Night Terrors and Medical Cannabis

Fear of the dark and/or sleeping alone are common reasons for night terrors. Night terrors, sometimes known as sleep terrors, may appear frightening to those witnessing one but most patients do not recall them since they are fully asleep. Sleep terror is a parasomnia or sleeps disturbance that involves unusual sleeping habits while sleeping.

Despite being asleep, individuals who experience sleep terrors may thrash around, scream, shout, or perform other activities that appear awake. A person experiencing a sleep terror may not be easily awakened and if awake, they will likely not remember the event. Sleep terrors are often associated with panic and anxiety disorders.

Cannabis, in particular, has a long history of assisting individuals in obtaining a good night’s sleep. Some research has shown that health advantages including improved sleep quality and restfulness, as well as decreased sleep disturbances and faster onset latency, can be achieved through the usage of cannabis.

Cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), work through our bodies’ endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 control the activity of fat-based neurotransmitters that make up the ECS.

Cannabinoids interact with a variety of other receptors, such as serotonin, dopamine, and vanilloid receptors, all of which can influence normal physiology. Furthermore, the ECS is responsible for the body’s capacity to maintain proper temperature as well as modulating the immune system and maintaining circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle patterns.

Please see our page on endocannabinoids for further information on how the endocannabinoid system functions.

Medical Cannabis to Treat Sleep Terrors

Long-term cannabis use may decrease sleep quality, as has been demonstrated by decreasing waking after falling asleep in the short term. However, long-term cannabis usage has been linked to increased sleeplessness, especially when stopping medical marijuana. Taking cannabis with other sedating medicines may enhance their sleepy effect.

A review of studies concludes that patients may profit from high doses of CBD and low doses of THC to help them sleep better despite some indications suggesting that high-THC strains might aid in better sleeping. Mycerene is a terpene found in cannabis that is strongly linked with rest. It’s also present in mangoes, lemongrass, and thyme.

CBN is gaining popularity in dispensaries owing to its sedative effects. It’s critical to consult with a medical marijuana doctor or a sleep expert if you have persistent sleeplessness.

Keep These Things in Mind

Several studies that showed improved sleep disorders as a consequence of medical cannabis use, discovered this information as a secondary finding in research on the medical uses of marijuana and specific health issues such as chronic pain, MS, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you have medical conditions that can cause night terrors, it’s crucial to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider.

The use of cannabis, in and of itself, is not recommended. Cannabis withdrawal syndrome should be treated with appropriate medications as a result of the brain’s wide-ranging sensitivity to cannabinoids. Patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses should consult their doctors before using any cannabinoid product. Some people may develop tolerance, addiction, recurring sleep difficulties, or other adverse effects, although these are not common.

Night Terrors vs Nightmares

The terms “nightmares” and “night terrors” are sometimes used interchangeably by some people, although the fact is that these events happen during various parts of sleep and have varying levels of awareness on the part of the sleeper.


Nightmares are distressing dreams that induce worry, dread, or terror in the sufferer. They usually begin before the age of ten and are considered typical during childhood, although they can persist into adulthood. Major life events or increased workload at home or at work might cause them. Some medicines, for example, decongestants and antidepressants, can also cause bad dreams. In addition to consuming too much alcohol or eating right before going to sleep, some medications may bring on nightmares. Nightmares are most common during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (about 71% of persons with PTSD have them after trauma, and they are considered a symptom of the disorder), but they may also occur during non-REM (NREM) sleep.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are different from nightmares. They happen during NREM sleep, which is a type of sleep that happens in the early hours of the night. They are more common in children than adults, but they are rare overall. The term “night terror” refers to a period when a person is terrified, usually while sleeping. The length of the episode varies, with 10 minutes being typical but up to 30 or 40 minutes possible. Even though the patient may be kicking, flailing, screaming, or even opening their eyes, they are fully asleep and are not aware of their surroundings. Night terrors are not caused by anything specific and do not happen because of a bad dream.

Parasomnia Sleep Disorders: What They Are and How They Occur

Parasomnia is a catch-all term that refers to strange actions performed while someone is sleeping, falling asleep, or in the middle of waking up. Parasomnias are generally triggered by the brain’s shift from one sleep cycle to the next.

Please see our insomnia page for more information on sleep cycles.

The most common types of parasomnias are:

NREM-related Parasomnias

  • These are occurrences that take place throughout non-REM (NREM) phases of sleep, in contrast to night terrors, which occur during REM sleep while dreaming.
  • NREM Sleep disorders include:
  1. Night terrors
  2. Sleepwalking
  3. A person who is suffering from sexsomnia, which refers to unusual sleep-related sexual behaviors.
  4. Confusional arousals
  5. Patients may become confused after being awakened, have dilated eyes, have a fast heart rate, or perspire.

REM-related Parasomnias

  • When you go to bed at night, you are in a deep sleep called dreamless REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
  • They include:
  1. Nightmare disorder
  2. A disorder in which a person talks or moves during REM sleep, usually known as Restricted Sleep Behavior Disorder (RSBD) – is one of the most common sleep disorders.
  3. Sleep paralysis is a type of sleep paralysis that occurs when individuals are unable to move parts of their body before they completely fall asleep or after waking up.

Other Parasomnias

  • These issues happen during sleep or wakefulness changes, as well as those that may occur throughout REM or NREM sleep.
  • Here are a few examples:
  1. Sleep enuresis or Bedwetting
  2. Hallucinations while sleeping 
  3. Patients with this condition hear a loud noise or experience an exploding sensation when waking up.

According to the study

Although there is little medical cannabis research on night terrors and sleep, there is evidence that cannabinoids may help with RSBD, a REM-related parasomnia. This study investigated the use of CBD in adults with Parkinson’s disease with a REM behavior disorder. Although this is a relatively small research, CBD was found to be able to suppress RSBD, which is very good news. Overall, sleep problems should be discussed with your doctor and cannabis may play a part in the equation for better sleep.

*DigiDrs is not offering this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self diagnose, or prescribe treatment based on the information provided in these pages. Consult a physician before making decisions on the treatment of any of these medical conditions.

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