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Can’t Sleep Without Weed? Marijuana Withdrawal May Be to Blame

By January 15, 2021December 21st, 20216 Comments

Can’t sleep without weed? If you are like most regular users of marijuana who have stopped using, you have probably had difficulty falling asleep. Maybe you have had vivid, disturbing dreams since stopping weed, or worse yet, you haven’t been able to sleep at all.

Sleep disturbance is the hallmark of marijuana withdrawal and occurs in about 70% of regular users (Livine, Drug Alc Depend, 2019).

Because sleep is a vital physiologic function and time for the brain to recover from the events of the day, disruptions in sleep from marijuana withdrawal can be a source of major distress for people who are on already fatigued, on edge, or feeling down.

The biological and psychosocial factors that drive sleep changes in marijuana withdrawal are complex. Many individuals smoke before bed, and even infrequent users report subjective improvements in sleep quality after smoking, likening marijuana to a sleep aid.

Regular marijuana use, however, is actually disruptive to sleep, by interrupting normal sleep architecture, in part through its actions at the CB1 receptor (Kesner, Front Mol Neurosci, 2020).

In fact, sleep studies of people in the first week of marijuana withdrawal have shown changes in almost every phase of sleep, including longer time to fall asleep, decreased total sleep time, and poorer sleep efficiency. What’s more, increased time in REM sleep likely contributes to vivid and disturbing dreams (Gates, Subst Abus, 2016; Garcia, Am J Addict, 2015).

This again creates a vicious cycle: cannabis disrupts sleep and contributes to feelings of tiredness, which motivates users to smoke more due to the perception that they achieve better sleep.

Strategies to Improve Sleep During Weed Withdrawal

Finding strategies to compensate for sleep disruptions during withdrawal and improving the routines you have when it’s time for bed can be a major predictor of how likely you are to relapse (Angarita, Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 2016).

Ensuring that you have a healthy routine surrounding sleep, or “sleep hygiene”, is vital to minimizing the sleep disturbances that may be exacerbated by marijuana withdrawal.

First, avoiding caffeine, large meals, or screen time immediately before bed can eliminate confusing signals to your body that it should stay awake. Regular exercise can also produce a healthy physical fatigue that helps promote sleep. Keep your bedroom environment reserved only for sleep and sex and ensure that lighting is low, and sound is minimized. Instituting a sleep-promoting routine—a warm bath, stretching, meditation, or reading—can help as well.

Other tips to practice excellent sleep hygiene: if you find yourself lying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do something else until you feel sleepy again. Restricting the amount of time you spend in bed to only those moments when you feel sleepy helps your body associate your bed with tiredness, rather than the angst of not being able to fall asleep.

Finally, if you find yourself still struggling with poor quality sleep weeks to months after you’ve stopped using marijuana, just find comfort in the fact that this is still normal, and part of the process.

Would you mind answering a few questions (anonymously)?

Currently, little data exists on sleep difficulty and marijuana use. Weedless.org is collaborating with researchers to explore this topic and others. We have created a short, anonymous survey which we will use to focus our future research efforts.

Your participation is appreciated and completely anonymous. You may skip any questions that make you feel uncomfortable and you are free to withdraw at any time.

About Weedless.org

Weedless.org is a free, web-based resource and community created by a team of healthcare professionals and researchers. We distill the facts about marijuana use and its effects into practical guidance for interested persons or for those who are thinking about or struggling to quit weed. Finding reliable, easy to understand information about marijuana should never be a struggle—that is why our core mission is to provide the most up to date information about marijuana use, abuse, addiction, and withdrawal. While we seek to empower individuals to have control over their use, we are not "anti-weed" and we support efforts to legalize adult marijuana use and study.

6 Comments

  • i was diagnosed with CHS and im trying to stop using

  • Emma says:

    Weed is not harmless. It has destroyed my sleep and many other things.
    Being sleep deprived all the time SUCKS. I NEVER had sleep issues before I began weed.
    I also NEVER had panic attacks before weed. I also never had anxiety issues before either.
    The lack of sleep has caused me to develop depression as well.
    Weed is not as dangerous as Cocain or heroine, but it causes health problems low key.
    Smoking causes you to have insomnia. Insomnia and smoking causes your immune system to weaken. I caught a virus and it destroyed my hearing in my left ear. I now how to wear a hearing aid. Thanks weed.
    Weed sucks, don’t believe the positive hype. It needs to be tested some more before we do it recreationally. Only doctors should prescribe it.

    • Kesha says:

      Can you explain more on weed ruining your immune system? Are you sure that’s what causes you to get sick and lose your hearing? Im curious cause I’m a drug user and when I’m clean from all drugs I get sick easier it seems. I’m clean now but when I used opiates, I was never sick. Dope sick but not cough cough sick. Weird how our bodies work.

  • hector arias says:

    honestly try and not smoke too much i had no problem sleeping when i first started i would take a hit of my stiiizy and slump out only once tho when i ran out i was still able to return to my regular sleeping schedule. it can be difficult to cut down smoking but if u really can’t sleep try to only smoke once and make it at night that helped me

  • héctor arias says:

    the first 3 days are most commonly the ones you won’t be able to sleep, working out and melatonin helps a lot. DO NOT TAKE MORE THEN 10 MG ON MELATONIN!!! it can cause side affects that rather disrupt ur sleep then actually help it. hope this helps you guys and remeber to stay strong nothings comes easy.

    • Laz Rodriguez says:

      Thanks for the tip…Yea man. I just stopped weed 3 days ago after 4 years of smoking a joint or 2 per day.. i cant sleep for shit, and when i do fall asleep is not for more than 2-3 hour max . These past 3 days have not being easy but IM GONNA STAY STRONG le the my mind recover.

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