A brief exploration on how sleep affects the body, and how cannabis affects sleep, plus tips for improving your sleep routine

Even during normal times, when we aren’t all trying our hardest to stay healthy, sleep is essential for our well-being. Proper sleep leads to enhanced mental, physical, and emotional stability, as well as a strengthened immune system and lower risk of disease. 

We know cannabis has many medicinal properties and has long been associated with inducing sleepiness among consumers, but what does the science say about THC, CBD and sleep? 

We break it down (with a lot of research) so that you can be more informed when considering the importance of sleep, whether or not you are getting enough sleep, as well information on cannabis and sleep. If nothing else, we can agree that right now, getting enough sleep is a healthy choice we can make everyday. 

The Importance of Sleep

Getting enough sleep has been shown to have an overall benefit to your life and your body’s ability to enjoy it. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Sleep Foundation recommend that adults 18 and older sleep at least seven hours each night, recommending up to nine hours for more mature adults. 

If you get your recommended sleep hours in each night, it has been shown to have an impact on productivity, concentration, caloric regulation, emotional intelligence, and even reduces inflammation. Sleep irregularities have also been tied to depression, whereas proper sleep can help with blood pressure regulation, and has been linked to an improved immune system, all important aspects of our lives to pay extra attention to during these times of heightened health awareness.

What happens if you aren’t getting enough sleep?

As you might have gathered, when you aren’t getting enough sleep, you experience symptoms that are counter to the above. You may have a harder time concentrating or feel unproductive. You may experience moodiness or feel on edge, with the littlest of things setting you off. Unexplainable weight fluctuations or increases in appetite and caloric intake, as well as constant fatigue, low sex drive, and an increase in difficulty communicating and connecting with others are all signs that you could be missing out on the sleep your body needs. A lack of sleep can weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to disease.

gnite by tamar waskey

CBD promotes wakefulness, which allows you to feel more tired at the end of your day. THC can hinder REM sleep, but it has shown in multiple studies to decrease sleep latency (the time in which it takes you to fall asleep)

Cannabinoids and Sleep: What the research says?

Stereotypes of the lethargic cannabis consumer falling asleep while the oven is on might come to mind, and you might not be surprised to find that there’s a bit of truth to the idea that cannabis can help you fall asleep. 

In fact, a review of available studies on THC and CBD found that cannabinoids had potential for treating sleep issues, though there are a few notable cases that are exceptions. THC can disrupt sleep patterns, and CBD can promote wakefulness. Both might seem counter to helping with sleep, but they offer unique benefits. 

CBD promotes wakefulness, which allows you to feel more tired at the end of your day. THC can hinder REM sleep, but it has shown in multiple studies to decrease sleep latency (the time in which it takes you to fall asleep), acting similar to lithium, making it easier to fall asleep, though the drowsy effects of THC may dissipate with increased, regular use. Some studies have shown that a 1:1 combination of equal parts THC and CBD was effective at promoting improved sleep quality, improving sleep latency and avoiding grogginess or sleepiness the next day. Additionally, for those with anxiety issues or disorders, CBD’s ability to decrease anxiety may also contribute to overall improvements in sleep quality.

Other Tips for Improving Sleep

In addition to cannabis, there are a few other ways to help improve your sleep patterns and ensure you’re getting the recommended number of hours of sleep. The CDC recommends a consistent bedtime schedule that allows your body to adjust to and expect when it should be asleep. Additionally, ensuring maximum comfort, in a dark, relaxing room free of electronic devices. Avoiding large meals and exercise before bed will also help you ease into your sleep routine. 

Sleep is just as important as healthy eating and regular physical exercise. The body needs rest, and doing so helps us stay healthy. If you’re noticing mood swings, weight issues, irritability, or generally feel “off,” it could be that your sleep schedule needs some attention. Cannabis and products high in specific cannabinoids may be able to help. Look for products that are ingested orally or inhaled, and those that offer balanced ratios of THC to CBD.

 

Photographs from top: Charles Deluvio, Tamar Waskey; both via Unsplash

Ben Owens

Ben Owens is a cannabis strategist and journalist based in Colorado. He is the founder of CannaVenture®, author of Stoner Survival, columnist for Grass Roots America Magazine, and Senior Staff Writer for Hemp Connoisseur Magazine. He is also an Advisory Board member of Cannabis Doing Good. Owens received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Missouri – Columbia School of Journalism. He has spent the last eight years covering the emerging cannabis and hemp industries, and advising clients on strategies for navigating new legal markets.