Melatonin and Weed: What Happens When You Mix Them
The exact relationship between cannabis and melatonin is yet to be fully understood by science, which prevents us from forming any definitive conclusions.
There are several aspects to cover, and the most important ones are:
- Does cannabis influence melatonin levels?
- Does cannabis interact with melatonin supplementation?
Before we get into their convoluted relation, we should first spend some time getting acquainted with melatonin.
Most people know that it’s an over-the-counter supplement that helps us fall asleep, but melatonin is actually a truly fascinating molecule.
An introduction to melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally occurring body-produced hormone, and its main function is to regulate the circadian rhythm (also known as the sleep-wake cycle).
The circadian rhythm is a natural biological internal process that repeats itself approximately every 24 hours.
This rhythm is observed in plants, fungi, animals and humans, and is driven by the circadian clock.
The circadian clock (also known as the circadian oscillator) is an evolutionary internally-synchronized mechanism which allows an organism to predict environmental changes, and accordingly fine-tune its biological responses.
This graphic helps clarify the numerous internal mechanisms of the circadian clock.
The main role of melatonin is to prepare the body for sleep, and this effect is achieved through several interlocking mechanisms.
Firstly, the retina (which is the light-sensitive layer of the eye) sends electrical impulses to the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus), a miniscule region within the brain.
The SCN receives the “brightness” data from the retina, and depending how “bright or dark” the data, sends new electrical impulses to the pineal gland, which is responsible for the secretion of melatonin.
The cooperation of these three systems (retina, SCN and the pineal gland) is how the human body produces melatonin, and it is completely intertwined with the circadian rhythm.
Melatonin production begins when night starts (courtesy of darkness), and stops when the day begins (courtesy of light), preparing the body to be awake.
Now we should check out the available research on melatonin and cannabis.
Melatonin and cannabis
While the effects of cannabis on sleep are well known (and undeniably complicated as they depend on numerous factors including type of weed, quantity, frequency of use, time of consumption and so forth), the relationship between cannabis and melatonin is severely unresearched.
Rare mentions of melatonin in regards to cannabis come from a 2017 study (1) from the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences.
In it, the research team states:
“Cannabis alters the sleep–wake cycle, increases the production of melatonin, and can inhibit the arousal system by activating cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors in the basal forebrain and other wake-promoting centers.”
The aforementioned study was also quoting an older research from 1986 (2), which was observing melatonin levels in nine male volunteers (ages 29 to 33), after consuming a joint containing THC, and a regular cigarette without any THC.
This research found that after using cannabis, eight out of nine participants had a significant increase of melatonin in the blood.
Two additional aspects that the scientists also cited are frequency of use, and quantity of consumed cannabis.
According to their analysis, THC lessens the time required to fall asleep in occasional users, but also in frequent users (only in low doses).
High doses of THC in frequent users can cause increased sleep latency (more time required to fall asleep), shorter duration of sleep, and less slow-wave sleep (also known as the “deep sleep” phase).
What happens when you mix melatonin and weed?
Before we get into this paragraph, it’s important to note that no research was performed on the combined effects of cannabis and melatonin, and therefore we don’t condone or advise the use of these substances in unison.
The advised dose for melatonin is between 1 and 3 milligrams, and it’s also recommended not to consume melatonin supplements for a period longer than two months.
It’s also relevant to mention that since both melatonin and cannabis are safe substances, combining them infrequently and responsibly should not bring about any serious adverse effects.
The main sensations from anecdotal reports are closed-eye hallucinations (also known as closed-eye visualizations), and the ability to experience intense dreams while being high.
These reported closed-eye hallucinations resemble dream-like states where the users vividly visualize the thoughts that are going through their head, while they’re still awake.
The second effect is also undoubtedly fascinating, mostly because the majority of cannabis users don’t dream after using weed.
This happens because cannabis prolongs the deep-sleep phase of sleep, which reduces the time spent in the REM (rapid-eye-movement) phase, which is the stage where intense dreaming occurs.
It seems that the presence of melatonin changes something within the brain, which allows users to both experience and remember their dreams while under the influence of weed.
This effect could be considered useful, as it’s pretty frustrating to miss out on dreaming all the time, which affects heavy cannabis users the most.
Contrarily, the lack of dreaming can be extremely beneficial for other people, for instance PTSD patients, who suffer from recurring haunting nightmares.
Natural melatonin production is crucial, and much more important than using supplementation.
Ways to achieve this is to keep lighting low before you go to sleep (no phone/computer/TV), sleeping in pitch-black darkness, and making sure not to turn on the lights if you’re taking a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Morning or afternoon daylight/sunlight exposure are also beneficial for your body’s ability to produce melatonin in an adequate time-frame.
Besides regulating the circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), melatonin is also a potent antioxidant and free-radical scavenger (3).
This implies that sufficient melatonin levels diminishes the risk of cancer (4), and de-accelerates the aging process (among numerous other benefits).
Lab-made synthetic melatonin supplements are usually made in pill form, and liquid sublingual products act the fastest, as they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream (unlike melatonin pills which have to pass through the digestive tract).
Melatonin supplements should not be used if you’re pregnant or you’re breastfeeding, if you suffer from an autoimmune disorder, depression or a seizure disorder.
People suffering from high-blood pressure and diabetes should check with their healthcare practitioner before using melatonin supplements.
These supplements can also potentially increase blood pressure levels and raise blood-sugar in patients taking certain hypertension drugs.
To conclude, if you’re determined to experiment with weed and melatonin make sure to start low and go slow, and avoid continuous use at all costs, because we just don’t know if this combination is damaging to one’s health in the long run.
Find out how weed influences melatonin production, and what to expect when combining cannabis and melatonin together.
Marijuana vs Melatonin: Which Is Better For A Good Night’s Sleep?
These are stressful days. A good night’s sleep is hard to come by, which leads many to ponder the following. Marijuana vs melatonin: which one of these sleep remedies will help you sleep throughout the night? A good night’s sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is your body’s time to recharge and recover from daily activities that it encounters throughout the day.
For those suffering from a sleeping disorder, such as insomnia, the act of sleeping can be a difficult process. Many who struggle with getting a good night’s rest have tried to remedy their problem with melatonin and cannabis. Some may prefer the supplements, while others will choose the more natural route. Which works better? Here’s what the professionals say.
The first question we will cover in our marijuana vs melatonin argument is what exactly is melatonin? Before we can understand the supplement that is taken to help sleep, we must understand the hormone that is produced in our bodies itself. According to WebMD, “melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain.” Its purpose is to help control your sleep and wake cycle.
“Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours,” WebMD reads.
The Sleep Doctor, Michael Breus, is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
According to Breus, “disruption in natural melatonin levels can go hand-in-hand with sleep problems.”
Melatonin Supplements as a Sleep Aid
This is where melatonin supplements come in. When taken as a supplement, the function of melatonin is to copy the effects of the natural hormone. As stated by Drugs.com, drowsiness usually occurs within 30-minutes of taking the supplement.
“However, taking melatonin right before bed may not be the best strategy for all sleep disorders,” the site writes.
Breus writes in his blog that “melatonin treats Circadian Rhythm Disorders (where you sleep the right amount of minutes but your body clock is at the wrong time), Shift Work Sleep Disorders and early morning awakenings – all things that deal with the timing of your need to sleep.”
Melatonin supplements may help in these specific cases. But Breus states that it is not an effective treatment for insomnia.
Finding The Right Dose
The correct dosage of melatonin can also be a problem when it comes to its effectiveness. According to research done at MIT, the correct dosage of melatonin ranges from 0.3-1.0 mg. Breus explains that many commercially available forms of melatonin usually contain 3 to 10 times the amount that your body actually needs.
According to Breus, “there is some evidence that higher doses may be less effective.”
High doses of melatonin can cause side effects such as headaches, nausea, next-day grogginess, vivid dreams and nightmares.
Katlin Parrish, a college student who struggles with sleep deprivation, told us that she used to take melatonin but never saw any lasting results.
“I found it made me feel very groggy the next day and never actually started to regulate my sleep. I took it every day before bed for a 3 month period (advised by my doctor) and while it helped me fall asleep, I couldn’t sleep through the night,” Parrish said.
“I’d have really vivid dreams and often startled myself awake and end up with zero quality sleep.”
Although melatonin supplements may not work properly for certain individuals, it does seem to help those who are wanting to catch some rest at difficult parts of the day.
Marijuana as a Sleep Aid
Our next step in the marijuana vs melatonin argument is examining cannabis as a sleep aid. After all, people use cannabis medicinally in multiple ways.
According to Terry Roycroft, the president of the Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI), cannabis can be used as a pain reliever, can treat muscle spasms caused by caused by such diseases as multiple sclerosis and can help treat those with epilepsy. Roycroft also says that it can work wonders for those who struggle with sleep.
“When using cannabis for sleep, it allows your body to relax,” Roycroft said.
According to Roycroft, “marijuana influences the bodies endocannabinoid system, which is a series of relative nerves and receptors. Its main goal is to maintain homeostasis.”
Cannabinoids, such as CBD (cannabidiol), help maintain a balance homeostatic balance. Cannabinoid receptors play an important role in regulating your anxiety, which calms the body enough to fall asleep.
Research suggests that cannabinoid signaling can directly benefit sleep.
THC, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis that creates the “high”, has been proven by research to help with sleep. Another study suggests that THC “significantly decrease the time it takes to fall asleep in physically healthy insomniacs.”
However, THC makes you sleepier the next day and can cause something known as a “weed hangover.”
Most professionals do agree that marijuana will help you sleep, but try to stick to an indica. Indica strains are very relaxing, while sativas are more energizing.
Although there may be benefits to using marijuana as a sleep aid, there are also downfalls to its use as well.
In 2008, a Penn Medicine study found that marijuana may impair sleep quality for those who consumed it throughout their teenage years.
According to the study, “any history of cannabis use was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting difficulty falling asleep, struggling to maintain sleep, experiencing non-restorative sleep and feeling daytime sleepiness.”
It is also recorded that marijuana users who try to decrease their usage of cannabis as a sleep aid may experience a rebound in REM, creating more vivid dreams and other sleep disturbances.
Final Hit: Marijuana vs Melatonin: Which is Better for a Good Night’s Sleep?
To conclude our marijuana vs melatonin argument, it all comes down to an individual’s personal perception. Marijuana seems to have more benefits when it comes down to it. But it really depends on what type of sleep you want.
Melatonin may help with the initial challenge of falling asleep. And it will not leave you feeling groggy or tired when waking up in the morning.
But, marijuana will not only help you get to sleep, Roycoft says its effects will usually last “6 to 8 hours,” lasting you through the night. You may just have to deal with a “weed hangover” in the morning.
It's the battle of the sleep aids: marijuana vs melatonin. Which comes out on top?