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The Effect of Cannabis on Sleep-Wake Cycle

By Robinson Jehazial

Some of us may have observed, especially in a workplace or university environments, colleagues stating that smoking weed (cannabis) does not have consequences on our health. Here is a short article to acquaint ourselves with how cannabis imposes some negative impacts on our health by disturbing our sleep, fascinating right?

Enjoy happy reading…..

The exploration of cannabis and its psychoactive compounds, notably tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), has been a subject of significant interest and research over the years. Originating with the isolation of cannabinol from the cannabis plant (hemp), subsequent discoveries in the 1960s by Israeli researcher Professor Raphael Mechoulam led to the identification of THC as the primary psychoactive

component. With over 500 compounds present in cannabis, including more than a hundred phytocannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and cannabinol, the plant offers a complex pharmacological profile.

However, alongside its potential therapeutic benefits, cannabis use is associated with various adverse effects, ranging from addiction and motor vehicle accidents to cardiovascular complications and altered brain development. Understanding the effects of cannabis on sleep is particularly significant, given its widespread use and the implications for public health.

Mechanism of Cannabinoid

Cannabinoids exert their effects on the body primarily through interaction with cannabinoid receptors, which are part of the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids (naturally occurring cannabinoids produced by the body from certain lipid molecules), and enzymes responsible for their synthesis and degradation.

The two primary cannabinoid receptors identified so far are CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the central nervous system, including the brain, while CB2 receptors are mainly found in immune cells and peripheral tissues. When cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, bind to these receptors, they can modulate various physiological processes.

Activation of CB1 Receptors

CB1 receptors are densely expressed in areas of the brain involved in cognition, memory, motor control, and pain perception. Activation of CB1 receptors by cannabinoids like THC leads to the modulation of neurotransmitter release, including inhibition of excitatory neurotransmitters like glutamate and facilitation of inhibitory neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This modulation can result in various effects, including altered perception, relaxation, and pain relief.

Activation of CB2 Receptors

CB2 receptors are primarily found in immune cells and peripheral tissues, where they play a role in regulating immune function and inflammation. Cannabinoids can activate CB2 receptors, leading to anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects. This interaction is relevant for conditions involving inflammation and immune dysregulation.

Modulation of Endocannabinoid Levels

Endocannabinoids, such as anandamide and 2-AG, are synthesized and released by postsynaptic neurons in response to increased neuronal activity or specific physiological cues. Once released, these endocannabinoids travel backward across the synaptic cleft to interact with cannabinoid receptors located on presynaptic neurons. Upon reaching presynaptic neurons, endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors, primarily CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are G protein-coupled receptors located on the presynaptic terminals of neurons. When activated by endocannabinoids, CB1 receptors initiate intracellular signalling cascades within the presynaptic neuron.

Activation of CB1 receptors by endocannabinoids leads to the modulation of neurotransmitter release from the presynaptic neuron. This modulation typically results in a reduction in the release of excitatory neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, or an increase in the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters, such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The net effect is a decrease in neuronal excitability and synaptictransmission. Cannabinoids, such as THC, found in cannabis plants, can influence endocannabinoid levels by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for their degradation. Endocannabinoids are typically metabolizedquickly by enzymes like fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) within the synaptic cleft. However, cannabinoids can block these enzymes, prolonging the presence ofendocannabinoids in the synaptic cleft and enhancing their retrograde signalling effects. By prolonging the presence of endocannabinoids in the synaptic cleft and enhancing their retrograde signalling, cannabinoidscan finely tune synaptic transmission and neuronal excitability. This modulation plays a crucial role in various physiological processes, including synaptic plasticity, learning, memory, pain perception, and mood regulation.

Activation of Non-Cannabinoid Receptors

In addition to cannabinoid receptors, cannabinoids can also interact with other receptors in the body, such as transient receptor potential (TRP) channels and serotonin receptors. These interactions contribute to the diverse effects of cannabinoids on pain perception, mood, and other physiological functions.

Overview of Cannabinoid Effects on Sleep

1. Cannabinoids and Sleep Regulation: Cannabinoids have been implicated in sleep regulation, with studies suggesting both sedative and wake promoting effects. While some cannabinoids may enhance sleep onset and duration, others can disrupt the normal sleep-wake cycle. These effectsare mediated through interactions with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in modulating sleep patterns.

2. Effects of Cannabis Use on Sleep: Cannabis use has been associated with alterations in sleep architecture, including changes in slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. While some individuals may experience improvements in sleep quality initially, chronic use can leadto tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, exacerbating sleep disturbances. Understanding the impact of cannabis on sleep requires careful consideration of dosage, frequency of use, and individual differences in response.

3. Cannabis Withdrawal and Sleep Disturbances: Sleep disturbances are common during cannabis withdrawal, with symptoms such as insomnia and fragmented sleep reported by a significant proportion of users. Polysomnographic (EEG) studies have demonstrated changes in sleeparchitecture following cessation of heavy marijuana use, including decreases in total sleep time (TST) and REM sleep. These findings highlight the role of cannabis withdrawal in disrupting sleep continuity and quality.

4. Impact of Sleep Disturbances on Cannabis Use: Conversely, sleep difficulties may contribute to relapse among individuals attempting to quit cannabis use. Studies have shown that sleep disturbances during abstinence can lead to increased cravings and subsequent resumption ofcannabis use. Addressing sleep problems during withdrawal may therefore be crucial for successful cessation outcomes.

5. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabis for Sleep Disorders: Despite the complex effects of cannabis on sleep, there is growing interest in its therapeutic potential for sleep disorders such as insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, and restless legs syndrome. While some studies suggestimprovements in sleep parameters with cannabinoid administration, the evidence remains mixed, and further research is needed to elucidate optimal treatment strategies.

In conclusion, cannabis and its psychoactive compounds exert complex effects on sleep, modulating both sleep architecture and continuity. While some individuals may experience short-term improvements in sleep quality with cannabis use, chronic use can lead to tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and disruptions in sleep patterns. Understanding the interplay between cannabis and sleep is essential for developing effective interventions for sleep disorders and mitigating potential risks associated with cannabis use.Therefore, further research is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of cannabinoid action on sleep and to develop evidence-based guidelines for the use of cannabis as a therapeutic agent for sleep disorders.


1. Kolla BP, Hayes L, Cox C, Eatwell L, Deyo-Svendsen M, Mansukhani MP. The Effects of Cannabinoids on Sleep. Journal of Primary Care & Community Health. 2022;13.https://doi:10.1177/21501319221081277

2. Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2018; 19(3):833.

3. D. Piomelli, Endocannabinoids, Editor(s): William J. Lennarz, M. Daniel Lane, Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry (Second Edition), Academic Press, 2013, Pages 194–196, ISBN 9780123786319,

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