How Booze and Weed Mess With Your Sleep

By May Wilkerson 11/03/15

Does smoking pot and drinking booze disrupt your "good sleep?"

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Do you use booze or weed, or a combo of the two, to help you sleep?

In general, a little alcohol or marijuana shouldn’t compromise your health too much. But even in moderation, they can impact your sleep, which can have lasting consequences for your physical and mental health, Lifehack reports.

When it comes to sleep, it’s quality as well as quantity. Most adults need around seven or eight hours of sleep a night. But being unconscious doesn’t necessarily mean your body and brain are getting their needed rest.

Ideally, in a night you cycle four or five times through four main stages of sleep, without interruption. The deepest state is REM, also known as your “dream state.” Missing this stage can impair your ability to function throughout the day.

Getting “good sleep” benefits every part of your body, including your immune system, growth and stress hormones, your appetite, respiratory system, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health. But pot and booze can inhibit your “good sleep,” even if you’re technically passed out for seven to eight or more hours.

Alcohol is known for making you fall asleep more quickly. But while it can help you “pass out,” its sleep-inducing effects wear off in the middle of the night. After that, your sleep becomes more restless and you are more easily woken up by small noises or changes in your environment.

Booze can also disrupt your sleep cycles, especially the REM sleep stage that helps you function throughout the day, research has found. One study found that alcohol before sleep creates “REM fragmentation,” meaning cycles that change in duration over consecutive nights. This can cause you to go back and forth between half-awake and half-asleep, while preventing you from getting the deep sleep your brain and body rely on to recuperate. That explains why you may feel groggy and tired all day, even if you were “passed out” for 10 hours the night before.

But what about marijuana? This is another recreational drug that is often used as a sleep aid. Like alcohol, though it can help you fall asleep faster, it also disrupts your REM sleep.

However, whereas booze causes REM fragmentation, THC reduces the length of your REM sleep cycles across the board. This means the more weed you smoke or ingest, the less likely you are to dream. Habitual marijuana use can significantly cut into your necessary REM sleep time.

For those who use marijuana heavily, withdrawal can also cause difficulty both falling asleep and getting the good sleep you need. On the other hand, pot has also been proven to effectively treat a range of conditions, including severe insomnia. For some people, it could be beneficial compared to getting no sleep at all.

With recreational users, however, experts recommend moderation. The same goes for alcohol. Even if you don’t feel like substances are causing problems in your waking life, they might be messing with your much needed shut eye.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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