Weed, also known as cannabis or marihuana, is one of the most commonly used psychoactive drugs in the United States. About half the adults in the country reported trying weed at least once, and according to a 2023 survey, 17% of Americans smoke marijuana regularly.

Insomnia is another widely spread issue among people in the US. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. The 2020 CDC report showed that 14.5% of adults had consistent difficulties falling asleep.

These two worlds collide as more and more people turn to weed to help them overcome their sleeping troubles. Between the claims that marijuana can serve as an effective sleep aid and the opinions that go against them, the debate is still ongoing.

Today’s guide offers a closer look at the latest on the weed and sleep connection.

We’ll explain how weed affects alertness and what happens to your brain when you sleep high. We’ll also explore the safety of using cannabis for sleep disorders and share practical tips to limit its side effects.

Can Weed Make You Sleepy?

Weed may be able to help some people feel drowsy and fall asleep.

It’s suggested that cannabis is especially effective in making patients suffering from certain conditions sleep faster and stay asleep longer while sensing relief from their symptoms.

These conditions include anxiety, insomnia, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and RLS (restless legs syndrome).

That said, not everyone struggling with such conditions will experience sleepiness from using weed. Additionally, the effectiveness of weed varies among patients who report falling asleep after using cannabis.

What’s more, there’s growing evidence that frequency of use makes a significant difference in weed’s efficacy when it comes to triggering sleep and the quality of that sleep.

There’s a higher chance of experiencing sleep issues rather than relief in cases of regular use compared to non-daily or occasional use.

How Does Weed Make You Sleepy?

The technicality of how weed can make you fall asleep has to do with the chemicals present in the plant activating the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This leads to subduing the brain’s arousal system and raising the levels of the sleep-regulating hormone adenosine.

The chemicals in question are known as cannabinoids, and there are multiple types of them in weed. The main ones responsible for the effects of cannabis are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

CBD is a non-psychoactive substance, which means it doesn’t cause you to get “high”. Some research suggests that CBD promotes sleepiness at larger doses, but boosts alertness at smaller doses.

THC, on the other hand, is a psychoactive compound and the primary culprit behind the “high” feeling. However, it also plays the lead role in inducing sleep.

This chemical combo may help some weed users who suffer from chronic conditions feel sedated and fall asleep. Still, the extent of these effects varies depending on factors such as the timing of use and dosage of each compound.

How Does Being High Affect Your Brain While Sleeping?

To understand how a “high” affects the brain while asleep, we’ll dive into the third and fourth stages of sleep. These are known as deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep respectively.

The slow-wave or deep sleep stage is where the body does most of its rejuvenation and restoration. The REM sleep stage is where dreams happen. It’s also important for memory/cognitive development and emotional processing.

Research –although not yet conclusive– tells us that cannabis prolongs the time humans spend in the deep sleep stage and reduces the duration of their REM sleep.

This alteration allows you to wake up feeling more refreshed, especially if your sleep is mostly characterized by unpleasant emotions or traumatic memories.

According to research, consuming marijuana that contains more THC than CBD is preferred in certain cases. Because THC shortens REM sleep, it decreases the occurrence of dreams –or rather nightmares– in PTSD patients.

In the long term though, weed may reduce sleep quality.

Do You Wake Up Not High?

So let’s say you went to sleep high, does this mean the effect of the weed will wear off during sleep and you’ll wake up with a clear mind?

Well, it’s possible, but it’s not the act of sleep that breaks the effect of cannabis – it’s the time passed.

Weed will manifest its effects on the brain as long as it’s in the person’s bloodstream.

The duration it remains in your bloodstream isn’t affected by whether you’re asleep or awake. It has to do with the potency of the weed and the form of consumption.

So, if you happen to sleep long enough until your body eliminates cannabis from your system, you’ll wake up not feeling high. If not, then you’ll wake up still high.

Are There Potential Benefits to Sleeping High?

Weed can alleviate some symptoms of sleep-hindering conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia.

People suffering from epilepsy, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), multiple sclerosis, and RLS (restless legs syndrome) are also prime candidates for cannabis-induced sleep.

It seems that the ability of marijuana to elicit a state of relaxation and sedation can be regarded as a potential advantage to sleeping high.

What Are the Risks Associated With Sleeping High?

It’s unlikely that using weed to sleep every once in a while will have negative health consequences. There’s no evidence yet that suggests life-threatening side effects from consuming marijuana short-term and non-daily.

The problem, however, lies in the long-term or daily use of weed as a sleep solution. Side effects of such practice include:

  • Poor sleep quality; the consistent shortening of REM sleep can result in reduced brain activity, impaired emotional awareness, and impaired memory.
  • Waking up drowsy and tired. This may be because the weed is still in your system due to consuming high doses. As explained above, sleeping doesn’t affect the duration of cannabis presence in the bloodstream, so you can’t “sleep off” a high.
  • Rebound increase in REM sleep if you don’t continue using weed. This may cause worsening of PTSD symptoms as more vivid dreams take place.
  • Risk of chronic bronchitis and heart problems (when smoked).
  • Risk of developing dependence on weed as you experience sleep problems if you stop consuming it. This also raises the concern for developing a cannabis abuse disorder.

Due to the lack of research on the sleep-related effects of weed, medical professionals generally do not recommend relying on it as a long-term sleep aid.

How To Stay Safe and Get the Best Sleep Using Weed

If you’re considering using weed to aid you in overcoming your sleep issues, certain tips may help you get better results and minimize side effects. So before trying cannabis for a good night’s sleep, consider the following:

  • Talk to your doctor and don’t follow through with the plan unless they approve of using weed to treat your insomnia.
  • Go for a marijuana strain that’s more likely to help you fall asleep. Cannabis Indica is commonly known to be more sedating and relaxing than Cannabis Sativa, which seems to be more effective at boosting energy and inducing alertness.
  • Choose a suitable ingestion mode for your needs. Smoking is the most common way to consume weed and proves to be highly effective.

However, if you don’t want to affect your lungs or deal with the distinct scent of cannabis, you can use a vaping device or consume an edible or sublingual tincture. You should note that non-inhaled marijuana has a lower bioavailability (less amount reaches the bloodstream).

  • Start your intake with a small dose and do it at least one hour before going to bed. This will give the weed enough time to start producing its effects and save you the side effects associated with experiencing a high right as you’re going to sleep. It also lowers the chances of waking up still high.
  • Try to keep the use of weed as a sleep aid to a minimum. In other words, don’t make a habit out of it. The long-term effects of cannabis consumption on physical and mental health can be severe. Not to mention, regular marijuana use may cause you to develop tolerance and impair the pattern and quality of your sleep once you quit.

Conclusion: Know When to Seek Help

If you’re concerned about weed affecting your sleep, it may be a sign you’re struggling with marijuana addiction.

Other symptoms include noticeable persistent eye redness, always feeling exhausted, constant loss of balance, noticeable poor coordination, impaired memory, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.

At Long Island Interventions, we’re committed to helping you take back control over life with effective marihuana addiction treatment programs based on individual needs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.


Published on: 2024-06-11
Updated on: 2024-06-20