For years now cannabis has been used to help treat a slew of different illnesses that cause sleep problems. Some of these include:
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic pain
According to the American Sleep Association, between 50-70 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some type of sleeping disorder. As if suffering from one of these illnesses isn’t bad enough, there are a plethora of consequences just waiting for people suffering from lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. Even if it doesn’t get quite that serious, sufferers still deal with forgetfulness during the day, decreases in mood levels, weight gain, impaired judgment, and so much more.
That being said, with medical cannabis freshly coming onto the market in PA, those who have issues sleeping may just now rest easy at night.
Common Sleep Issues:
Insomnia is characterized by extreme difficulty falling and staying asleep. Common symptoms stemming from lack of sleep might include fatigue, little energy, poor performance at work or school, bad moods, poor focus, and even depression or anxiety. Within the condition of insomnia lie two different types: acute insomnia and chronic insomnia. While acute insomnia may happen only briefly and due to some other factor in a person’s life (such as stress or illness), chronic insomnia is persistent over the course of weeks and months; especially for these sufferers, medical cannabis might just be the key to getting some quality shut-eye.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While sufferers of PTSD have a whole range of symptoms to deal with, difficulty sleeping is a very common one. More often than not in patients with PTSD, trouble sleeping stems from nightmares or night terrors following a traumatic event. Common symptoms of PTSD revolve around four main areas: reliving the event, avoiding situations that may remind the person of the event, negative changes in attitude, and hyperarousal. The symptoms that most get in the way of normal sleep cycles are hyperarousal (always feeling keyed up and like you have to be alert of your surroundings) and reliving the event through nightmares. Both of these symptoms, while highly detrimental to the patient’s health, have been proven to respond very well to high-THC strands of medical cannabis.
Sleep apnea can take on a few different forms including obstructive sleep apnea (when throat muscles relax), central sleep apnea (when your brain doesn’t signal your muscles to keep breathing), and complex sleep apnea syndrome (a combination of both types of sleep apnea). Symptoms can vary but commonly include snoring, interruptions in breathing, waking up abruptly and short of breath, dry mouth, sore throat, difficulty staying asleep, bad moods, and problems focusing. While this is a very serious sleep disorder as it involves the airway being consistently blocked throughout a person’s sleep cycle, medical cannabis has shown promise in treating patients with the illness. Though research on the connection between medical cannabis and sleep apnea leaves something to be desired, preliminary research in rats has demonstrated that cannabis may promote normal breathing during sleep by suppressing apnea (Carley et al).
Along with chronic pain often come problems sleeping at night. While acute pain is that normal type of pain people feel alerting them to something wrong, chronic pain is a very different sensation and is typically characterized by persistent pain that refuses to cease for more than 12 weeks. This can include soreness, discomfort, tingling, burning, shooting pain, and so on. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 2015 poll reported only 45% of acute pain sufferers having a good night’s sleep and only 37% of those with chronic pain having a good night’s sleep. With this illness affecting around 100 million Americans, medical cannabis has become a common treatment in order to relieve pain and improve sleep quality in patients with chronic pain.
*Denotes illnesses that are not currently included under the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Act
How Medical Cannabis Can Help
Medical cannabis is so successful with helping patients sleep because of the manner in which the cannabinoids in cannabis (namely THC and CBD) bind to cell receptors in the brain. THC and CBD are actually thought to be quite similar to other chemicals in the brain that also help regulate sleep. Thus, when THC and CBD are introduced to these cell receptors, they affect a person’s sleep cycle, either inducing sleepiness or wakefulness depending on the specific cannabinoid. Typically, THC promotes sleep while CBD promotes wakefulness. Keeping this in mind, sufferers of lack of sleep are going to want to tend towards a high-THC strain such as Indica.
One important thing to note about using medical cannabis to help with sleep issues is that it tends to shorten a person’s REM cycle, a.k.a. when dreaming occurs. According to a study done on the effects of using cannabis on REM sleep in 1975, researchers found that patients given cannabis before sleep experienced less REM sleep than those who didn’t use cannabis. Additionally, those who used cannabis to sleep and then stopped experienced a “rebound effect” wherein the patients experienced in increase in REM sleep compared to before they started taking the cannabis (Feinberg et al). While lacking in REM sleep may not seem ideal, the thought is that it allows patients to engage in more “deep sleep,” also known as slow-wave sleep. This is vital to those who are sleep-deprived as this stage of sleep is thought to be the most restorative and restful stage.
Overall, medical cannabis has proven a lot of promise in the treatment of sleep-related issues. Whether you’re a sufferer of PTSD or chronic pain, AGRiMED has a cannabis-derived medicine to aid you in your search for restful sleep. As always, be sure to consult your healthcare professional before jumping into any new medicines.
American Sleep Association staff. Sleep and sleep disorder statistics. American Sleep Association. Retrieved from https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep/sleep-statistics/
Carley, D.W., Paviovic, S., Janelidze, M., & Radulovacki, M. (June 2002). Functional role for cannabinoids in respiratory stability during sleep. Sleep, 25(4), 391-398. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12071539
Feinberg, I., Jones, R., Walker, J.M., Cavness, C., & March, J. (April 1975). Effects of high dosage delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on sleep patterns in man. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 17(4), 458-466. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/164314
National Sleep Foundation staff. Pain and sleep. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/pain-and-sleep