Can Cannabis Help You Sleep?

The effects of cannabis on sleep
 

How is cannabis affecting our precious sleep?

By Dr Julie Moltke

Most people do not sleep enough

Sleep is probably one of the most critical factors for our mental and physical health. Sleep disorders are associated with numerous serious health issues including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and coronary heart disease.

The world health organisation (WHO) has recommended a sleeping time between 7-9 hours. Despite this advice, almost half of the adults in the UK admit that they sleep less than 7 hours and nearly a third of the population say that they are suffering from insomnia, according to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation.

Many people are looking for alternatives to traditional sleeping medications

Traditional sleeping medications are known to have a wide range of undesirable side effects like “hangover effects”, drowsiness, inability to drive and perhaps most dangerously a high risk of developing a dependency on the drugs.

With these numbers and the many adverse effects of traditional sleeping medication, it is not surprising that people are looking for natural sleeping remedies like valerian root, magnesium, chamomile, lavender and cannabis.

Research suggest that CBD might help insomnia

The research on cannabis and sleep is still in its early stages but in a review overlooking the recent scientific literature Professor Babson and her colleagues  conclude that cannabidiol (CBD), the primary non-intoxicating cannabinoid in cannabis, may be a potential treatment for insomnia(1).

How does THC affect sleep?

Professor Babson also reported on several studies with THC, the primary intoxicating (making you “high”) ingredient of cannabis, that showed the potential to reduce nightmares in PTSD.

In their extensive report on cannabis literature from 2017 the American National Academy of Science concluded that there is moderate evidence that cannabinoids, mainly Sativex (THC and CBD combined to treat MS spasm), is an effective treatment to improve short-term sleep outcome in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis(2). The research is still ongoing on this exciting topic and Dosage will keep you up to date with the newest research as it appears.

Does this mean I can use CBD as a treatment for insomnia?

This is a challenging question to answer. The evidence above clearly suggests that CBD might have a role in treating insomnia but as so often when it comes to cannabis and CBD, we are lacking results on dosage, efficacy, safety and long-term effects. As more people are already using CBD oil to help them cope with sleep, stress and anxiety, it is more relevant that we see results from clinical trials investigating the effects that cannabis have on these health issues.


1. Babson KA, Sottile J, Morabito D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep [Internet]. 2017 Apr 27 [cited 2019 Apr 24];19(4):23. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349316

2. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2017 [cited 2019 Apr 15]. Available from: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24625