactly what works for you.
People who suffer from severe post-traumatic stress experience anxiety and nightmares that can interfere with sleep. One of the studied effects of cannabis is that people will spend less time in REM sleep.The brain will still experience deep sleep—which is necessary—but because there’s less time spent in REM, there are fewer dreams and they are generally less vivid.
As cannabis calms and relaxes the body, one study showed it helps stabilize breathing in people who suffer from sleep apnea. This helps prevent the temporary breathing lapses that define the condition, and also helps with related issues, like snoring.
Pain, whether caused by an injury or a chronic condition, can cause enough discomfort to interfere with sleep. Cannabis can temporarily ease pain enough to make sleeping possible, or make consumers drowsy enough that they can rest through the discomfort.
Again, consuming cannabis is different for everybody. You should talk to your doctor about whether it can be an effective solution to whatever is causing your insomnia. Some side effects to be aware of include:
Cannabis limits the time you spend in REM sleep, which reduces dreaming. Consumers who use cannabis as a sleeping aid regularly can experience “REM rebound” if they stop, which means they temporarily dream more often and more lucidly.
Cannabis hangovers vary by person—some people don’t experience them at all. Unlike alcohol hangovers, they don’t cause headaches or nausea, but a cannabis hangover can leave you feeling foggy-headed or lethargic for several hours after you wake up.
While occasional cannabis use can be tremendously effective for helping with sleep, heavy users (multiple times per day) have reported that it interferes with sleep, triggering insomnia more frequently.
While high-THC cannabis is best to help with sleep, these strains can also increase anxiety in some consumers.
Cannabis strains, doses, and THC-to-CBD ratios can affect people differently. Always begin by having a conversation with your doctor. If it's decided cannabis can help, you may want to try a few different strains aimed at insomnia, starting with small doses and working your way up until you and your doctor determine what is best for you.
David A. Gorelick, Robert S. Goodwin, Eugene Schwilk, Jennifer R. Schroeder, David M. Schwope, Deanna L. Kelly, Catherine Ortemann-Renon, Denis Bonnet and Marilyn A. Huestis
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Thomas Schierenbeck, Dieter Riemann, Mathias Berger and Magdolna Hornyak
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