Effects of Cannabinoids on Sleep and their Therapeutic Potential for Sleep Disorders

Neurotherapeutics. 2021 Jan;18(1):217-227. doi: 10.1007/s13311-021-01013-w. Epub 2021 Feb 12.


The recent trend for legalization of medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid-containing products, together with their soporific effects, has led to a surge of interest of their potential therapeutic role in the management of some common sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep disordered breathing, and restless legs syndrome, and less common disorders such as narcolepsy and parasomnias. Although much of the pre-clinical and clinical data were derived from studies with relatively small sample sizes and limited by biases in assessment, and in clinical trials lack of allocation concealment, as a whole, the results indicate a potential therapeutic role for cannabinoids in the management of some sleep disorders. Clinical trials are underway for insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea management, but there remains a substantial need for rigorous large multi-center studies to assess the dose, efficacy, and safety of the various types of cannabinoids on sleep disorders. This review aims to summarize the modulatory effects of cannabinoids on sleep physiology and provide a critical evaluation of the research on their potential therapeutic benefit in various sleep disorders.

Keywords: Cannabinoids; Cannabis; Hypnogram; Insomnia; Marijuana; Narcolepsy; Nightmares; Parasomnia; Restless leg syndrome; Sleep; Sleep apnea; Sleep disordered breathing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Cannabinoids