There is a common belief¹ among marijuana users that smoking induces sleep. Some people even use it precisely to prompt sleep. However, scientific research shows evidence that suggests otherwise.
In fact, research² shows that marijuana causes insomnia. The use of marijuana during adolescence may lead to insomnia that can carry on into young adulthood.
Therefore, while marijuana has been known to relieve pain symptoms, it does not induce sleep but instead contributes to short- and long-term sleep problems, which can be detrimental to your health.
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There is a wide range of explanations for how marijuana causes insomnia. Among them include the following:
While marijuana is known to relieve anxiety, it also has the opposite effect of inducing anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and psychosis. These opposing effects result from the predominant compounds in marijuana, which have contrasting actions.
THC, one of the primary compounds, causes anxiety, while the other compound, CBD, reduces it. Still, the anxiety effects of THC are dosage-dependent, with certain doses said to reduce anxiety. The interactions between the various compounds in marijuana determine the outcome.
Therefore, if marijuana makes you anxious or paranoid, it is likely that this sense of worry or fear will cause insomnia.
Studies³ show that marijuana reduces rapid eye movement (REM) during sleep. REM represents the deepest stage of sleep in your body; it is the time when you start dreaming.
REM is a vital stage for brain development and memory retention, as the brain stores information acquired during the day and stores it into long-term memory during the REM cycle. If you use marijuana, there is a likelihood that you will only get light sleep and will not achieve this stage.
Reduced REM can even have further health problems for you, including:
A lack of REM will likely cause depression in the long term as sleep inhibitions and insomnia have been shown to increase these symptoms.
The process of memory retention takes place during deep sleep. When your mind is denied this sleep, you will likely experience problems remembering details or events. Spatial memory, which is responsible for learning, may also be adversely affected.
You are at risk of obesity when your body is deprived of REM sleep. The body burns many calories at this stage of sleep due to increased brain activity in the dream state. A lack of this activity during light sleep induced by marijuana usage means that the body will burn fewer calories.
There is a likelihood that you will experience difficulties falling asleep after quitting marijuana. If this happens, you should know that it is a withdrawal symptom and not evidence that marijuana helps you sleep.
You can endure the withdrawal symptoms by doing the following:
Enroll in a detox program that will help you manage the short-term withdrawal effects
Seek the support of others that relate to your struggles by attending group therapy
Stay active by involving yourself in activities that keep your mind off marijuana
If marijuana causes insomnia or sleep disturbance, the most logical thing to do is to quit using it. Stopping marijuana will help you get on a path to recovery, although you may also experience withdrawal symptoms.
If you experience a lack of sleep even after quitting marijuana, you should try the following interventions to induce sleep:
Establish regular sleeping hours. Having a consistent bedtime helps condition your mind to seek rest at the same time each night. Also, avoid naps during the day as this may result in difficulties sleeping at night.
Lying in bed while you are still feeling awake and energetic may result in partial sleep deprivation. In addition to not consuming marijuana, stay off stimulants such as caffeine before going to bed since consuming caffeine can keep you alert.
Ensure that you have a calm environment by keeping the room quiet and dark. Having a TV in your bedroom or a loud clock may only distract your sleep.
Trying out meditation and muscle relaxation activities may reduce anxiety and help you remain calm enough to fall asleep.
Lastly, let go of the worry that you will not fall asleep, which may further exacerbate your situation. Instead, let go of the concern and let things take their course. Chances are you will fall asleep in no time.
Does weed cause insomnia? Despite popular belief in some quarters, the answer is yes.
Scientific studies do reveal that marijuana can cause insomnia. These causes of wakefulness may result from anxiety induced by marijuana or the lack of REM sleep that results from its use. Insomnia may also be part of the withdrawal symptoms that you may experience after quitting marijuana.
Still, insomnia resulting from marijuana use can be managed and eradicated by quitting it altogether and adopting behavioral strategies such as maintaining constant bedtime and a calm environment that favors sleep.
If you are experiencing a challenging time after discontinuing marijuana, you could try taking up group therapy and engaging in activities that stimulate mental involvement to keep your brain off wanting marijuana. If you have tried all these and still suffer from insomnia, you should consult your doctor to help you create a plan tailored to your needs.
Sleep | Harvard T.H. Chan