Tens of millions of people suffer from various sleep disorders. Some of the most frequently diagnosed sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.

Insomnia refers to a situation where you have a hard time falling or staying asleep, sleep apnea indicates you have breathing interruptions while sleeping, and restless leg syndrome is characterized by a prickly sensation in the legs. Narcolepsy is a little different in that with this condition people fall asleep during the daytime and at strange times.

Some other sleep disturbances and disorders include nightmares and night terrors, grinding your teeth, and sleep talking.

Some people look to alternative treatments for sleep problems, which brings up the discussion of marijuana and sleep. Does marijuana help sleep and sleep apnea? Below is more information about marijuana and sleep disorders.

Marijuana and Sleep

Before looking at the specifics of sleep apnea and answering “does marijuana help sleep and sleep apnea,” the following are some general things to know about marijuana and sleep.

First, for some people, marijuana and sleep go hand-in-hand because marijuana acts as a sleep aid. When you have insomnia and have trouble falling asleep, you may rely on marijuana to help you feel more drowsy since it has a relaxing and even sedative-like effect.

With that being said, CBD and THC affect sleep in different ways. Both are components found in marijuana, but THC is psychoactive meaning you get high from it, while CBD doesn’t make you feel high. Strains of marijuana that are high in CBD versus THC may actually have the opposite effect from what you want to achieve if you have insomnia. High CBD marijuana strains tend to have no effect on how sleepy you are at night, but they can help you stay up during the day if you’re feeling tired.

High THC strains might help you sleep better, and even more specific strains may induce sleep. For example, indicia strains of marijuana tend to be the best for putting you to sleep, while Sativa strains tend to make you feel more alert and energetic.

Some people pair marijuana and sleep aids for better effects. For example, they might combine marijuana and melatonin to get a good night’s sleep, but it’s important that you speak with your doctor and don’t try to self-medicate. Your sleep problems could be indicative of something else, so you need to rule this out and discuss treatment options with your physician.

Another thing to keep in mind when you’re combining marijuana and sleep is that it can actually inhibit REM sleep. REM is the rapid eye movement phase of sleep, and it’s the final stage of the cycle. If you consume cannabis, you may not get into this important stage of sleep.

Finally, when discussing marijuana and sleep in general, using cannabis when you’re young, specifically under the age of 15, can cause long-term sleep problems into adulthood.

Marijuana and Sleep Apnea

Now that we’ve looked at the relationship between marijuana and sleep in general, does marijuana help sleep and sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can be a very serious sleep disorder where your breathing is interrupted as you’re asleep. When you have sleep apnea, it can mean your brain and body aren’t getting enough oxygen. Some of the risk factors for sleep apnea include being a male, over the age of 40, being overweight, having a family history of the disorder, or having gastroesophageal reflex or sinus problems.

Untreated sleep apnea can contribute to complications including stroke, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, depression, and headaches. It can also cause problems in performance at school or work, and issues in quality of life.

The conventional treatments for sleep apnea include lifestyle changes, breathing devices, and in some cases surgeries to treat underlying causes.

Within the past decade or so, there has been increasing research on marijuana and sleep apnea, however.

For example, there was a study in 2002 showing that with marijuana and sleep apnea, the use of certain components of cannabis showed improvements in rats and helped promote more normal breathing. There was a human trial in 2013 that looked at marijuana and sleep apnea, and it found that test subjects had an improvement in the reduction of apnea markers when they were given doses of THC.

Researchers are starting to believe that for patients with sleep apnea that’s mild to moderate, cannabinoid-based medications may be a treatment option.
The studies looking at marijuana and sleep that are aiming to answer “does marijuana help sleep and sleep apnea,” are still in the relatively early stages in most cases, but there is promising evidence that marijuana could be helpful for certain people with sleep apnea.

Summing Up—Marijuana and Sleep

In some ways, marijuana may provide relief for people with sleep disorders, but at the same time, it can make them worse in some cases as well.

Also, does marijuana help sleep and sleep apnea? Marijuana, or at least particular components of cannabis, may help sleep apnea, but there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done.

If you have sleep apnea, you shouldn’t try to self-medicate with marijuana, because the complications of the disorder could be severe. You should always speak with your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have regarding sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

It should also be noted that trying to self-medicate with marijuana for sleep problems, or any other similar concern can create a substance use disorder, so be cautious and cognizant of this.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.