Remember when reducing pain among terminal cancer patients was the only medical use for marijuana?
Ah, how the times have changed. These days, weed is used to treat everything from migraines to asthma to epilepsy — and soon, perhaps, insomnia as well.
A research study conducted by Mic discovered most experts agree taking a hit (or, you know, three) before bed may contribute to a more restful sleep. This is especially true if the weed is an indica strain rather than sativa, as the latter tends to be more energizing.
Though the sedative effect of cannabis is generally accepted by the medical community, there does seem to be some debate as to whether smoking before bed actually improves sleep quality.
There are four stages of sleep, with the final two stages being the most important. Stage three is the “slow-wave” sleep cycle, during which your body repairs itself; while stage four, REM sleep, is the most restful stage.
According to Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at HelloMD, smoking before bed extends the duration of stage three, resulting in a more restful sleep.
[Stage three is] the most sensitive to cannabis. Marijuana seems to make that stage last longer, and people get a more restful sleep when [slow-wave sleep] is longer.
Dr. Kevin Hill, director of McLean Hospital's Substance Abuse Consultation Service, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, disagrees. He says it's the fourth stage that matters most, explaining,
The key sleep state is the REM sleep. That's the restorative stage for your sleep. Evidence suggests that's lowered by marijuana.
Dr. Hill does, however, concede marijuana may improve the quality of sleep in the stages prior to REM sleep.
There's no easy way to tell how weed is affecting your sleep, but listen to your body: Are you dreaming? Do you wake up energized? Can you fall asleep without smoking?
If you answered "yes" to these questions, you're probably OK.
But if you answered "no" to any of them, you may want to re-evaluate your nightly routine — and if your insomnia persists, talk to a doctor about your options.