How Does Cannabis Affect Sleeping?

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Health, Tech and Science | 0 comments

Discover the Impact of Cannabis on Sleep: Insights into THC’s Effects – Research by Nick Jikomes, PhD

Many cannabis consumers have reported that cannabis helps them with sleep issues, while others have experienced sleepiness after consuming high-THC cannabis. However, chronic consumers of high-THC cannabis have reported sleep disturbances and intense dreams when taking a break from THC. Anecdotes, patient surveys, and studies suggest that cannabis has an influence on sleep and dreaming, but it’s important to consider various factors such as dosage, consumption frequency, tolerance, age, and sex.

Sleep and dreaming are complex biological processes, and understanding their intricacies is essential to grasp the relationship between cannabis and sleep. High-THC products dominate the commercial market, and THC has been identified as the cannabinoid with the clearest connection to sleep. Therefore, researchers have been focusing on recent scientific studies to uncover the specific effects of THC on sleep.

By exploring the impact of THC on sleep, we can gain valuable insights into its relationship with sleep architecture. While cannabis users often find relief from sleep issues, it is crucial to consider the potential disturbances experienced by chronic high-THC consumers during periods of THC abstinence. Additionally, the dosage, frequency of consumption, tolerance levels, and individual characteristics such as age and sex can all play a role in how cannabis influences sleep patterns.

With high-THC cannabis products prevailing in the market, researchers have been investigating the specific effects of THC on sleep. Through these studies, we can enhance our understanding of the biological functions of sleep and the influence of THC on sleep architecture. By delving into the latest scientific research, we can gain valuable insights into the complex relationship between cannabis and sleep, helping individuals make informed decisions regarding their sleep patterns and cannabis consumption.Free Photo Of Woman Laying On Ground Stock Photo

Effects of THC on Sleep

According to neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Kesner, THC has long been recognized for its sleep-promoting properties. Historical records, such as ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine, describe cannabis as a “sleep-inducing” drug. This knowledge, combined with the experiences of modern consumers, suggests that cannabis can indeed aid sleep. However, the effects of THC on sleep vary from person to person and depend on factors such as cannabinoid content, usage history, and sex.

It’s important to note that the effects of THC on sleep are not static and can change over time. Initial consumption of THC may have different effects compared to long-term use. Acute THC consumption generally results in faster sleep onset, improved sleep continuity, and alterations in sleep stages. Slow-wave sleep (SWS) tends to increase, while rapid eye movement (REM) sleep decreases. Notably, surveys of medical cannabis patients reveal that many individuals reduce their use of pharmaceutical sleep medications after incorporating medical cannabis into their routine.

Understanding the acute effects of THC on sleep is valuable for individuals starting cannabis consumption. However, it’s crucial to recognize that long-term use may lead to different outcomes. By examining scientific research and considering individual factors, individuals can make informed decisions regarding the potential impact of THC on their sleep patterns.

It’s important to recognize that the acute effects of THC on sleep may evolve over time, especially with chronic usage. Chronic THC consumption can lead to changes in sleep patterns, although the exact effects on sleep in humans are not yet fully understood. However, tolerance to THC’s effects, including its influence on sleep, has been observed.

When individuals cease chronic THC consumption, they often experience sleep disturbances and vivid dreaming. This effect is temporary and tends to normalize over time. Dr. Kesner explains that during cannabis withdrawal, people frequently report poor sleep quality, which has been supported by scientific studies. These studies have shown alterations in the duration and composition of slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, even on the first night of abstinence.

During THC abstinence, there is a decrease in SWS, which can result in individuals feeling less rested. Additionally, REM sleep undergoes a rebound effect, where its duration increases for a period of time. This rebound effect is likely a compensatory mechanism to restore the balance of REM sleep, which was previously decreased by cannabis use. The increased duration of REM sleep during abstinence is often associated with vivid and sometimes unpleasant dreams.

However, it’s important to note that these effects on sleep architecture tend to normalize if abstinence from THC is maintained. Over time, the sleep patterns typically return to a more balanced state.

Effects of Cannabinoids on Sleep

The remarkable impact of cannabinoids on sleep can be attributed to the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a vital role in regulating various physiological functions. Throughout the body, including the brain, receptors of the ECS, such as the CB1 receptor responsible for THC’s psychoactive effects, are abundantly present. These receptors are particularly prevalent in the key brain circuits that regulate sleep.

The distribution of ECS receptors varies across different regions of the brain, and this pattern of expression differs between males and females due to sexual dimorphism, a characteristic of many physiological processes. As a result, cannabinoids can affect sleep in distinct ways based on gender. Furthermore, the ECS undergoes changes throughout the lifespan, which contributes to the evolving effects of THC on sleep as we age.

By interacting with the ECS receptors in the brain, THC and other cannabinoids can exert their influence on sleep. This intricate relationship between cannabinoids and the ECS sheds light on the complex mechanisms behind the sleep-altering properties of cannabis.

What if I Stop Taking THC?

A recent study conducted on mice examined the effects of withdrawal from chronic THC consumption, specifically analyzing the changes in slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in both male and female mice. Following several days of THC exposure, the mice were no longer given THC, and their sleep patterns were monitored during early abstinence and again a few days later.

During the early abstinence period, male mice exhibited sleep disturbances characterized by reduced overall sleep duration, primarily due to decreased time spent in SWS. However, as the abstinence period progressed, a shift occurred in the sleep pattern of male mice, with an increase in REM sleep observed.

Although mice cannot provide insights into dream content, these findings align with the reports of disrupted sleep and vivid dreaming frequently described by cannabis consumers after abstaining from THC. Interestingly, the phenomenon of REM rebound, characterized by an increase in REM sleep, was not observed in female mice.

The underlying reasons behind THC’s impact on sleep patterns and the potential differences in effects between males and females remain subjects of investigation. Exploring these aspects further will contribute to a deeper understanding of how THC influences sleep and the variations observed based on gender.


In general, THC often contributes to faster sleep onset and prolonged sleep duration. It tends to promote an increase in slow-wave sleep (SWS) while reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. However, the effects of THC on sleep can be subject to change with continued use. As tolerance develops, higher THC doses may be required to achieve the desired effects. Consequently, discontinuing THC consumption is likely to result in temporary sleep disturbances, including vivid or unpleasant dreams.

It is important to emphasize that the effects of cannabis and THC on sleep can vary significantly depending on factors such as sex, age, cannabinoid composition, and usage history. Due to the complex nature of biology, determining how cannabis will specifically impact an individual’s sleep often requires a trial-and-error approach. What remains certain is that cannabis will induce alterations in sleep patterns for each individual.

IMPORTANT: The information on this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional for personalised medical advice. The authors of this blog are not medical professionals and disclaim any liability for the use of the information provide.

Enrico Bratta

Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.


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Enrico Bratta

Medical cannabis professional based in Phuket, Thailand.