Posted on Nov 22, 2021, 4 p.m.
Cannabis. Weed. Reefer. Marijuana. This drug goes by a long list of names, and the list of reasons people decide to use it is even longer. As of 2019, cannabis held the title as the most consumed illegal drug in the world. And one reason more and more people are turning to cannabis is to help cure their insomnia. But does cannabis actually help cure insomnia? And if so, how does it impact sleep quality over time?
Does Cannabis Actually Cure Insomnia?
For many of us, the thought of a good or even a great night’s sleep is literally a dream come true. We crave the rest our body needs, an absolutely crucial part of what keeps us going day after day. But when rest becomes restless and restless becomes insomnia, the need for sleep becomes the need to find anything that will work.
Unsatisfied with conventional medication, many people turn to cannabis as an alternative choice to see if it can help win the battle against insomnia. And as marijuana continues to become legalized in different countries throughout the world, both for recreational and medical use, this alternative choice is becoming more and more mainstream. This mainstream approach now includes traditional cannabis, synthetic cannabis medication, and even cannabidiol (CBD).
But are these actually able to cure insomnia? Dr. Gary Wenk, professor at Ohio State University, argues that no medication currently exists to comprehensively support normal sleep patterns, including cannabis. In other words, whatever benefits cannabis use brings to the table (or bed) in the fight against insomnia will only last for as long as you continue to use it. This means that long-term use is required. Wenk also argues that although no evidence suggests that cannabis use for insomnia is more dangerous than traditional medication, our need to use it repeatedly means that our bodies will likely build a tolerance to it. And the longer we use it, the more we will need to use it in order to get the same results.
Sleep and REM Sleep
But what’s so bad about continued use? Doesn’t the whole idea of using cannabis bring to mind peace and relaxation- key components to help people fall asleep? There is evidence showing the therapeutic potential of cannabis for helping us close our eyes. But it’s one thing to fall asleep and quite another to be well-rested. While cannabis can act as a sedative in mild usage, studies show that it does not support REM sleep, a crucial part of the sleep cycle that helps the body’s learning and memory development. When the body doesn’t enter this cycle of sleep, it causes sleep fragmentation.
This, of course, is not a good thing for those struggling with insomnia. But the decision to use cannabis in minimal amounts in order to get the most benefit of cannabis and the least side effects will only be a temporary solution. As tolerance builds, users will stop seeing the benefits and will need to increase their dosage.
But how do we know when increased tolerance becomes addiction? One way is the rebound effect, where the withdrawal from quitting cannabis or not increasing the dosage amount leads to a wide range of sleep interrupting symptoms, panic attacks, and once again- insomnia!
What Comes With the Territory of Frequent Cannabis Use?
Of course, at this point, it is too late to tweak the dosage amount when tolerance has turned into addiction. This is especially true for those who are using cannabis illegally. Since the drug is being purchased on the street from an unregulated source, there is no way to know how potent the cannabis is or if it has been laced with anything.
Besides the trade-off of being asleep and being well-rested, there is also the issue of whether minimal cannabis use is even a good idea. One study explains why some people who use cannabis experience the reward and euphoria of dopamine, while others experience mixed or even negative feelings. Cannabis inhibits two types of neurons in the brain. The feelings of euphoria or even paranoia are determined by which of these neurons are inhibited during use. This makes cannabis use for insomniacs quite a gamble, even for first time-use.
Ultimately, the decision to use cannabis could lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms that result in increased sleep difficulties, bringing users right back to the insomnia that caused us to use it in the first place.
This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
Materials provided by:
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