The Cannabis Writings: Can Marijuana Help You Sleep? – Part 1/2

The Cannabis Writings PhotoBy Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness

One of the most interesting aspects of cannabis use is the effect it has on sleep, and while more research needs to be done in this area, anyone who’s interested in cannabis would probably be interested in what’s been found so far.

As we’ll learn here, cannabis seems to disrupt REM sleep (the sleep stage responsible for dreams), and many longtime users who quit not only have trouble sleeping right, but have vivid dreams when they do finally fall asleep.

Author and psychedelic drug advocate Terence McKenna noted that his dreams were enhanced when he quit using cannabis, and his theory was that it was because cannabis temporarily brings the dream world into our mental/physical awareness.

The fact that cannabis shortens the amount of time we spend in REM sleep and reduces the quality of our dreams proves that there’s a link between it and sleep, and for now, we can only hypothesize on how and why it affects sleep and dreaming.

People are divided over whether marijuana’s connection with sleep is a good thing, and there seem to be good and bad things about it. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that the plant helps insomniacs get some rest, and regular users tend to sleep well. One negative aspect, however, is that some users rely on it to sleep properly.

David Wilcock also wrote that his dreams became more vivid when he quit using cannabis (and every other drug), and if cannabis were legal and we could do more studies on its medicinal benefits, we could know for sure whether it helps or hurts sleep.

The countless anecdotal reports of the ways it’s helped people sleep should be enough to convince us that it’s at least a little helpful, and here, we’ll take a look at what’s been uncovered so far.

Credit: kottonmouthkings.com

TruthOnPot.com tells us about the reports of cannabis helping with sleep as well as its disruption of REM sleep.

“Marijuana can have a powerful effect on sleep. Some say cannabis or ‘weed’ helps with falling asleep and many users develop a habit of smoking right before bed.

“Marijuana is probably best known for its ability to induce drowsiness. In other words, it can make you feel sleepy. In addition, people who smoke before bed often report a decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep and an increase in restfulness of the sleep itself.

“A lack of dreams is also commonly reported by nighttime marijuana users, which demonstrates marijuana’s unique effect on the different stages of sleep, specifically REM sleep.” (1)

THC and CBD – two well-known active ingredients in cannabis – mimic the body’s endocannabinoids, which regulate sleep.

“Sleep is one of the more mysterious aspects of human health, and scientists are still unravelling many of the details. However, decades of research on marijuana and sleep have revealed a number of interesting findings.

“What scientists now know is that cannabinoids – the active ingredients in cannabis, such as THC and CBD – actually mimic the effects of natural compounds in the body called endocannabinoids. What’s more, studies show that endocannabinoids act as natural regulators of the sleep/wake cycle.

“As a result, sleep seems to be just another one of the many biological functions controlled – at least in part – by the body’s endocannabinoid system. And by interacting with this biological system, marijuana can affect your sleep in a number of ways.” (2)

So far, we’ve learned that two of marijuana’s active properties mimic the effects of compounds in our body that regulate sleep, which in itself proves a link between cannabis and sleep.

We still aren’t so sure whether this link is positive or negative, but we’ll find our answer by continuing to study it and listening to users who benefit from it as well as former users who can tell us what getting to sleep was like after they quit.

In order to grasp how cannabis can help or hurt our sleep, we have to be aware of the body’s sleep stages. Truth on Pot explains.

“To understand how marijuana affects one’s sleep, it is important to understand how sleep works.

“Sleep is an active, naturally occurring state of the brain. During sleep, the brain cycles through different stages of activity, also known as the stages of sleep.

“The two basic stages of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. However, NREM sleep is broken down into stages 1 through 3, while REM sleep is considered stage 4. Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep.” (3)

Truth on Pot explains the 4 stages in depth.

Stage 1 – Occurs mostly in the beginning of sleep and lasts between 5 to 10 minutes. A very light stage of sleep in which one can be awakened easily. If aroused, the person will usually believe that they were fully awake.

“Stage 2 – A period of light sleep in which heart rate slows and body temperature drops. Lasts for approximately 20 minutes as the body prepares to enter deep sleep.

“Stage 3 (slow-wave sleep) – Also known as deep sleep, delta sleep or slow-wave sleep. Brain waves are very slow as blood flow is directed away from the brain and towards the muscles, restoring physical energy. Lasts for approximately 30 minutes and one may feel disoriented for a few minutes if aroused.

“Stage 4 (REM sleep) – The longest stage of sleep in which most dreams occur. Characterized by eye-movement and increased breathing and heart rate.

“Heightened brain activity during this stage causes vivid dreaming, but legs and arms are immobilized. The combination of brain wave excitement and muscular paralysis is why REM sleep is sometimes referred to as paradoxical sleep.” (4)

I wonder if anyone who’s experienced sleep paralysis has had its effects lessened by marijuana. Sleep paralysis is a scary and dreadful condition, and while some people report mild experiences, others report being held down by a demon-like entity whom they can see and whose presence they can feel.

Credit: 9gag.com

You’d think sleep paralysis would be little more than an inability to move at night caused by our sleep stages (the body’s naturally unable to move during REM sleep), but for some people, it’s a nightmare played out over and over again.

If cannabis could help with this awful condition, it could give a lot of people some peace of mind and a good night’s rest.

(Continued in part 2 tomorrow.)

Footnotes:

  1. “Marijuana and Sleep: The Facts” from TruthOnPot.com, November 3, 2012 – http://www.truthonpot.com/2012/11/03/marijuana-and-sleep/
  2. Loc. Cit.
  3. Loc. Cit.
  4. Loc. Cit.
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