Cannabis for Sleeping | Does It Help or Hurt?

With the ongoing legalization of cannabis in the United States and even worldwide for medical and recreational use, many are beginning to rethink its potential health benefits. One potential health benefit of cannabis that has received attention is using cannabis for sleep problems. But is this actually true? Here’s what you should know about cannabis and whether it helps or hurts our ability to sleep.

Insomnia, Productivity, and Weed

There’s no question that millions of Americans struggle with some form of sleep deprivation, whether it’s simply staying up too late by choice or an actual sleep disorder. In fact, this statistic is a large part of the marketing campaign for the popular sleeping pill Ambien, claiming that 30% of Americans have trouble falling asleep. Our work-life balance goals can quickly fall into the ditch if something as vital as getting quality sleep is a dream, not a reality. 

However, Ambien’s popularity has begun to wane over time, especially with recent studies claiming that prescription sleeping pills like Ambien can increase the risk of dementia by as much as 80%. It has long been known that sedative drugs like Ambien can cause memory loss, but this increased awareness of the drug has made people look in other directions for help in getting the quality sleep needed for a productive career and life.

Created Legal But Not Equal

While using marijuana as a sleep aid may have once been a taboo subject, largely because of the plant’s illegal status, this is no longer the case. But is this a legitimate option? To start with, it’s important to understand there is a difference between using marijuana versus its derivative, cannabidiol (CBD). Many states still regard marijuana as an illegal substance but allow the sale of cannabidiol. This is because cannabidiol is not the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that can also be found in marijuana.

THC is the main ingredient in marijuana that produces its high, but it is also the primary cause of inducing sleep compared to cannabidiol. This means people interested in using marijuana for sleep will probably not get results from only using CBD oil or marijuana’s other non-THC derivatives.

In fact, studies that claim the benefits of marijuana as a sleep aid insist that the benefit is based on either using THC alone or using THC in combination with CBD for sleep improvements.

Unfortunately, this means that marijuana’s sleep benefits are only experienced by a psychoactive substance, which has side effects and potential dangers. Like the addiction risks associated with using Ambien, long-term marijuana use is also risky. But like other substances, the effects and level of potential abuse can differ from person to person.

For some, using marijuana even once can increase dopamine production, making addiction possible if the drug is used repeatedly. What’s worse, this can disrupt the brain’s reward center, meaning that users’ stimulation is dulled or muted when they are not using the drug. Unfortunately, this can apply to the ability to sleep as well.

The Long-Term Risk of Short-Term Use

The medical community emphasizes the risks of long-term marijuana use, even for medical reasons. This is because the drug’s long-term effects remain unclear, while it is clear that long-term use can greatly increase potential addiction and dependence. Like other drugs, marijuana’s withdrawal symptoms are often the negative conditions that make people use the drug in the first place.

While using marijuana, the brain associates the benefits (like sleep) with the substance (marijuana), so when people quit using marijuana, their bodies become more unwilling to sleep, which can intensify depending on how severe their withdrawal symptoms are.

Unfortunately, this whole cycle leaves us in a tough situation. Marijuana has been proven to provide some short-term benefits in sleep quality. However, it is not advisable to use marijuana long-term. At the same time, people can become more accustomed and dependent on marijuana the more they use it, meaning that the longer they use marijuana as a sleep aid, the more they will depend on it for sleep.

This should cause us to reconsider whether marijuana is a good sleep aid. Using the substance may come with some short-term benefits, but even short-term use comes with the risk of long-term abuse.



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