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Can’t Sleep Without Weed? Guide to Overcoming Withdrawal Insomnia

If you are or were a common user of cannabis, you may have trouble sleeping in the early stages of quitting or taking a tolerance break, especially if you’ve previously been using it as a tool to help you sleep (Budney et al., 2003).[1]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12943018/

Unfortunately, these sleep disturbances and associated insomnia caused by marijuana withdrawal can create significant distress in a time that is already stressful.

On this page, we will explain why it can be hard to sleep without marijuana and set out our guide on how to relieve the issue. By preparing yourself with this information, we hope to empower you to handle sleep disturbances without marijuana if and as you experience them.

Why People Experience Insomnia After Quitting Marijuana

The reason why quitting or taking a break from marijuana can disrupt your sleep or cause insomnia is because your body and mind take time to adjust to a lack of THC and cannabinoids. This is a common symptom of marijuana withdrawal, experienced by over 40% of those that quit weed after long-term use (Levin et al., 2010).[2]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871610001584

When you smoke marijuana, the chemicals that enter your bloodstream bind to the cannabinoid receptors in your body, which are heavily involved in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm. Over time, your sleep cycle adjusts to your ingestion of marijuana; when that marijuana is taken away, the body takes some time to adapt.

In addition to insomnia, other common types of sleep disturbances that occur during withdrawal from cannabis include nightmares, vivid dreams, and night sweats. This is because, on top of the effect of marijuana on cannabinoid receptors, marijuana has been shown to decrease the amount of REM sleep (the type of sleep where your experience dreams) that you get (Schierenbeck et al., 2008).[3]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18313952/

Does Marijuana Help With Sleep?

By decreasing the amount of REM sleep a person gets, marijuana has been shown to help increase the amount and quality of deep sleep experienced in the short-term. However, over a longer period, marijuana has been shown to impair sleep quality through its ability to affect regular sleep cycles (Babson et al., 2017).[4]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28349316/

So – the short answer is “yes, it might help right now” but “no, you would be better off not relying on cannabis as a sleep aid”. Recent research from Boston University shows that those who don’t use weed will, in the long-term, experience deeper and higher quality sleep (Conroy et al., 2016).[5]https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10550887.2015.1132986

If you’re in the process of quitting weed, while you may experience some difficulty now, eventually you will be sleeping better than you ever were when smoking or using.

That said, it may take you a week or two to get there, so if you have insomnia and you quit weed very recently, here are eight proven strategies you can use to ease your symptoms:[6]https://leaveweed.org/marijuana-withdrawal-timeline/

9 Ways To Improve Sleep After Quitting Marijuana

1. Exercise

You may have heard it many times, but exercise really can help you get a good sleep in times of need (Yang et al., 2012).[7]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK142866/

You don’t need to go out and run a marathon – any form of mild exercise, even as little as 15 minutes of brisk walking, can release chemicals that encourage sleep and reduce stress commonly associated with insomnia.

As an additional benefit, it is common during the early stages of cannabis withdrawal to get cold sweats at night (Hesse & Thystrup, 2013).[8]https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-244X-13-258 By exercising and sweating during the day, your body will have less to sweat out while you sleep, and this, in turn, can improve the quality of your sleep.

2. Put Your Phone Away

From LeaveWeed.org surveys on sleep after quitting cannabis, it has become clear that many cannabis smokers had a habit of keeping their phone, if not their laptop, in bed with them regularly.

However, research shows that blue light emitted from electronic devices can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. This is because blue light tricks your body into thinking that it’s daytime, which can negatively impact your body’s sleep cycle (Figueiro et al., 2011).[9]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21552190/

Instead of scrolling through Instagram or TikTok before going to sleep, both highly stimulating activities, you may benefit from reading a book or meditating instead. Even just an eReader like a Kindle should help in this regard.

3. Have A Warm Bath Or Shower

Research from the University of Texas shows that taking a hot shower or bath before going to bed can help you fall asleep and improve the quality of that sleep (Haghayegh et al., 2019).[10]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1087079218301552

The reason this works is that throughout the day, your body temperature naturally fluctuates with your circadian rhythm. At night, your body temperature cools, signaling to your brain that it’s time to prepare for sleep. By having a warm bath or shower, when you get out of the bath or shower, the water evaporates from your skin and cools you down – preparing your brain for a good night’s rest.

In addition to this, showers help you relax, and they cleanse your body. If you’ve been suffering from night sweats, having a bath or shower will help your body feel clean before getting some sleep.

4. Listen To Soothing Music

When you’re intoxicated by marijuana, falling asleep listening to (or even watching) anything can feel effortless. Unfortunately, without marijuana, things are not so easy. Still, some audio aids for sleep are proven to work for many people.

Relaxing, peaceful music directly affects the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body prepare to sleep (Lai & Good, 2005).[11]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15660547/ If you listen to something calming, you should fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and wake up less during the night.

In terms of what music is proven to work – anything that is slow and calming is appropriate. We suggest choosing something that you already like, preferably without lyrics. In terms of a specific suggestion, there is anecdotal evidence for the song Weightless by Marconi Union:

5. Consider a Melatonin Supplement

While it may seem counterproductive to quit or take a break from drugs with other drugs, Melatonin, a non-addictive medicine, has significant evidential backing for its benefits as a sleep aid (Huysmans et al., 2019).[12]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31907900/

Melatonin is like a vitamin, it’s a hormone your brain naturally produces in the evening. It forms a vital part of the human sleep cycle. Unfortunately, after quitting cannabis, your sleep cycle will likely be disrupted, so taking a Melatonin supplement before bed can help reestablish a routine.

In terms of how much Melatonin to take, please refer to this Sleep Foundation article on the topic – and if you have any concerns, it’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified healthcare professional.[13]https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/melatonin-and-sleep

6. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is an exercise you can try that works by incrementally tensing and relaxing the muscles throughout your body. It is proven to provide a relaxing effect, reduce stress, and assist with sleeping.[14]https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2225 The exercise works as follows:

  1. Slowly inhale and exhale while keeping your eyes closed.
  2. Tense the muscles in your face for 10 – 20 seconds, then release them and take a deep breath.
  3. Tense the muscles in your shoulders for 10 – 20 seconds, then release them and take another deep breath.
  4. Continue the above for other muscles in your body, starting with upper body muscles like your upper arms and chest, and moving down to your calves and feet.

As you follow this exercise, you may find yourself becoming more relaxed and ready to fall asleep – if that happens, feel free to stop the practice at any time.

7. Meditate

Building on progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation is another technique that can enable relaxation and put you in a peaceful and restful state of mind. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep quality significantly (Rusch et al., 2019).[15]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30575050/

Besides causing sleep disruption, quitting marijuana can also bring about a variety of other negative emotions, including stress and boredom.[16]https://leaveweed.org/bored-without-weed/ Meditation is a great exercise that can help mitigate any and all of these issues.

If you’re new to meditation, we recommend the Headspace app.[17]https://www.headspace.com/ Headspace offers a wide variety of guided meditations, including ones dedicated to helping people get good sleep, and has been recommended by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.[18]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28185524/

8. Have a Warm Drink

Chamomile Tea In Cup

For similar reasons as having a hot shower, a warm drink before you go to bed can help you fall asleep quicker and improve the quality of your sleep.

The benefits of chamomile tea to assist with relaxation and increasing melatonin production are well established (Adib-Hajbaghery & Mousavi, 2017).[19]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29154054/

Another option is a warm glass of milk. Milk can increase the body’s production of serotonin and Melatonin, which contributes to your natural sleep cycle (Komada et al., 2017).[20]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33339284/

Despite the above, it is best to avoid caffeine-heavy drinks, including green tea, as caffeine can have the opposite effect – making it hard to sleep well.

9. Talk To Your Doctor About Treatment Options

Unfortunately, there are no currently approved medications for the treatment of marijuana withdrawal specifically.

However, if you are having significant trouble sleeping without weed and none of the strategies above are working for you, you may wish to consider seeking personalized medical advice from your healthcare provider.

There are a wide variety of medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to help with insomnia if deemed appropriate. These options include Nitrazepam, Lithium (Allsop et al., 2015),[21]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4582056/, Zopiclone (Disayavanish et al., 1998),[22]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9676070/ Mirtazapine (Haney et al., 2010),[23]https://www.nature.com/articles/npp2017212#ref-CR41 and Ambien (Vandrey et al., 2011).[24]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119729/

When Will My Sleep Improve After Quitting Cannabis?

The duration of time you may have insomnia and sleep disturbances after quitting weed depends on many factors. However, for heavy marijuana users, most people should stop experiencing sleep disruption around the one to two-week mark – with the worst insomnia peaking during the first few days.[25]https://leaveweed.org/marijuana-withdrawal-timeline/

Despite the above, some will experience sleep disturbances for longer. It is not unusual for vivid dreams and nightmares to last for a few weeks. While this may not be a common experience – it is not unusual and should resolve itself over time.

Conclusion

Sleep difficulties can be stressful, and they may even make you feel like you want to start using weed again to solve the problem. But remember, any withdrawal symptoms will fade, and after a few days without cannabis, you will be back to sleeping like normal. For now, we hope the above tips for better sleeping habits help you get through the hump of withdrawal, and if you have any thoughts to share, we welcome you to leave a comment.

And if you found this article helpful – please consider sharing our infographic summarizing the above:

Tips for Good Sleep without Weed Infographic

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The team at LeaveWeed.org is dedicated to offering trusted information about quitting or cutting down on the use of marijuana.

All information provided on the site is evidence-based, sourced, cited, or based on personal, lived experience. All of our content is written, fact-checked, cited, and reviewed by qualified health professionals and researchers.

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