Are you having problems getting a good night’s sleep? While there are many different over-the-counter medicines and 3rd party sleep aids to help people sleep, many are researching alternative methods to help relieve their insomnia. We’ll explore what insomnia is, how it’s currently treated and how medical cannabis can potentially help patients experiencing insomnia.

What Is Insomnia?

According to the Mayo Clinic (2020), “insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to go back to sleep.” People who suffer from insomnia typically experience symptoms such as tiredness, difficulty paying attention and staying focused, waking during the night or waking up too early. These symptoms can have a negative impact on many aspects of your life. You could experience lowered performance at work/school or increased risk to longer-term conditions such as heart disease or increased blood pressure.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that between 50 to 70 million U.S. adults experience symptoms of a sleep disorder. About 30 to 40 percent of the population will experience insomnia at some point in their lives, and about 10 to 15 percent of adults will deal with chronic insomnia.

While there isn’t an exact cause of insomnia, medical professionals have attributed the condition to commons causes such as stress, work schedule (including working shifts during the night and alternating day/night shifts), poor sleep habits and diet. Some of these common causes can be controlled by the patient, however, there are often other underlying causes that require additional support from licensed doctors. These other underlying causes include prescription drug usage, mental health disorders, and other medical conditions such as chronic pain, heart disease, sleep apnea and asthma.

Current Treatment for Insomnia

How can patients get relief from their bouts with insomnia? It is always recommended to speak with your doctor about the condition first. In the meantime, let’s explore the current conventional treatment options available for patients.

The first suggested treatment option is to make behavior and lifestyle changes to help improve your sleep experience from beginning to end. Because there are no lasting side effects to these suggestions, these changes are the easiest for a patient to implement to improve their ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake feeling rested. Some suggested lifestyle changes involve changing the area where you sleep, completely changing your sleep schedule, maintain a regular workout regimen and maintain a healthy diet. Understanding the potential cause, including stress, helps begin the pathway to a more satisfying, restful sleep.

Another treatment option available for insomnia patients is cognitive therapy. According to Stanford Health Care (2020), “cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a type of therapy specifically used for insomnia.” The types of CBT-I treatments can involve working with a therapist that can help change thoughts and behaviors to achieve the sleep you desire. The licensed therapist can also assist in helping create a sleep schedule that could potentially improve your quality of sleep.

Sleep medicines are another option available to insomnia patients. These sleep aides can be used for a short time to improve sleep; however, they should not be relied upon for ongoing treatment due to their side effects. Some side effects could include lowered blood pressure, anxiety, sleepwalking and nausea.

If self-guided changes, therapy or sleep medicines don’t work, there are some alternative medicines patients can consume if they feel over-the-counter medication or prescriptions aren’t a good fit for their needs. These alternative medicines can include melatonin and valerian. Some patients have turned to medical marijuana to cope with or relieve their insomnia.

Medical Cannabis Treatment for Insomnia

Patients looking for an alternative form of sleep aides are doing their own research on how cannabis can help improve the quality of their sleep. In a study conducted by Dr. Tringale and Dr. Jensen in 2011, 147 people participated in the study to determine the effect of their sleep before and after cannabis usage. At the conclusion of their study, “79% reported increased sleep quality after using cannabis” (Tringale and Jensen, 2011). In addition, if chronic pain is the reason for insomnia, medical marijuana may be helpful (Sharon R Snznitman, et al. 2019).

The majority of sleep patients in the study can attribute their sleep improvement to CBD and THC, which are two common cannabinoids found in medical cannabis. CBD has the most impactful effect on insomnia patients by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system within the body creating a sensation of feeling calm and relaxed. Lower levels of THC have shown to help induce sleep. By combining a higher ratio of CBD with a lower amount of THC, a patient can experience calm and relaxation from the CBD while the THC helps with the onset of sleepiness.

While this one study demonstrates the positive effects of medical marijuana on patients, further research will need to be conducted to truly understand it’s full benefits for those who suffer from insomnia. One should always be aware that the consumption of any sleep medication may produce a dependency upon it.

After you become an approved medical marijuana patient in the state where you live, you are encouraged to speak with a patient consultant to understand dosing and consumption methods. The patient consultants at Health for Life in Mesa, Arizona as well as Baltimore, Bethesda and White Marsh Maryland, are committed to providing you with the education and knowledge you can use to make decisions on your medicinal treatment.

Disclaimer:

Cannabis use can contribute to short-term and long-term adverse effects such as impaired memory, impaired motor ability, altered judgment and paranoia. Regular inhalation may be associated with inflammation of large airways, increase airway resistance and lung hyperinflation. There is also an increased risk of chronic psychosis disorders (including schizophrenia) in persons with a predisposition to such disorders. There is a small percentage of people who may develop a form of addiction to marijuana, particularly if consumed in large quantities daily. Marijuana should not be consumed if pregnant. For use only adults, 21 years of age or older. Keep out of the reach of children.

It is always recommended that when using cannabis, especially for a cannabis-naïve person:

START LOW, GO SLOW

References:

Mayo Clinic. (2020). Insomnia. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167

Stanford Health Care. (2020). Treatments for Insomnia.
Retrieved from https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/sleep/insomnia/treatments.html

Sznitman, et. al. (2019). Medical cannabis and insomnia in older adults with chronic pain: a cross-sectional study.
Retrieved from https://spcare.bmj.com/content/early/
2020/01/08/bmjspcare-2019-001938.full

Tringale, R., MD and Jensen, C., MD. (2011). Cannabis and Insomnia. Retrieved from https://www.beyondthc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Tringale-Jensen-20111.pdf

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