Marijuana Treats Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

Treating Insomnia & Sleep Disorders With Marijuana

Many are aware of the sleep-inducing effect of marijuana and research shows that THC is largely responsible. In fact, trials conducted in the 1970s found that oral doses of THC helped both healthy individuals and insomniacs fall asleep faster.
The earliest record of marijuana as a sleep aid comes from ancient Indian medicine. However, medical marijuana only made its way into Western medicine in the 19th century, when Dr. William B. O’Shaugnessy returned from India with cannabis and encouraged doctors to prescribe it for many ailments, including sleep.

Improve Your Sleep With THC

Interestingly, more recent studies suggest THC may also improve nighttime breathing and reduce sleep interruptions in those who suffer from a common disorder known as  Sleep Apnea. Evidence of use of weed as a sleep aid is rooted in ancient Indian records. For people suffering from serious nightmares, especially those associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, this can be helpful.  Insomnia is a common sleep disorder, defined as having difficulty falling or staying asleep. Insomnia can be a symptom of a variety of conditions and is not normally considered a condition on its own. Approximately 40% of adults with insomnia also suffer from a mental disorder – most commonly depression, many of whom turn to sleeping pills for relief. In fact, research shows that over 95% of diagnosed cases of insomnia are treated with sleep medications. While certain sleep medications may be effective in managing insomnia, they also subject users to a wide range of side effects, including the risk of death. Many patients report that marijuana is quite effective in relieving their symptoms of insomnia. Patients commonly say that marijuana provides relief of their insomnia better than pharmaceutical medications with significantly fewer side effects. Marijuana is also  effective in treating associated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain.

Cannabinoids & Endocannabinoid’s

This is because chemicals in marijuana, known as cannabinoids actually mimic activity of chemicals naturally found in the brain, endocannabinoid’s,  the endocannabinoid system which is responsible for regulating sleep,  among other things. Likewise, research shows that these chemicals have a direct impact on sleep.

How can Marijuana help with Insomnia? A recent study, undertaken at Alberta University in Canada, was designed to investigate the effects of THC on appetite, specifically on the appetite of cancer patients. An unexpected finding of the study, however, was that the patients receiving THC also slept better than the control group. In fact, the study was published with the headline:

Weed Helps Cancer Patients Sleep and Enjoy Food

You need a marijuana strain that will helps you sleep, Sativa’s get you high and that’s not exactly helpful in sleep. On the other hand, relaxation, stress relief, and for an overall sense of calm and serenity, as I said, Indica strains must be used, avoid Sativa strains.

Overall, THC was found to be more effective in helping patients fall asleep once they got into bed. The study also showed that THC could decrease the number of sleep interruptions that insomniacs experience, but only during the early part of the night. THC also seemed to increase the amount of time that patients spent sleeping – higher doses of THC were correlated with longer periods of sleep.

Cannabidiol Has Many Positive Effects On The Body

Interestingly, cannabidiol (CBD) may also offer benefits to patients with insomnia, but without the psychoactive effects that THC is known for. A study published in 1981 involving 15 insomnia patients showed that 160mg doses of CBD led to an increase in the amount of time spent sleeping compared to placebo. The patients that received CBD also experienced less dream recall, suggesting that CBD might also affect REM sleep in the same way.

The U.S. is slowly and steadily moving towards legalizing marijuana in all fifty states. Almost half have already legalized medical marijuana; more are on their way. Several states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and some have given the nod to retail outlets selling marijuana. These moves, whether brought about through the ballot box or via state legislatures, have unleashed intense public debate on the use and abuse of marijuana and the feasibility of legalizing a potentially addictive substance.

5 Stages Of Sleep

There are five stages of sleep: four NREM (non-rapid eye movement) stages marked from 1 to 4 and a fifth stage called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that is associated with dreaming. Stages 3 and 4 represent deep, slow-wave states of sleep, where the brain switches off almost completely and the heart rate and breathing decrease considerably. These states are restorative and refreshing. The four NREM and the REM stages occur in cycles throughout the period of sleep.

Marijuana And The REM Cycle

According to several studies, marijuana has been found to both induce sleep and increase the duration of Stage 4 sleep. These effects improve the overall quality of sleep in an individual.
Marijuana has been found to decrease the length of the REM cycle of sleep by increasing the duration of the slow-wave stages of sleep. The brain is active during the REM cycle, so a person dreams. On the other hand, the slow-wave stages are dreamless states. So when a person sleeps deeply, he dreams less.


References and studies

Bolla KI, Lesage SR, Gamaldo CE, Neubauer DN, Funderburk FR, Cadet JL, DavidPM, Verdejo-Garcia A, & Benbrook AR (2008). Sleep disturbance in heavy marijuana users. Sleep, 31 (6), 901-8 PMID: 1854883Bon-Miller MO, Babson KA, & Vandrey R (2014). Using cannabis to help you sleep: heightened frequency of medical cannabis use among those with PTSD.

Drug and alcohol dependence, 136, 162-5 PMID: 24412475
Bonn-Miller, M., & Moos, R. (2009). Marijuana discontinuation, anxiety symptoms, and relapse to marijuana Addictive Behaviors, 3 (9), 782-785 DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2009.04.009

Cohen-Zion, M., Drummond, S., Padula, C., Winward, J., Kanady, J., Medina, K., & Tapert, S. (2009). Sleep architecture in adolescent marijuana and alcohol users during acute and extended abstinence Addictive Behaviors, 34(11), 976-979 DOI: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2009.05.011
Russo, E., Guy, G., & Robson, P. (2007). Cannabis, Pain, and Sleep: Lessons from Therapeutic Clinical Trials of Sativex®, a annabis-Based MedicineChemistry & Biodiversity, 4 (8), 1729-1743 DOI: 10.1002/cbdv.200790150
Schierenbeck, T., Riemann, D., Berger, M., & Hornyak, M. (2008). Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: Cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana Slee Medicine Reviews, 12 (5), 381-389 DOI: 10.1016/j.smrv.2007.12.004

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