It’s not uncommon knowledge that many Americans suffer from a lack of sleep; which impedes on our day-to-day lives in tremendous ways. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, stress, loss of productivity, a reduction in physical and social activities and even depression.

This is why 9 million Americans are using prescription sleeping pills. But for many of those patients, the drugs don’t work as well or as intended. Most sleeping pills actually degrade the quality of sleep that the patient gets; sleeping medications, such as benzodiazepines, convert deep sleep into a lighter sleep in order to increase the length of sleep. But the worst problem with sleeping pills is that they are highly addictive.

For all of these reasons and more, psychologists are finding that many of their patients like to instead use cannabis to help them relax and fall into deep sleep. According to Psychology Today, many health clinicians are aware that many psychiatric patients use cannabis. And, even more patients who suffer from insomnia use it. This is one of the reasons that many states are following the new trend of legalizing medical marijuana.

Despite legalization and social acceptance of cannabis use being a new trend, the actual use of marijuana is not something new. For thousands of years, humans have used cannabis for its psychoactive and medicinal qualities. The extent of the plant’s capabilities are unknown, as unbiased and extensive research into the plant’s effects on humans is relatively new.

Because research in this field is relatively new, we don’t have a great deal of research on the subject, and therefore evidence on its effects on sleep. Researching marijuana is even more difficult because it is such a complex substance; its effects depend on the variety of the plant, the method of administration or intake, the setting in which it is used, the psychological set of the user and even the chemical composition of a plant or sample.

For example, the 3 different strains have vastly different psychoactive  characteristics and tendencies. The psychoactive effects on the user depend on the specific chemical makeup of the plant. The sativa (and most commonly used) strain is known as the most psychoactive of all three marijuana strains. It is also dependent upon the sensitivity of the user to the substance; some are highly sensitive to the effects of cannabis and can have strong reactions to even small doses, while others will hardly recognize the effects.

Another factor that influences the psychoactive characteristics of cannabis is the THC content in the sample. Although the psychoactive effects of cannabis are primarily due to THC, the effects of using complex plant material is not the same as if pure THC were to be used alone. Plus, higher levels of CBD, or cannabidiol increase relaxation.

However, due to legal restrictions of medical marijuana research, it is difficult to gather enough evidence to truly understand the effects of marijuana on sleep. As legalization of medical marijuana spreads across the United States, it is likely that more research will be conducted to answer many of our unanswered questions. But, in the meantime, thousands, even millions are claiming that cannabis helps them sleep; and to sleep better than sleeping pills.