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Can Weed Help People with Anxiety Sleep Better?

Amazingly, the cannabis plant has more than 500 chemical compounds and over 100 phytocannabinoids. Although THC and CDB are the two most widely recognized therapeutic chemical compounds, the hundreds of other compounds in cannabis continue to be cataloged and studied by researchers. Many of these compounds work together to give individuals a unique, therapeutic experience that some studies have shown can aid in pain relief, appetite loss, nausea, insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, and depression.

A new study from researchers at the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Haifa suggests that people with anxiety report experiencing better sleep quality when they use marijuana. While separate studies have shown cannabis use can have a positive impact on people with anxiety and those suffering from sleep issues like insomnia, this study provides evidence that those suffering from anxiety may reap additional therapeutic benefits from cannabis consumption.  

The Science Behind Weed, Sleep, and Anxiety 

Previous research indicates cannabis plants with higher concentrations of CBD have a sedating effect and can help people relax, unwind, and get a more restful night’s sleep. Some cannabis strains are touted as being effective in helping people combat sleep disorders like insomnia and restless leg syndrome in the short term without the need for potent pharmaceuticals or sedatives, which can cause dependency. Additionally, separate studies show that cannabis with higher levels of CBD may also help improve symptoms of anxiety in some people.

The new research out of Colorado, one of the first states in the country to legalize recreational marijuana, suggests that people suffering from anxiety reported getting better sleep when they consumed cannabis the night prior compared to days when they consumed nothing. However, study participants who combined alcohol and cannabis did not enhance overall sleep quality, especially compared to cannabis use alone. Although alcohol is a depressant and can help put some people to sleep, alcohol use can lead to shorter sleep duration and poor sleep quality.

By comparing sleep quality between those using cannabis, cannabis, and alcohol, and no substance at all, the team was able to conclude that it is the therapeutic effects of cannabis that impact sleep quality in people experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Their research also suggests that the positive sleep effects of cannabis did not dissipate over the course of the study, perhaps indicating that cannabis tolerance over time does not significantly impact sleep quality.

This new study supports previous research that found study participants preferred using marijuana instead of other, more traditional sleep aids. The participants also reported experiencing better sleep quality and a more restful night’s sleep while consuming cannabis. Products with the aromatic terpene myrcene were trendy among those looking for better sleep. Another study finds that people tend to purchase and consume fewer over-the-counter sleep medications when they have access to marijuana as a sleep aid.  

How Does Cannabis Impact Sleep and Anxiety?

There are numerous chemical compounds in cannabis that science knows very little about. However, researchers understand how CBD and THC, the two primary chemical compounds in marijuana, tend to interact with the human body. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. It is responsible for giving individuals a euphoric high and can enhance mental clarity and boost energy. CBD tends to have the opposite effect on the human body, inducing relaxation and a sense of calm. Marijuana strains higher in CBD tend to be the best choice for individuals looking to unwind at the end of a long day. They are also the best choice for those looking to combat sleep disorders and anxiety.

Marijuana strains with higher concentrations of THC should be used with caution by those experiencing anxiety and insomnia. Consuming cannabis strains with higher levels of THC can lead to increased anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia.

Why Marijuana for Better Sleep? 

Why are these studies significant? Consider the alternative for getting a quality night’s sleep in today’s marketplace. Some studies suggest at least one in four Americans develop symptoms of insomnia every year. When Americans can’t sleep, they seek relief by taking over-the-counter sleep aids. Many of these readily available sleep aids contain diphenhydramine. Technically, diphenhydramine is an antihistamine and relieves the symptoms of allergies. However, it is also known for its sedative-like effects, making people tired and sleepy. Research shows that long-term exposure to diphenhydramine may increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia later in life. 

Prescription sleep aids and sedatives commonly prescribed for those suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders also have a long list of side effects and potential risks. Long-term use of one popular prescription sleep aid can lead to digestive issues, persistent fatigue, depression, hallucinations, and recurring headaches. Other publications suggest taking prescription sleep aids may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia by up to 79 percent. 

While more research into the long-term effects of marijuana use and sleep is needed, many researchers are hopeful the therapeutic effects of cannabis and CBD may be a safer alternative for those suffering from anxiety and sleep disorders than current drugs on the market. Substituting cannabis for other drugs may also help reduce dependency and addiction issues. 

Over time, people using potent prescription sleep medications develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning that they require higher and higher doses to get the same effect and put them to sleep. These people may be at risk for developing significant sleeping pill addiction, constantly craving the drug. 

Some studies link access to marijuana with lower odds of opioid use. Expanding access to therapeutic cannabis has been proposed as a solution to the opioid crisis in the United States. Could access to marijuana potentially correlate to a decrease in sleep medication use and addiction? 

Although more research is needed, this newest peek at the link between cannabis, sleep, and anxiety is exciting. However, before you consider consuming marijuana for sleep, anxiety, or any medical condition, talk to your doctor. 

Want more medicinal cannabis news? Cannabutter Digest has a vast selection of cannabis-related content, including newsrecipes, and product reviews

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