The Effects of Cannabis on Sleep (2024)

In 2023, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a study on cannabis and sleep involving 2,005 US adults. The primary goal of the study was to learn how many people had lost sleep because they stayed up late to smoke marijuana. Nearly half of the participants reported that they had burned the midnight oil to partake in recreational cannabis use, but more importantly, they also found that nearly a quarter of those individuals had taken cannabis to help them sleep. (1)


This study focused on delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, but it’s not the only one being used to improve sleep length and quality. CBN, CBD, and CBG are all frequently touted as sleep aids, and as they lack the hard-hitting euphoria associated with THC, they may produce less daytime grogginess.


At the same time, however, there are reports suggesting that chronic cannabis use can have the opposite effect. So, where does this leave us—can cannabinoids actually help with sleep?


The Effects of THC on Sleep

Most users will tell you that cannabis makes them sleepy. It has a relaxing and calming effect, and even if the THC “high” initially overrides the need to crawl under the covers, sleepiness usually sets in when the euphoria fades.


These anecdotal reports are largely supported by clinical data, but while high-THC strains are effective at sending the user to sleep, the quality of sleep seems to suffer.


A 2022 Canadian study gave cannabis to 38 patients struggling with sleep disorders, primarily insomnia. The researchers then conducted follow-up reports and noted that 15 of the patients had been able to reduce their prescription medication thanks to the positive effects of the cannabis, while 27 had positive experiences overall. (2)


However, a 2014 report found that regular cannabis users struggled with restful sleep, while a study from 2008 noted that it reduced the amount of REM sleep. (3) (4)


This is key, as REM sleep, which makes up about a quarter of total sleep, is vital for consolidating memories and processing emotions. (5)


Interestingly, these issues seem to be more pronounced with high-THC strains of cannabis. Introducing more cannabinoids to the equation could provide more of a balanced effect.


The Effects of CBD on Sleep


A 2022 study on cannabis oil (a blend of THC and CBD) found extremely positive results in the treatment of insomnia. It was able to improve melatonin levels while increasing both the quality and duration of sleep. Users reported to feeling more clear-headed when they woke, and only a small percentage of participants experienced any adverse reactions. (6)


Cannabidiol (CBD) produces similar effects on its own, particularly in higher doses. Users fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, with few episodes of nighttime waking.(7)


Furthermore, CBD doesn’t produce the same kind of adverse reactions seen in high doses of THC, and it may also provide other benefits that could help with sleep. It’s often taken for chronic pain and anxiety, for instance, both of which can impact on the quality of sleep.

The Effects of CBN on Sleep

Cannabinol (CBN) is produced following the degradation of THC, and it may produce some of the same calming and sedating effects, albeit without the cannabis “high”. In fact, of all non-psychoactive cannabinoids, CBN shows some of the most promise for the treatment of insomnia.


A 2022 study looked at the effects of CBN taken in isolation, and in combination with varying doses of CBD. All participants had issues with sleep, rating their sleep quality as either “poor” or “very poor”. Researchers noted that CBN achieved a “potentially meaningful effect on sleep quality”, while also causing fewer nighttime awakenings and less sleep disturbance. There was no impact on daytime fatigue and very few reports of adverse reactions.(8)


As expected, the placebo group didn’t report any changes. Surprisingly, the same was true for those taking CBN in combination with CBD, with them noting that this combination “did not positively augment CBN treatment effects”.


CBN seems to increase the REM stage of sleep, so in addition to helping the user to fall asleep, it should produce more stable and restful sleep. (9)

The Effects of CBG on Sleep


Cannabigerol (CBG) is often used for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. CBG is the cannabinoid from which all others form, earning it the nickname “Mother of Cannabinoids” or “Parent Cannabinoid”. Recently, a number of high-CBG strains have been developed, making it easier to extract large doses and allowing for a flurry of scientific studies and anecdotal reports.


While few of these focused on sleep, its effect on pain could provide an indirect benefit. Individuals battling chronic pain often struggle to fall asleep and may wake several times during the night. Taking something that reduces this inflammation and kills the pain could help them settle down faster and sleep restfully.


How to Use Cannabinoids to Help You Sleep

Taking what we know about THC, CBN, CBG, CBD, and other cannabinoids, it seems likely that taking these compounds in combination will produce the best effects.


Theoretically, if CBG can help to soothe pain, THC makes it easier to fall asleep, and both CBN and CBD lead to fewer nighttime awakenings, a combination could provide the most benefits.


This is where the term “Entourage Effect” comes from. It references the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that taking multiple beneficial compounds will produce more desired effects than taking one in isolation.


It is for this reason that we included several research backed cannabinoids in our Dream Lavender Mints. These mints contain a balanced dose of THC, CBD, and CBN, the three cannabinoids most strongly associated with improved sleep outcomes. These mints also contain extracts of passion flower and valerian root, both of which have been shown to support restful sleep.


Either way, if you’re using cannabinoids to help with sleep, use them in moderation and stick with the recommended dosage. While there is little to suggest that chronic use of CBN, CBD, and CBG will produce any adverse sleep outcomes, the same can’t be said for THC, with chronic users of high-THC cannabis generally struggling with insomnia more than the average person.(10)

References

  1. https://aasm.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/sleep-prioritization-survey-2023-lost-sleep-due-to-marijuana-use.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9067069/
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10550887.2015.1132986
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18313952/
  5. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/public-education/brain-basics/brain-basics-understanding-sleep
  6. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jsr.13793
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31120284/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37796540
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10450062/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2442418/
The Effects of Cannabis on Sleep (2024)
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