To understand how marijuana affects sleep, it is important to understand your sleep cycle. There are five stages of sleep, and the final two stages are the most important.
Stage four is the main part of the sleep cycle in which your body repairs itself. Spending time in this phase is important because the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.
Stage five, otherwise known as REM sleep, is the most restful stage. This stage is also when dreaming occurs and you have rapid eye movement (REM). REM sleep is so important due to the role it plays in learning and memory function. This stage in your sleep cycle is when your brain consolidates and processes information from the day before so that it can be stored in your long-term memory.
Moving back to the topic of how marijuana affects sleep, it is important to note that yes, we know marijuana can make you extremely tired, however, that does not necessarily mean it is the best sleep medicine. Marijuana can be known to knock you out into a deep sleep that leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to go in the morning…or does it?
Marijuana may be able to knock you out cold but smoking before bed can leave you dazed and groggy the next morning. Smoking marijuana causes a disturbance in your sleep cycle, actually causing you to spend more time in stages three and four, the deeper stages of sleep.
Having a nice deep sleep and not constantly waking up in the middle of the night may sound great, but you are missing out on a vital part of your sleep cycle, the REM phase. According to Merry Jane, “Additional time spent in deep sleep means that your mind is inactive for longer periods than the body needs it to be, making the entire experience counterproductive to feeling well rested and often resulting in grogginess.”
A study done on marijuana and sleep found that marijuana use before bed is shown to reduce time spent in the REM phase. Besides this, you will most likely have fewer dreams than before, you will also be affecting the time your body needs for learning and memory function. Marijuana will not effect the total time you spend asleep, but will just change the amount of time you spend in each phase of the cycle.
On the other hand, if you are going to use marijuana to help you sleep it is important to use an Indica strain that promotes relaxation, rather than a Sativa that promotes wakefulness. There are also some benefits for using marijuana as a sleep aid.
First off it decreases your time in stage one of the sleep cycle, the time it takes you to fall asleep. So if you often have great difficulty falling asleep it may be the right thing for you. Not to mention it is known for also helping with sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by interrupted breathing patterns during sleep that affects millions of Americans.
According to a 2013 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, “…Δ9-TetraHydroCannabinol (Δ9THC) stabilizes autonomic output during sleep, reduces spontaneous sleep-disordered breathing, and blocks serotonin-induced exacerbation of sleep apnea.”
How marijuana affects sleep is important to understand, however, if you find yourself with insomnia or sleep apnea, smoking marijuana before bed might be a good option for you. Otherwise I would recommend natural sleeping, marijuana may make you feel more tired and like you got a deeper sleep, but in the long run it will have you feeling less refreshed and not give you the time you need in the proper sleep cycles.