Apart from its psychoactive effects, cannabis is also known for its hypnotic and sedative characteristics. The use of weed as a natural sleep aid can be traced back to 1,500 BCE. But why does weed make you tired? Let’s dive into the science of cannabinoids, marijuana use, and sleep to unravel this mystery.
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Can weed make you tired, really? The answer is yes and for several good reasons. As it turns out, there is more than one way that the plant can cause heavy eyelids. The feeling of drowsiness you experience after marijuana use is not a coincidence; various chemical compounds in the herb engage with cells in the human body, creating chemical interactions that affect your response to cannabis. Here are the main reasons why different strains of cannabis can make you tired:
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of weed. However, it also contributes to the sedative effects of the herb. THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, influencing the production of melatonin and dopamine, two crucial hormones related to sleep and pleasure.
Research on cannabis and melatonin is limited, but early studies suggest that THC can increase melatonin production after consumption, peaking about two hours after inhalation. THC’s influence on dopamine levels is more pronounced. Overconsumption of THC can lead to a decrease in dopamine, which might make you feel tired and unmotivated. Moderation in cannabis use can help avoid this fatigue.
There’s more to cannabis than just THC. Even some high-THC strains are more sedative than others. So, what gives? The answer to that question is pleasing to the nose. The cannabis plant can produce over 200 aroma molecules, called terpenes. It is the unique combination of these molecules that gives each cannabis strain its individual personality. As luck would have it, the cannabis plant features a large number of sedative terpenes.
When it comes to sleepiness, musky myrcene is a major player. This little molecule provides sweet musk aroma to some cannabis strains, and it is also thought to contribute to the hypnotic and couch-locking effects in some cannabis strains.
There’s some research to support this claim. In a 2002 study, researchers tested the effects of myrcene and two additional terpenes on mice. When treated with myrcene extracted from the Lippa alba plant, the mice slept an average of 2.6 times longer than untreated mice. The rodents were given 200 milligrams of the terpene per kilogram of body weight.
The same study also found that a dose of myrcene 10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight seemed to relax motor function. In high doses, however, the terpene did show a slight potential to cause anxiety in rodents, a quality that is also present in potent cannabis strains.
Yet, myrcene isn’t the only sleepy aroma molecule found in the cannabis plant. Other terpenes may also cause feelings of sedation as well, including:
While cannabis might provide an initial energy boost, it can cause fatigue as the effects begin to wane. This wear-off effect is attributed to the spike in melatonin levels a few hours after cannabis consumption.
Many people find that cannabis can have an energizing or alerting effect, providing enough mental stamina to get through the day. But, even the most energizing strains can cause a little fatigue as the active effects begin to wear off. Part of why this may be the case may be because of melatonin.
Well, if the aforementioned study is worth its weight, that is. In the study, participants demonstrated a spike in melatonin shortly after their first inhalation of cannabis. It wasn’t until two hours later, however, that sleepy melatonin reached its peak concentration. The effects of inhaled cannabis last about two hours in general. So, even if cannabis, if a cannabis strain provides an energy boost initially, sleepiness may kick in as the effects of the herb begin to wear off.
Indica strains, sativa strains, or a hybrid, the sedative effect of cannabis depends on the number of sedative terpenes it produces. Strains with higher myrcene content are often recommended for sleep. These include:
– Bubba Kush
– White Widow
– Granddaddy Purple
– Original Glue (GG4)
Hoping to stay awake? Consider opting for strains that include some cannabidiol (CBD). In many ways, CBD is the opposite of THC. The former is non-intoxicating, meaning that it won’t cause a euphoric high. In low to moderate doses, CBD is expected to have alerting properties.
In higher doses, however, the plant may cause drowsiness like THC. Picking up a high-CBD strain or a plant that contains both CBD and THC will likely do more to keep you awake than simply opting for an indica or sativa plant. Here are some high-CBD strains worth considering:
To combat sluggishness after using weed, try the following:
Exercise is a natural energy booster that delivers more oxygen to the heart and lungs. A study published in the Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics Journal in 2008 found that regular exercise increased an individual’s energy levels by 20 percent and decreased fatigue by as much as 65 percent.
Regular exercise may also help you sleep more soundly, which means that your sleep quality will be enhanced and that can only boost your waking energy. Many people report that exercising while high not only extends the high for a longer period of time, but has also been shown to have positive effects on muscle fatigue and muscle strain, and inflammation.
Consume Smaller Doses of Weed
You certainly don’t have to get stoned in order to reap the full medicinal benefits of cannabis. Consuming too much weed is not only a recipe for couchlock, but it can also bring about anxiety-inducing effects that can leave you otherwise unable to function.
More and more studies suggest that the smallest therapeutic dose of cannabis you can take, the better it works. So, if you’re utilizing the plant regularly, it may be worthwhile to take a tolerance break or gradually lower the amount you are consuming.
Switch to CBD
As mentioned above, CBD can have alerting effects in low to moderate doses. CBD can also mitigate some of the undesirable side effects of THC. Thus far, research suggests that the non-intoxicating compound can lessen the psychoactivity of THC. It may also decrease visuospatial memory impairments caused by the psychoactive, which may make you to forget things like where you set your keys or where you parked your car. Finally, CBD also seems to counteract some of the appetite-inducing effects of THC.
To put it bluntly, yes, cannabis can make you sleepy the next day. Culturally known as a “weed hangover”, feeling a little sleepy the day after consuming cannabis is a common phenomenon.
This is especially true if you enjoyed the plant before going to bed or if you have hit the herb a little too hard the day before. Studies conducted back in the mid-1970s suggest that the psychoactive plant may increase the amount of time you spend in deep sleep, which is the phase of sleep essential for muscle restoration and long-term memory consolidation.
At the same time, multiple studies have found that the herb decreases the time spent in the final sleep stage called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
REM sleep usually occurs in the period before waking, when brain waves begin to increase, and dreaming occurs. By decreasing the amount of REM sleep you experience, you are more likely to wake up before your body is prepared to wake. For example, if your alarm goes off and you happen to wake during this deep sleep phase, you may find it particularly difficult to drag yourself out of bed.
A person is most difficult to wake when they are in the middle of slow-wave deep sleep. Both sleep stages are essential for repairing the body and preparing for the following day. When these normal sleep cycles are disrupted, there is a greater chance for poor quality sleep or increased sleepiness the next day.
If you consumed quite a bit of cannabis the day before, then it is also possible that there may still be some leftover amounts of THC circulating in the blood and lymphatic systems. After a solid night of lighting up, you can expect some fatigue and lethargy to linger.