Dr. David Pompei, PharmD, MS
If you have ever had a night of poor sleep, you may have woken up the next day and felt more stressed, anxious, moody and tired than you normally do. Sleep is a critically important biological function and when we sleep poorly, we feel worse.
According to experts in cannabis wellness, there are at least 15 factors that can impact your cannabis experience. The amount of sleep you got last night may have a significant impact on whether or not you are achieving your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD.
When you report your cannabis consumption on Jointly, you can track how much sleep you got the night before so that you can determine how this factor affects your cannabis experience.
Perhaps you will find that when you get eight hours of sleep, you have your best cannabis experiences. But when you get less than six hours of sleep, you are more likely to experience adverse side effects like paranoia.
Our data indicate that Jointly works best when you report at least 10 cannabis sessions. If you only fill out a few reports and then stop, you won’t have enough data to start to see trends and improve how you consume cannabis.
Due to federal prohibition on cannabis, there is not much research on how sleep affects a cannabis user’s experience.
A 2002 study examined whether people would be more impaired when consuming cannabis after a night of partial sleep deprivation compared to a night of normal sleep. They found that while partial sleep deprivation “increased dose dependent effects of THC on heart rate and subjective impairment, it did not enhance the effects of marijuana on standing balance and brake latency.” These results indicate that if you consume cannabis after a night of poor sleep, you may feel stronger psychoactive effects or greater impairment than you normally would.
A similar pattern is seen with alcohol. According to Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at Duke University, getting a poor night’s sleep before drinking alcohol can make you feel drunker.
If you consume cannabis after a night of poor sleep, the sedating effects may be magnified. If your goal is to sleep better, that may be a positive effect. However, sleep deprivation is associated with numerous acute and long-term issues. To give yourself the best chance at achieving your wellness goals with cannabis or CBD, it is best to maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
The ideal amount of sleep can differ from one person to the next. For example, infants often sleep for 16 hours per day and teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. In general, healthy sleep is good quality, of a sufficient duration, regularly timed, and absent of sleep disturbances or disorders.
Sleep is “an evolutionarily conserved behavioral state defined as a period of rapidly reversible immobility and increased arousal threshold that is under homeostatic control, such that prolonged wakefulness leads to a compensatory increase in sleep duration and intensity.”
That means that when you miss out on a good night’s sleep, you drive up your sleep debt. In order to feel your best, you need to repay this sleep debt with healthy sleep. There is some debate in the scientific community as to whether sleep debt is a measurable phenomenon. A similar pattern is seen with REM sleep. If your REM cycle is disrupted one night, the next time you fall asleep you may have a greater amount of REM sleep. This phenomenon is called “REM rebound.”
Given that sleep is risky for an organism - for example, you are vulnerable to predators while asleep - and is observed in all known creatures, it must be critically important for life. Despite its ubiquity, scientists still don’t know why we sleep. That said, when sleep is disrupted, the health and well-being of an organism suffer.
People who are sleep deprived experience more somatic issues like headaches and abdominal pain. They report greater emotional distress and generally lower health-related quality of life than non-sleep-deprived people. Sleep deprivation also causes memory and cognitive performance deficits.
In a landmark study of human sleep deprivation, researchers from University of Chicago followed a group of student volunteers who slept four hours per night for six consecutive days. The volunteers developed higher levels of cortisol, high blood pressure, and began to show signs of insulin resistance. They also developed only half the usual number of antibodies to a flu vaccine. All these deleterious changes were reversed when the students returned to a normal sleep schedule.
Sleep deprivation can exert a significant toll on the mind as well. Researchers from Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania studied 48 healthy men and women who typically slept for 7-8 hours per night. The volunteers were assigned to sleep either four, six or eight hours nightly. The fourth group agreed to go without sleep for three days. The volunteers were subjected to a variety of cognitive tests, memory and reaction tests, and sleepiness evaluations.
The group that slept eight hours per night had no decline in cognitive performance, memory or reaction time. Over the course of the two-week study, the cognitive scores of the four-hour and six-hour groups began to trend towards the sleepless group’s scores—which plummeted after three days of no sleep.
After two weeks, the memory and reaction scores of the six-hour sleepers were equivalent to the sleepless group after their first night awake. And the four-hour group scored equivalently on memory and reaction tests to the sleepless group after two consecutive nights without sleep. At the same time, the four-hour and six-hour groups were failing to gauge how sleepy they were. By the end of the study, their self-rated sleepiness scores were leveling off despite their performance scores continuing to decline.
People typically consume cannabis to relax, to relieve stress, or to achieve other wellness goals that fall under the umbrella of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS “produces a feeling of relaxation and calm in the mind and body.”
The autonomic nervous system regulates bodily processes like heart rate, digestion or breathing. There are three branches of the autonomic nervous system: enteric (governs gastrointestinal function), sympathetic or SNS (governs fight or flight responses) and parasympathetic or PNS (governs rest and digest responses).
In otherwise healthy individuals, short term sleep deprivation leads to increased activation of the SNS. The SNS’s primary process is “to stimulate the body’s fight or flight response.” When the SNS is aroused, people feel alert and anxious. Sustained over-activation of the SNS leads to chronic elevation of stress hormones.
If you consume cannabis when you are sleep deprived, you may be more likely to experience adverse side effects like paranoia or anxiety. To reduce your chance of adverse side effects, prioritize getting a good night’s sleep on days that you consume cannabis.
Jointly is a cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and match with the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences of hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.
With Jointly, match with top-rated products, and build lists of your favorites to save, share, and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
Jointly also helps you track your cannabis experiences through reflections that help you understand what’s working, and what’s not. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your experiences.