You may have noticed that cannabis tends to put you in a deep sleep every time you use it. But do you know why?
For a long time, many of the effects of cannabis remained a mystery. But as this beneficial plant is becoming legalized in more places, new opportunities for research are showing the reasons why cannabis is linked to deep sleep.
Sit back, relax, and learn why cannabis can help you sleep more soundly at night. We’ve got everything you need to know right here.
First, let’s take a look at the difference between deep sleep and regular or not-so-deep slumber.
Deep sleep is desirable, because it’s restorative to the mind and body. The sleep cycle has a number of stages, and each stage has its own value and purpose. The deep stage is when restoration, recovery, and healing tend to happen.
This stage is preceded by two other stages in the sleep cycle. In the first stage, we technically aren’t asleep yet – but our eyes are closed and we’ve made the decision to go to sleep. During this stage, you might enter light sleep, but you can quickly become fully awake again.
Once you’ve fully entered light sleep, you’re in the second stage of the process. Now, your heart rate is slowing down and your body temperature decreases. Your body is prepping for a deeper sleep by making these changes.
It’s more difficult to wake up from this stage, but still happens fairly fast. Most of your night is spent in the light sleep stage.
However, cannabis is linked to entering deep sleep, the third stage. The first two stages have helped your body prepare for this one. Now, your body can repair and relax in the third stage of sleep.
The sleep stage that cannabis puts you in is when your brain literally repairs itself. The brain actually shrinks during this stage of the sleep cycle, and cerebrospinal fluid flows into and over the brain, washing away any waste that has built up there.
This fluid is also present during the waking hours: it helps protect the brain from damage. However, when you sleep, it has the added task of removing byproducts and toxins naturally produced by your body.
If you don’t get into deeper sleep cycles for this rinsing effect, the consequences may be serious. The build-up of waste around the brain is linked to serious diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
This cleaning effect also helps combat the feeling of “brain fog” that you’ll notice when you don’t get a good night’s sleep. When you feel refreshed in the morning, deep sleep and the cerebrospinal fluid is largely to thank.
Other parts of your body also restore themselves in this important sleep stage. Hormones, including the human growth hormone, are released at this time. This hormone is what allows your cells and tissue to reproduce and grow normally.
However, one thing that doesn’t happen in the third sleep stage is dreaming. You dream during the fourth stage – but you can walk and talk in your sleep while in the third stage.
Cannabis can affect your sleep cycle at any stage, but the third, or deep, stage of sleep is the one it affects the most.
If you consume cannabis before bed, the endocannabinoids in your body are affected by the cannabinoids in the plant. THC, the primary active cannabinoid in marijuana, tends to lengthen the third sleep stage.
Meanwhile, it shortens how long you spend in the fourth stage: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is the time when you dream, and your brain stores memories during REM sleep.
The effect of cannabis on sleep is well-known at this point. However, researchers aren’t yet sure what impact spending more time in deep sleep has on people.
With less time spent in the REM stage, you might find it more difficult to record new memories. And if you awaken while still in the third stage and not the fourth stage of sleep, you’ll have a harder time waking up and adjusting to the world.
This is what causes the “sleep hangover” sensation of not getting enough sleep. The REM stage exists, in part, to get your body ready to wake up. If you spend less time in there, waking up becomes harder.
If you get too much deep sleep and not enough REM, you may feel:
This can also result in headaches.
These effects aren’t always negative. Some people may have a hard time getting enough third-stage sleep, and find that cannabis is just what they need to balance things out.
If you have a sleep disorder or another issue that messes up your sleep cycle, try cannabis as a part of the solution. Not spending enough time in the third sleep stage can result in an increased risk for hypertension.
However, if you smoke or consume cannabis often, you might not get the same benefits. As your tolerance goes up, the effects on your sleep go down. To use cannabis for your sleep in the long term, make sure to take regular tolerance breaks so you don’t build up your tolerance too much.
Sleep deprivation of any kind can be harmful. Not getting enough deep sleep is especially problematic.
Your body needs this time to heal, clean waste, and generally recover. You’ll also end up with an imbalanced endocannabinoid system if you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
This system is made up of cell receptors in the body that regulate things like mood, appetite, the immune system, and circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is just a fancy name for the body’s natural cycle of sleep and waking.
As the sky gets light, we naturally tend to wake up – this rhythm is hardwired in us. And when it gets dark, we tend to become more tired and ready for sleep.
The endocannabinoid system helps regulate this system, but it’s complicated. At least one of our endocannabinoids tends to become extremely disrupted when we don’t get enough sleep. This endocannabinoid, anandamide, is also among the compounds that THC can help replace.
CBD, the non-psychoactive part of marijuana that’s responsible for many health benefits, also helps with regulating this endocannabinoid.
If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain naturally tries to compensate by producing more endocannabinoids. The ones that it produces more of tend to be the ones like anandamide that most closely mimic THC and CBD.
This is how your body tries to convince you to get more sleep. This is why cannabis is such a popular natural sleep remedy: it mimics the way your body naturally works to put itself to sleep.
If you’re already sleep deprived, the added time in deep sleep that cannabis provides may actually be beneficial, too. However, more research is needed to be certain.
Of course, some strains can work better for these needs than others.
Avoid sativas, which are better for giving energy than for promoting sleep. You should avoid sativa-heavy hybrids for the same reason. Instead, turn to indicas and indica-heavy hybrids for the best sleep of your life.
Indicas come with a body-relaxing quality that will help you fall asleep more easily. Granddaddy Purple, Bubba Kush, and Afghan Kush are some of our favorite strains for promoting high-quality sleep.
Now, let’s look at some of the sleep benefits you’ll feel right away when you use cannabis to promote deep sleep.
Thanks to the relaxing properties of the herb, it’s easier and faster to fall asleep. THC can significantly reduce the time it takes to sleep, even if you have insomnia.
If you have a hard time sleeping through the night, cannabis helps with that, too. It will keep you in the third stage of the sleep cycle longer. This stage is hardest to wake up from, so you’ll be able to sleep through just about anything.
Needless to say, the extra time spent in the third stage results in the sensation of getting deeper sleep overall. You’ll benefit from the restorative qualities of this stage, and may actually feel more refreshed than usual when you wake up.
As mentioned above, the extra time in the third stage is coupled with less time in the REM or dreaming stage of sleep. You’ll remember your dreams less, and might not store memories as effectively. However, if you suffer from issues like nightmares, you might find this effect helpful.
Cannabis may actually help combat sleep apnea. Some studies suggest that THC helps stabilize the breath during sleep and keeps sleep apnea from getting worse.
Cannabis isn’t the right sleep aid for everyone. However, in certain situations, you may find that it’s just what you need.
What do you think about using cannabis to promote better sleep? Leave a comment and let us know!