Sleep is one of our most important biological functions. For years it wasn’t even understood exactly why it was so important, but recent discoveries indicate sleep is a method our body has of clearing unwanted toxins from our brain. Look at it as a way to “restart” your mind and body to be ready for the next day.
Unfortunately, getting a good night’s sleep is something many millions of people struggle with in North America alone. There are a number of sleep disorders such as the most well known: insomnia. Dozens of other conditions can cause sleeplessness as well, and many people turn to hypnotic drugs to help. However, these drugs may be doing more harm than good.
The Dangers of Sleeping Pills
Research conducted by Daniel F. Kripke, MD, sleep expert and co-founder of Research at Scripps Clinic Vitebri Family Sleep Center, found that out of 40 studies on the use of hypnotic drugs 39 found that users had a whopping 4.6 times the chance of death compared to their non-hypnotic using counterparts. Think about that. That’s almost five times the risk.
With so many people suffering from sleep disorders it’s understandable that the use of hypnotics is frequent. Millions of individuals are choosing the risk of hypnotics over the risk of sleeplessness such as heart problems, obesity, diabetes, and even mental health issues like depression. Luckily, cannabis is providing a possible solution to this conundrum.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is how our bodies regulate sleep in tandem with our circadian rhythms. The sleep cycle has multiple neurotransmitters and molecular pathways that make it function properly. The two main molecules are anandamide and 2-AG, which happen to be the two that cannabis increases production of. Anandamide exists in higher concentration during periods of restfulness whereas 2-AG is more prominent when we’re awake.
So where does cannabis come in? Well, THC increases your anandamide levels thereby increasing your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. In addition, CBD at high doses was found to be an effective sleep supplement, though at low doses may actually increase wakefulness.
Although the scientific research on sleep and cannabis is recent, it’s been known for hundreds (if not thousands) of years to be an effective treatment for sleep disorders. In the famous medical reference book, Materia Medica, which is from the 18th century, cannabis is listed as a treatment for sleep as well as pain. So really, this concept is nothing new and any pot smoker will tell you cannabis has helped them sleep. We’re just catching up with the science of it all; relearning all the ways cannabis can help and heal. So next time you can’t sleep ditch the Ambien and try some good ol’ganja instead.
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.