Don't miss

Marijuana and Sleep: The Facts

By on November 3, 2012

Summary (click to view)

  • Cannabis users often rely on marijuana as a sleep aid
  • Cannabis affects sleep by acting on the endocannabinoid system
  • Using marijuana at night boosts stage 3 sleep and lowers REM sleep
  • Stage 3 sleep is the most important stage for the sleep deprived
  • Dreaming occurs during REM sleep
  • Studies show that marijuana may be useful for the treatment of common sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea
  • – Marijuana can have a powerful effect on sleep. Some say cannabis or “weed” helps with falling asleep and many users develop a habit of smoking right before bed.

    Marijuana is probably best known for its ability to induce drowsiness. In other words, it can make you feel sleepy. In addition, people who smoke before bed often report a decrease in the time it takes to fall asleep and an increase in restfulness of the sleep itself.

    A lack of dreams is also commonly reported by nighttime marijuana users, which demonstrates marijuana’s unique effect on the different stages of sleep, specifically REM sleep.

    Sleep is one of the more mysterious aspects of human health, and scientists are still unravelling many of the details. However, decades of research on marijuana and sleep have revealed a number of interesting findings.

    What scientists now know is that cannabinoids – the active ingredients in cannabis, such as THC and CBD – actually mimic the effects of natural compounds in the body called endocannabinoids. What’s more, studies show that endocannabinoids act as natural regulators of the sleep/wake cycle.

    As a result, sleep seems to be just another one of the many biological functions controlled – at least in part – by the body’s endocannabinoid system. And by interacting with this biological system, marijuana can affect your sleep in a number of ways.

    Stages of Sleep

    To understand how marijuana affects one’s sleep, it is important to understand how sleep works.

    Sleep is an active, naturally occurring state of the brain. During sleep, the brain cycles through different stages of activity, also known as the stages of sleep. The two basic stages of sleep are rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. However, NREM sleep is broken down into stages 1 through 3, while REM sleep is considered stage 4. Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep.

    Stage 1 – Occurs mostly in the beginning of sleep and lasts between 5 to 10 minutes. A very light stage of sleep in which one can be awakened easily. If aroused, the person will usually believe that they were fully awake.

    Stage 2 – A period of light sleep in which heart rate slows and body temperature drops. Lasts for approximately 20 minutes as the body prepares to enter deep sleep.

    Stage 3 (slow-wave sleep) – Also known as deep sleep, delta sleep or slow-wave sleep. Brain waves are very slow as blood flow is directed away from the brain and towards the muscles, restoring physical energy. Lasts for approximately 30 minutes and one may feel disoriented for a few minutes if aroused.

    Stage 4 (REM sleep) – The longest stage of sleep in which most dreams occur. Characterized by eye-movement and increased breathing and heart rate. Heightened brain activity during this stage causes vivid dreaming, but legs and arms are immobilized. The combination of brain wave excitement and muscular paralysis is why REM sleep is sometimes referred to as paradoxical sleep.


    How Marijuana Affects Sleep

    Over the years, many studies have set out to determine the impact that marijuana has on sleep. And the findings seem to explain why many choose to smoke before bedtime. That is, marijuana can act as a sleep aid by decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

    But what happens after you fall asleep? Interestingly, studies show that marijuana can also affect the different stages of sleep; specifically, slow-wave sleep and REM sleep.

    As it turns out, slow-wave sleep and REM sleep are somewhat intertwined. Studies have found that ingestion of THC – the psychoactive compound in marijuana – leads to an increase in slow-wave sleep. An increase in slow-wave sleep leads to a decrease in REM sleep, which explains why marijuana users often experience less dreams.

    Another interesting finding is the REM rebound effect that is commonly observed when marijuana use is stopped. Common characteristics of an REM rebound are restlessness and overly vivid dreaming, which are a result of the brain spending more time in the REM stage than it usually would. An increase in REM sleep has also been linked to depression and symptoms of bipolar disorder.

    What This Means For Your Health

    Taking everything into consideration, it would appear that nighttime marijuana use does in fact disrupt one’s sleep. While it is tempting to view this as a negative, research suggests marijuana could offer a few health benefits as well.

    For example, in addition to helping users fall asleep faster, the effect of marijuana on slow-wave sleep may also be viewed as beneficial. Experts say that the most damaging effects of sleep deprivation are caused by inadequate slow-wave sleep. For instance, research has shown that reduced slow-wave sleep can be a powerful predictor of high blood pressure in older men. Thus, users who suffer from a lack of overall sleep may actually benefit from using marijuana.

    On the flip side, a lack of REM sleep should be viewed as a potential drawback of nighttime marijuana use – although experts are still unsure of what REM sleep actually does for the brain. The fact that brain cells are highly active during REM sleep suggests that it does not play a role in the rest and repair of the brain. What’s more, research shows that REM sleep deprivation has little to no impact on learning and memory, with some studies showing that it may even improve memory. A lack of REM sleep has also been found to alleviate symptoms of depression. Even still, experts are confident that REM sleep has some sort of positive effect on the body, while it remains to be determined what exactly it may be.

    All in all, marijuana users should take caution when using marijuana as a sleep aid. However, the use of commonly abused substances such as nicotine and alcohol are definitely not recommended before bedtime – both of which are known to disrupt the sleep cycle as well as exacerbate pre-existing sleep disorders. On the other hand, studies have shown that nighttime marijuana use may be beneficial for the treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea.

    • Subject 07

      This is literally what is happening to me. I’m on day 12 of a cold-turkey detox, and I’m experiencing crazy amounts of rem sleep. Not necessarily bad dreams, but weird ones, and I feel like shit today. The proof is in me. This is accurate and should be considered by every pothead. I will never use this as a sleep aid again, and only as a way to get high occasionally.

      My advice: get off the weed and get some NyQuil zzz.

      • CJM

        NyQuil contains the following:

        Acetaminophen (325 mg/15 mL) (pain reliever/fever reducer)
        Dextromethorphan (15 mg/15 mL) (cough suppressant)
        Doxylamine succinate (6.25 mg/15 mL) (antihistamine/hypnotic)

        Give me natural anyday, or at the very least valerian or similar

        • Jan Chambers


        • Bongstar420

          The synthetic nature of the drug is irrelevant…those drugs listed are not good sleep aids.

          Doxylamine can provide some sleep aid to people who don’t actually have real insomnia problems…but its a poor choice
          I found valerian to be useless…L-Theanine works better for me. Probably because it actually binds to GABA receptors.

          L Theanine is an amino acid extracted from Green Tea

      • bardgal

        I’ve read eating it is much different because it lasts longer, so it doesn’t wear off in the middle of one of the first cycles.

      • Trueherb

        I will never take NyQuil, ZzzQuil, or any kind of magic Quil that apparently does the job. Because it doesnt work for everyone. I don’t care if it works for you, it doesn’t work for me. ZzzQuil, gave me the absolute worst night I’ve had in the past 2 years. The first night, I took the suggested dose at 9pm. And I fell asleep around 5:30am, to wake up feeling awful at 8:30. So that night, said screw the dosage cup, and I took a large gulp of it at 9pm again. At around 10pm, I started feeling my heartbeat in my throat, it was very loud, and very slow. I sat up and looked around. I felt very uncomfortable. I stood up, my balance was very off, I turned my light on and covered my eyes until they adjusted. While I had my eyes covered, I heard my friends talking. Now let me tell you I live in Arizona with my dad, I moved from Pennsylvania a few months ago and all my friends live there. I thought I was dreaming. So I kind of played along, I walked over to my closet, grabbed the handle, and ripped it off. I fell down, and laid there for a few minutes, still holding the knob. My heart was racing now. I closed my eyes and tried to wake up, I heard my friends talking to me again, I opened my eyes and tried to follow the voices. I saw my friend sean, he grabbed me and started yelling my name. Are you okay? he kept asking. I passed out. I woke up the next morning in my bed with my dad sitting next to me asking what the hell happened last night. I said, what are you talking about. He told me I was walking through my house, holding my lamp(which was off), wobbling around like a drunk fool. He grabbed me and asked me if i was okay repeatedly but i didn’t answer. I passed out and he carried me to bed. SO yeah. you can take all the Zzzquil you want. I’m good with marijuana.

        • Spud

          The primary active ingredient in zzzquil is diphenhydramine, which is a deliriant, so your experience is unsurprising, especially considering you said you “Took a large gulp of it”.

      • Cody T

        You’re joking, right? Not only is the cannabis no longer being able to ‘help’ you in the way it can because you stop consuming it, but you tell other people to quit smoking it despite the fact that you are not them and are therefore much different to everyone else? Iow, different things work for different people – but your argument is that it DID work for you and because you stopped taking it your symptoms came back. No. kidding. C l a s s i c.

        I’m not going to argue for natural over chemical, because nature can kill you and chemicals are in nature, too – but in the fact that cannabis is so much easier to control, cheaper, and efficient.

        • Bongstar420

          You shouldn’t be depending on drugs to sleep unless you absolutely must.
          If I quit pot, I must use another sleep aid- my sleep problem is not Cannabis addiction though it is greatly exasperated by Cannabis withdrawals. Pot is not consistent as it only does the job about 70% of the time.

          • Glenn Headrick

            I If you need help sleeping you could try a banana or 2 and a glass of milk (both contain the amino acid tryptophan, also found in turkey). I found this to be a good sleep aid whenever I’m unable to drift off especially after drinking 1 or 2 beers or glasses of wine.

      • Jan Chambers

        I guess you must mean to each his own?

        • alladin

          good day nice princesse i hope you know what i am am doing
          will you like to smoke a hight quality of arabs marijuana with me in my bed room.

      • jason moore

        Subject 07, all those symptons you are feeling are normal.. It only last for a week to 30 days depending on the individual, consistency of nights using weed to sleep, etc…by day 30 you shouldn’t be feeling those symptoms of dreams and shit feelings. I hope this helps

      • Bongstar420

        All sleep aids cause rebound insomnia when you use regularly and quit

      • Alex

        I hope you know that NyQuil is actually very addicting itself and you can have withdraws from it as well. Trust me I know at the age of five my mother decided to start giving me NyQuil to make me sleep and at one point I even read the bottle to her that children under tweleve shouldn’t take it. She continued to give it to me and soon one of the little plastic measuring cups wasn’t working so she bumbed it up to two. Then to three. I was taking NyQuil like shots and without it there would be no sleeping. I was a six year old addicted to NyQuil. So my mother had to make me detox and wing me off. The pain was unbearable and I would cry because of it, I would shake constantly. So NyQuil isn’t always the answer for sleep apnea, Or insomnia. People with sleep apnea or insomnia could wind up taking more than they should because it may not have put you to sleep with the first cup. So there’s a possibility of conducting a addiction, or you could possibly over dose.

    • Dave

      Mr./Ms. Blogger, maybe I missed it but can you please cite these, “studies” showing the effects of cannabis on sleep? Thanks.

      • moron

        Please and thank you

        • Dave

          Looks like it worked as they supplied a PubMed link.

    • Trueherb

      Ive tried Zzzquil, melatonin, herbal teas and nothing has worked. I’ve taken 20mg of melatonin and it still took me until 4am to start feeling sleepy. I have crazy insomnia. The only thing Zzzquil did was make me hallucinate, bad. It made my blood pressure drop really low, almost to a dangerous level I imagine, it was overall uncomfortable. I am never taking it again. And it gave me a really unpleasant hangover feeling after I work up. It didn’t make me sleep, it made me pass out. The herbal tea did nothing. I have the same chance of falling asleep with coffee. I used to smoke marijuana in high school. I would have trouble sleeping and even more trouble getting up at 6am. My parents were very anti-weed, so I had to come home really high, or sneak outside when everyone was asleep. I could fall asleep in minutes. No matter what anyone says, Marijuana is the best sleep aid there is. I am currently trying to obtain a medical marijuana card for my insomnia as it is horribly affecting my online classes.

      • Dylan

        I can tell you for a FACT that I have gone to bed AT LEAST once, high as fuck this particular time, and definitely dreamt. We can test it to see if it happens again, maybe we’ll find some ground breaking information:). But throughout the years I’ve been choppin tree I never thought about it. In college I developed the habit of choppin to pass out or just to reflect on my day before as I stared at my blue christmas lights (which btw had a rainbow cotton candy tinted scheme as a sharpied individual lights throughout the set…) anyway i used to do it a lot, leave the dorms at night to hit my bat, often times because i couldnt fall asleep. I’ve had problems falling asleep since i was kid. I think it officially began when I was tested for adhd and recieved the script for the drug that happens to be all the rage on campuses across america. So i chalked it up to my meds. My point is, i was doing it often enough for one to say i went to bed high most nights and have been for going on three years. Though i was only a heavy smoker for less than a year’s period ( the strive to be high all day err day) i now chop once maybe twice a day and so my tol is much lower allowing to feel baked on a hit or two

        • Dylan

          To conclude from my first message, i wonder if more extensive studying needs to be done. I’m a female deslite the name, but so I pay plenty attention to my dreams, i feel like girls enjoy and speculate dreams more than guys do or at least more than they will admit. But it surprises me then thst i didnt notice the vacancy of dreams in my sleep, in fact i felt i had had some. This year i can recall for sure a night i dreamt, it eas after partying i believe, i chopped a bowl probably at my neighbors got high as fuck and passed the fucked out. When i awoke i immediately and consciously thought to myself, i dreamt. What now?

          • Dylan

            Oh wow i forgot to mention that it was last fall (fall 2012- school year calendar lol) that my friend said that he loved getting high- durrrrr, but that he missed dreaming when he slept. I was confuzzled (It was then that i began to pay attention to it. Potentially in my past i hadnt always gone to bed high as sheeeet or even a little high as i remember. But surely i did got to bed high enough times to wonder, “how many nights did i pass out ‘sober’?” night time is usually when i feel like smoking and when everyone is doing it socially, therefore, i had to be high many a nights for ned in my day and i believe i still dream.

          • Bongstar420

            I suppose…I’ve always found dreaming to be burdensome.
            I like going to sleep and waking up the next day as though it were instantaneous. Dreaming makes me feel like I am awake during that time and it makes the night feel like forever.

            The content of the dream is irrelevant to me. Pleasant dreams are just as burdensome though it is nice not waking up sweaty.

        • Bongstar420

          Terps and what not..I’ve got cuts that are more like coffee and will induce insomnia
          Choppin in its self will be mostly terps. Probably myrcene if you get sleepy.

          I on occasion get nauseous from it basically from too much terps as I’ve taken terp oral on its self and know what too much terps feels like.

      • Hi

        insomnia effects online classes how why????? Cant you do the work when your uhhh, awake?

        • Obi Kemnebi

          Try going with two hours of sleep or less for six months in a row, then attempting to concentrate on complex course material and retain all the information. Having more awake time to do the work doesn’t really matter if you don’t have the brain power to comprehend what you’re working on.

          • Bongstar420

            I did 4-6
            got a 3.2 working 20-30hrs a week with +15 credit hours.
            I did 0-4 during forced cannabis cessation for 3 months workin full time plus. I did have some problems but it was more related to getting tired at inappropriate times.

            It was pretty lame as I’d be nearly passing out for the last few hours of work and be wide awake 2 hours after quitting time.

        • MarkS

          A lot of online classes has a time limit, and if you don’t complete the assignment during that time period you will fail the assimgment

        • Kellybean71

          When you have insomnia your brain doesn’t work well. It’s hard to do anything on a lack of sleep.

      • Dr Heyes

        A large portion of the adult population suffers from insomnia-related condition. Whether they can’t fall asleep, they can’t stay asleep, or both. Chronic sleeplessness is often caused by another condition, such as fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. Medicinal marijuana can put patients to sleep by reducing the pain, pressure, and inflammation that is keeping them awake. Cannabis oil also works for people with insomnia. The calming effects of the oil help people to sleep calmly, relieving issues of anxiety and restlessness.
        Feel free to drop an email // whenever you have a special request for a medical cannabis product. Keep it Clean!

    • mike

      is any of the studies done on the use of cannabis been with people with narcolepsy with cataplexy?

    • Mr.x

      Anyway to counteract the affect or boost rem sleep?

    • Bertie

      There have been several studies on this. Some of which show cannabis use to reduce both rem sleep and stage 4 deep wave sleep.

      It doesn’t seem very balanced or impartial not to mention that point…

      I can find a few studies stating deep wave sleep is reduced and only this one stating the opposite. As these are contrary to previous findings they should be viewed with caution.

    • TLee

      It is scientifically proven in rats. Deprivation of REM sleep will definitely decrease your memory. This article is very wrong about that.

      • Lorenz

        Thanks for linking us to the study! Very helpful.

      • Hi

        How do you test memory in rats compared to people? Like fuck

        • Max Johnson

          Mazes, obvz

      • Jan Chambers

        Deprevation and losing a little REM over extra NREM sounds good. Again, different strokes for different reasons. … fooled you lol I got to go to bed.

    • justVisiting

      I have experienced, over years of on-again, off-again chronic pot usage, that I do not dream when using, and very notable dreaming when stopping. I think dreams clean the mind, and without that, cognitive capabilities are diminished…in other words my mind suffers without dreams.

      • Jan Chambers

        Are we sure you are not dreaming? Maybe not remembering your dreams doesn’t mean your not dreaming. I’m sure there is activity and mental gymnastics weather you remember or not.

    • supertired

      I was a daily toker and now have been off marijuana for 13 days. I wake up with my eyes burning from fatigue and don’t feel fully rested. I believe marijuana allowed me to feel more rested because it increases the deep sleep cycle and now that I haven’t smoked for 2 weeks I dream way too much and as a result wake up very fatigued. I usually don’t remember my dreams when I was smoking pot and would wake up feeling very rested.

    • Ryan

      The issue with me though was that while high I would need at least 9hrs of sleep to feel rejuvenated the next morning. But when I’d stop smoking it would only take 5-7hrs to do the job.

    • Jerry Merrill

      Without knowing the details of the tests, it’s impossible to know if these findings are real. Were electrodes used on the brain to determine that ACTUAL sleep states? If not, then you cannot rely upon the subjects statements of fewer dreams as proof of less REM sleep.

      Cannabinoids are part of the memory system. They help us forget, hence the ‘Long term loss of short term memory’ associated with Cannabis use. I could propose another answer for the subjects’ reporting fewer dreams – the cannabinoids made them forget the dreams that they had. Since the article doesn’t actually name the studies, or provide the conditions of the tests, it postulates outcomes without sufficient data to prove or disprove them.

      • midna25

        >’Long term loss of short term memory’
        Short term memory loss lasts only as long as exposure to the THC does. There’s never been any proof that it affects brain function that way in the long term. Long term memory is not affected by cannabis. at all.

    • Obi Kemnebi

      I have non-24 hour sleep syndrome (I fall asleep later each night because my circadian rhythms think a day is longer than 24 hours, regardless of what the daylight cycle is telling me) so I have a cycle where I sleep less and less each night until I reach a point where I’m not sleeping at all because I have to get up before I would fall asleep. Then I go about a week with zero sleep except for accidental ten minute naps, before passing out and going into a shallow coma; I sleep for about thirty hours straight, then I wake up and the whole thing resets. I could function just fine if I were allowed to get up later each day and follow my natural body clock, rotating my work schedule with it, but the real world doesn’t work like that. I have tried every prescription and OTC med out there, as well as various herbal supplements, and never found one that worked for me. A lot of them had severe side effects, too. But the time I got an accidental secondhand high (I live in Colorado) I fell sleep easily and woke up a little over eight hours later feeling completely refreshed, which was amazing. And it reset my sleep cycle to normal hours about two weeks before my next coma, effectively causing me to skip that one. I’m now looking into using it as a periodic sleep aid in a more controlled manner.

    • Kenneth Bomar

      Granddaddy Purple (or GDP, as it’s known) is a genetic cross of Big Bud and Purple Urkle.It use to treat severe pain and insomnia. It also use to relief stress, Depression and Lack of Appetite.
      -BUY TOP-SHELF quality Medical Marijuana, Edibles and Concentrates at affordable prices. txt/cll (313) 288-9756 or email ***Discreet, Safe, Secured and Fast delivery guaranteed

    • Cannabis4Health NEED MEDICAL MARIJUANA? PROFIT from OUR 10% DISCOUNT NOW and place your order.WE HAVE the best DANK WEED, with Floral SMELL and TASTE. TOP quality EDIBLES and CONCENTRATES,Cannabis Oils and Capsules,and also Pain relief Pills. * Text or call +13132889756 / email

    • Dr Heyes

      A large portion of the adult population suffers from insomnia-related condition. Whether they can’t fall asleep, they can’t stay asleep, or both. Chronic sleeplessness is often caused by another condition, such as fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. Medicinal marijuana can put patients to sleep by reducing the pain, pressure, and inflammation that is keeping them awake. Cannabis oil also works for people with insomnia. The calming effects of the oil help people to sleep calmly, relieving issues of anxiety and restlessness.
      Feel free to drop an email // whenever you have a special request for a medical cannabis product. Keep it Clean