There’s a great deal of speculation about the impact of marijuana on sleep.
A lot of people swear by it, arguing a little cannabis before bed helps induce a deep and refreshing slumber. But a 2014 study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests excessive pot use prior to sleep may lead to insomnia.
Obviously, there are differing opinions on this matter.
More research is required in order to reach a comprehensive conclusion about marijuana’s ultimate impact on sleep. This isn’t currently possible with pot still illegal by federal law, which often creates an obstacle for researchers looking to study its effects.
One thing we do know, however, is there’s substantial evidence marijuana suppresses REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
There are two types of sleep: non-REM sleep and REM sleep.
Non-REM sleep occurs in several phases, and it’s essentially when your body begins to assume a rested state and transitions into a deep sleep. It’s a restorative period in which the body repairs and strengthens itself.
During REM sleep, which usually occurs about 90 minutes after we fall asleep, we dream. While non-REM sleep is vital for the body, REM sleep is crucial for our cognitive well-being.
Through REM sleep, we process the things we’ve learned, observed and subconsciously absorbed. Concurrently, we make plans for the future and awaken ready for the day that lies before us.
This is precisely why some research suggests smoking weed eliminates a person’s full capacity to dream, as it suppresses REM sleep.
As Vice notes, there is evidence that chronic pot users who decide to stop partaking subsequently experience dreams that are decidedly more vivid.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly for those who experience recurrent or frequent nightmares.
There’s evidence around 85 percent of the population suffers from nightmares from time to time. An unluckier 2 to 6 percent of the population experiences them around once a week.
Nightmares are dreams that occur during REM sleep. They are typically caused by stress, trauma, anxiety and depression and can be incredibly terrifying and distressing. It’s no secret nightmares frequently awaken those who suffer from them and are terrible for sleep quality.
Given weed suppresses REM sleep, it can help eliminate nightmares, sustaining sleep in the process. In this capacity, pot is definitely a sleep aid. This has been particularly evident among veterans suffering from PTSD and the nightmares and sleeplessness that come with it.
Last April, Marine veteran Logan Edwards told NBC News marijuana may have saved his life. Edwards, who served in Iraq, suffered from PTSD upon his return from combat.
He faced unremitting nightmares and insomnia, and the prescription drugs he was given by Veterans Affairs (VA), benzodiazepines and anti-depressants, weren’t helping. This isn’t that surprising, as these drugs are sometimes known to make nightmares worse, Huffington Post highlights.
Marijuana, as Edwards’ put it, helped him get his life back by providing immense relief from his PTSD and the nightmares it caused — and he’s not alone in this trend.
At the moment, many veterans cannot legally gain access to medical marijuana. A great deal of veterans depend on the VA for healthcare, but federal law restricts VA physicians from prescribing medical marijuana to veterans.
But given its apparent efficacy for treating PTSD, Congress is increasingly leaning toward passing legislation that would make it easier for veterans to gain access to medicinal pot.
The government coming around on the issue suggests marijuana is indeed an effective remedy for nightmares and sleeplessness, depending on the circumstances.
Correspondingly, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently stated:
For certain medical conditions and symptoms… marijuana can be helpful.
When America’s top doctor is admitting this, it’s difficult to ignore.
Thus, for people suffering from nightmares and sleepless nights caused by depression and anxiety, marijuana could be the solution.
Four states and Washington DC have already legalized weed, while 23 states and DC have medical marijuana programs.
At this point, it’s not farfetched to imagine a world in which marijuana is prescribed as a remedy for a myriad of ailments.
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University of Pennsylvania