Cannabis and Sleep
Cannabis and Sleep
Cannabis, popularized by its dried and leafy counterpart called marijuana, has been used for thousands of years in various regions of the world ranging from Asia to South America for its psychoactive and medicinal properties. It has become a popular recreational drug all over the world, second only to alcohol. It is believed that “over 100 million Americans have tried Cannabis, with 25 million Americans having used it within the past year” (Norml 2013). The main chemicals in Cannabis are cannabinoids which activate the cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. The primary cannabinoids responsible for the characteristic effects of marijuana are THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is primarily liable for the effects of relaxation, euphoria, shift in perception, and increased anxiety or paranoia. In addition to the commonly known side effects, one interesting consequence of using marijuana is its effects on sleeping behavior and quality of sleep.
Even though many marijuana users self-report having an easier time going to sleep and having a more fulfilling rest after consumption of marijuana via smoking, researches have indicated that marijuana has the opposite effect. Marijuana actually decreases sleep quality as opposed to increasing it and further leads to disturbances in sleep patterns. Abnormal sleep patterns caused by marijuana may remain up to five days after initial use and normal sleep patterns may not return until at least one week has passed. If used chronically, sleep has shown to be disturbed on an ongoing basis unless, even if user faced long term abstinence. The usage of Cannabis also leads to a unstable sleeping behaviours during the night and users generally experience less REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep and SWS, or slow wave sleep (Washington State University ADCAPS 2013). Due the now illegal status of marijuana and its constituents, a majority of the currently available researches done on marijuana and sleep were conducted back in the 1970’s. One of the most notable research was testing the effects of low doses of THC, 4 to 20 mg, against the effects of high doses of THC, 50 to 210 mg.
Low doses of THC decreased REM sleep in both regular users and nonusers. Deep sleep was increased with initial use, however, the effect disappears after repeated usage. Subjects who received high doses of THC also shared the characteristic of decreased REM sleep regardless of being a regular user and nonuser. After stopping the use of marijuana, there is a ‘refund’ of REM sleep. However, the effects of reduced total sleep time and increased time to falling asleep still persists. If someone uses marijuana frequently and stops for an extended amount of time, that person may also face other withdrawal symptoms that can adversely affect sleep (Psychology Today 2012).
A recent research published in 2008 provided via the courtesy of...