Cannabis Use and Sleep Apnoea

Published On: December 20, 2023

According to research from the Mental Health Foundation, millions of adults and teenagers in the UK are affected by sleepless nights. The most commonly diagnosed sleep disorders are insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnoea. [1]

Many people use cannabis-based medication and tools to promote sleep, however, there are many components in marijuana that can make self-medication for sleep disorders dangerous if not approved by a medical professional.

Whilst some clinical trials concerning the treatment of sleep apnoea with cannabis seem promising, there are still lots of risk factors involved and further research to be carried out.

What is sleep apnoea?


Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder in which the breathing of an individual stops and starts repeatedly during the sleep cycle. It is most identifiable through loud snoring and feelings of fatigue even after 8 hours or more of sleep.

Sleep apnoea is mainly categorised into 3 different types:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

This is the most common form of sleep apnoea and occurs due to the relaxation of the throat muscles.

  • Central Sleep Apnoea

This form of apnoea occurs when breathing stops and starts. This happens because the brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

  • Complex Sleep Apnoea Syndrome

This is a combination of both Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and Central Sleep Apnoea. Patients who have been diagnosed with this often struggle during sleep even after any obstruction to the airways has been treated or cleared.

How does cannabis affect sleep?


Whilst cannabis is often hailed as an effective sleep aid, research has suggested that long-term users may actually be posing a danger to their sleep schedule.

A recent study published on the effects of cannabis use on sleep has shown that those who consume cannabis for more than 20 consecutive days were 64% more likely to sleep less than 6 hours a night and 76% more likely to sleep longer than 9 hours per night. [2]

This combination of both long and short sleep is associated with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack as well as leading to the progression of coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Whilst many people with insomnia look to cannabis for help with sleeping, the THC found in cannabis can often have the opposite effect than what was originally desired.

Some people mix both cannabis and sleeping aids such as melatonin which is dangerous and can lead to severe health problems.

Cannabis can also stop you from entering the REM phase of sleep. During the REM phase, your body is at its most relaxed and you sleep very deeply. Without reaching this stage, you will most likely wake up feeling very tired and lethargic.

Those who consume marijuana as a sleeping aid at a young age are also at risk of placing their mental health in extreme danger. This is because cannabis has been linked to stunted psychological development and a higher risk of developing mental health problems.

The relationship between cannabis and sleep apnoea


Treatment for sleep apnoea typically includes changes to lifestyle and diet, fitted breathing devices when attempting to sleep, and in some cases, surgery.

When an individual is diagnosed with sleep apnoea it means that the brain and body aren’t receiving enough oxygen during sleep.

If left untreated, sleep apnoea can lead to a variety of problems such as high blood pressure, depression, migraines, and an inability to perform well in everyday life.

Promising research has suggested that controlled doses of cannabinoid-based medicine may help those with mild to moderate sleep apnoea, though these studies are still very much in the early stages. [3]

It is also important to note that there are differences between cannabinoid-based medication and regular cannabis consumption.

In the United States, medicinal cannabis and its synthetic extracts are also not currently legalised for the treatment of sleep apnoea. This is due to variations in cannabinoid compounds and the production of irregular effects on patients. [4]

Individuals that attempt to self-medicate and treat their sleep apnoea by smoking cannabis could be placing themselves in extreme danger.

If there is already a lack of oxygen to the brain and lungs during sleep, smoking further increases the risk of heart attack and stroke and places intense stress on the body.

Therefore, self-administered cannabis use is not advised for sleep apnoea treatment. In the UK, cannabis is a Class B substance meaning it carries a maximum penalty for possession of five years imprisonment.

Contact Rehab 4 Addiction today

If you have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders, you should speak to your doctor about treatment and any concerns you may have. Attempting to self-medicate can lead to irreversible damage to the body.

Self-medicating through cannabis use can also lead to substance use disorder (SUD). Those who use cannabis for sleep disorders are at a much higher risk of developing SUD due to the routine pattern of usage each night.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnoea and are also struggling with cannabis use, contact Rehab 4 Alcoholism. Our team can help to source effective treatment within your local area. Call us today on 0800 140 4690.

From inpatient to outpatient programmes, we work closely with excellent treatment providers ensuring all of our patients receive bespoke, tailored care.

If you have been debating professional help, take that first step today with Rehab 4 Alcoholism.

Rehab 4 Alcoholism provides support to clients across the UK and abroad meaning we can help to source a rehab clinic that suits your every need.


[1] Mental health of millions of adults and teenagers being affected by poor sleep – new research from the Mental Health Foundation

[2] Recent cannabis use and nightly sleep duration in adults: a population analysis of the NHANES from 2005 to 2018

[3] Effects of Cannabinoids on Sleep and their Therapeutic Potential for Sleep Disorders

[4] Medical Cannabis and the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Statement


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