10 Things You Need to Know About Marijuana and Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

The legality of marijuana

A number of states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. Some states that permit medical marijuana use list insomnia as a symptom for which medical marijuana can be prescribed. Here's what you need to know if you're thinking about using marijuana to tackle your insomnia symptoms.

Popular medical marijuana uses

Research has found individuals use cannabis to treat a number of symptoms, with sleep, pain, and anxiety being the most common. However, research is limited (and sometimes conflicting) when it comes to the effect of marijuana on sleep.

What we know about marijuana and sleep

It’s complicated! A 1973 study found 20mg of THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary compound causing the drug’s high) helped individuals fall asleep faster. A 2004 study found that while 15mg of THC acted as a sedative, 15mg of CBD (or cannabidiol, another compound of the drug) appeared to act as a stimulant. Some lab-based sleep studies have found no change in sleep latency or wakefulness after marijuana use.

Aged marijuana may be better for sleep

There's more to marijuana than just THC and CBD. As THC degrades, it converts to CBN (or cannabinol), a chemical that has been found to be an analgesic and which has a sedative effect. CBN is typically found in degraded or oxidized cannabis and, to a lesser-extent, cannabis products such as hashish.

Marijuana may enhance natural sleep remedies

Terpenes (the oils that give cannabis different flavors) can be found in some popular herbal sleep aromatherapy remedies. Linalool is a floral terpene that works to give lavender its scent and flavor. Terpenes can also be found in chamomile and hops.

Edibles may be better for sleep

Although it takes longer to feel the effects of cannabis-infused edibles than smoking or vaping, the effects can last longer compared to consuming marijuana by other methods. This may help you stay asleep for longer, as well.

Marijuana can lead to a hangover

Just as excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a hangover the next day, marijuana can have the same effect. Furthermore, marijuana that has been treated with pesticides can lead to a more pronounced hangover effect. Drinking plenty of water can help reduce hangover symptoms.

Marijuana may help get rid of nightmares

A 2008 study found that marijuana reduced REM sleep, leading to less time spent dreaming and to less-vivid dreams. This might be beneficial for those who suffer regularly from traumatizing nightmares.

The rebound effect

Marijuana isn't a magic bullet when it comes to sleep. In fact, even if it does help tackle insomnia symptoms, the symptoms may return if you stop consuming the drug. One study found that up to 76 percent of heavy marijuana users reported disturbed sleep after abruptly quitting marijuana.

Marijuana may help with sleep apnea

Preliminary research suggests that the dronabinol cannabinoid may improve sleep apnea symptoms and that THC may help stabilize respiration during sleep.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.