Without a good night’s sleep, folk will experience tiredness all day. This affects how they drive, exercise, interact with others and work. If they operate machinery, that last one might be fatal. During sleep, people’s brains engage in housekeeping: controlling appetite and blood sugar, developing immunity, processing learning, repairing tissue, regulating their metabolism, storing memories and many more.

Cannabis helps you sleep. Photo: Tom Conder

Cannabis helps you sleep. Photo: Tom Conder

Sleep in the news

Sleep has been in the news. To improve public health in the United Kingdom, ministers are reportedly considering issuing advice on how much sleep people should be getting each night. As the Times reported, it’s believed that as many as three in four adults are not getting their seven hours a night. This results in a heightened risk of anxiety, arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart attack, obesity and strokes and hampers recovery from illness or surgery. The NHS might institute “protected sleep time” for patients, with no disturbance permitted without a sound clinical reason.

The good cannabis does with sleep

The association between cannabis and sleep began millennia ago, going back to the Chinese in 2900 BCE. Use was made of cannabis to send people off to sleep: it’s relaxing and sedative. In 2011, there was a study of 166 people in Ventura and San Clemente by the University of Southern California, the largest of its kind. This discovered that cannabis lessens the time people need to fall asleep whether they have trouble sleeping or not.

In the study, uniting cannabis and sleep, people who had difficulty sleeping took 30 minutes less to fall asleep. People who had no trouble sleeping fell asleep 15 minutes sooner. Up to 65 percent of relapsed ex-cannabis users gave poor sleep as the reason they gave up.

Evidence has emerged that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient of cannabis that gets you high, improves breathing during sleep. Hence it might be useful in treating sleep apnea, where an obstruction makes breathing irregular and wakes people up: one study found 85 percent of people with sleep apnea to improve upon taking THC. THC does reduce the time people spend in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when you dream, resulting instead in slow-wave sleep. So mixing cannabis and sleep means you dream less. This would be helpful for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder who have frequent nightmares. When people stop using cannabis, they often experience a surge of dreaming: REM rebound.

Prescription meds for sleep disorders are so very bad

The medications the NHS uses to treat sleep disorders – benzodiazepines, barbituates and non-benzodiazipine hypnotic medications – all have major negative side effects. These include dependence, serious withdrawal and complex sleep-related behaviours. It’s recommended that people take these drugs for no longer than four weeks. Nevertheless, doctors all over the world might prescribe them for years. Cannabis and sleep, on the other hand, can be safely combined in the long term.

OK, so you don’t need cannabis

People can alleviate sleep problems without cannabis by retiring and arising at the same time every day, making sure the room where they sleep is dark and quiet, not consuming large meals less than an hour before bed, exercising regularly every day and avoiding caffeine, particularly close to bedtime.

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