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The ability to have a good night’s sleep is crucial for maintaining physical, emotional, and mental well-being, yet for so many people it can be frustratingly elusive. As reported by researchers at the American Sleep Association, up to 70 million adults suffer from sleep disorders in the U.S. alone (sleepassociation.org) and the numbers of those affected are rising. Accordingly, medical cannabis, also known as medical marijuana, has been steadily becoming one of the more popular treatment options for insomnia. Unlike prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids, medical cannabis is a wonderfully effective treatment for insomnia with practically no unpleasant side effects. In addition, the analgesic properties of cannabis provides pain relief for those dealing with chronic pain and its anti-anxiety properties alleviate a stressed mind and body, allowing for relaxation and restorative sleep (Crippa, et al.).

There is little doubt that a lack of sleep can negatively impact a person’s life. Not only can being tired all day lead to poor health and productivity, lack of sleep can be fatal when operating an automobile or heavy machinery. While there are various over-the-counter remedies that can be used to help induce sleep, these are usually formulated for other purposes such as relieving symptoms arising from allergies. It is generally not a good idea to use medicine for symptoms a patient does not have; this is especially true when taken in combination with other medications. Unfortunately, prescription sleep medications often come with various unpleasant side effects. While they may help you to fall asleep, some of the potential negative reactions listed can be quite scary. For example, patients taking the popular medication Ambien need to be vigilant about the following issues: chest pain, confusion, depression, trouble concentrating, and, ironically, tiredness and trouble sleeping (drugs.org). With unpleasant and unhelpful repercussions such as these, it should come as no surprise that medical cannabis, a natural and safe alternative, is refreshing remedy for insomniacs.

Although it has been in use for centuries, modern scientific studies have been able to explain just how cannabis is able to help patients to sleep. Research is showing that not only does cannabis help patients to fall asleep faster, but it can also prevent people from waking up frequently during the night. This is due to a compound found in cannabis called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. A study published in 2013 found that THC “promotes sleep” and stated THC was, “significantly associated with shorter sleep latency, less difficulty falling asleep, and more daytime sleep the following day” (Gorelick, et al.). Medical cannabis has also been shown to promote an increase in slow wave sleep, which is the deepest stage of the sleep cycle (Feinberg, et al.). This can be especially helpful for patients dealing with pain, anxietymultiple sclerosis, or any other conditions that get in the way of falling asleep and staying asleep. In addition to treating insomnia, medical cannabis is also beneficial in treating the underlying causes of insomnia such as neurological disorders and other sleep disorders that are comorbid of insomnia.

Choosing the right strain and adhering to appropriate dosing is essential when one begins a medical cannabis protocol. A strain high in sativa,for example, may produce a euphoric, energetic, and uplifting effect which is not ideal when trying to fall asleep. In contrast, an indica dominant strain will produce a relaxing effect, helping patients to unwind and fall asleep more quickly. The method of ingestion used can also play an important role. It should also be noted that ingesting cannabis orally may need longer time to take effect versus inhaling cannabis, such as in a vaporized medicinal oil, but the effects will last for hours-allowing a patient to sleep longer. Additionally, each patient’s dosing requirement is unique and should be tailored to their individual needs. It is highly advised that a professional, reputable cannabis medical professional be consulted before taking medicinal cannabis.

Sources:

“Sleep Statistics – Research & Treatments | American Sleep Assoc.” American Sleep Association, www.sleepassociation.org/sleep/sleep-statistics/.
Crippa, J A, et al. “Cannabis and Anxiety: a Critical Review of the Evidence.” Human Psychopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19693792.
“Ambien Side Effects in Detail.” Drugs.com, Drugs.com, www.drugs.com/sfx/ambien-side-effects.html.
Gorelick, David A., et al. “Around‐the‐Clock Oral THC Effects on Sleep in Male Chronic Daily Cannabis Smokers.” The American Journal on Addictions, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, 5 Apr. 2013, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1521-0391.2013.12003.x/abstract.
Feinberg, I, et al. “Effects of High Dosage Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on Sleep Patterns in Man.” Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 1975, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/164314.