With so many people suffering from sleeping disorders, there’s been a rise of interest in one controversial cure: cannabis. The use of cannabis in the medical marijuana community is growing and many refer to cannabis as an effective treatment for sleeping disorders with little to no side effects. By one estimate:
- 12% of Canadians use cannabis (2015 Health Canada Survey)
- 70% of young adults that casually use cannabis report that they do so to help them sleep
- 50% of cannabis users who have been using it for 10 years or more, use it to improve their sleep
- 85% of people that use cannabis for medical reasons, say it improves their sleep
“Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle,” says Dr. Matt Roman, a medical marijuana physician.
Cannabis certainly is widely reported to help reduce anxiety and stress. But, despite the rising use of cannabis products to help with insomnia, there is little clinical evidence supporting its direct use to treat sleep disorders. And, in fact long-term use could be detrimental to sleep quality.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is the dried flower buds and leaves of the cannabis plant. Its colour ranges from grayish-green to greenish-brown and may contain seeds and stems. In October 2018, the Government of Canada legalized the non-medicinal use of cannabis for adults over 19 and put into place protocols to strictly regulate it’s production, distribution, and sale. Today, Canadians can purchase cannabis, without a prescription, in a variety of forms - including dried flower, oils and edibles – from street-front and online dispensaries.
The Science Behind Cannabis’s Benefits
Since the legalization of cannabis, numerous private companies have started manufacturing and marketing cannabis products to the public claiming health benefits. The basis of the claim stems from the fact that cannabis contains more than 100 chemicals, called cannabinoids that have therapeutic benefits.
Some cannabinoids are psychoactive, meaning that they create the “high” associated with cannabis use. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the most common psychoactive cannabinoid.
Other cannabinoids, like CBD (cannabidiol), are non-intoxicating and have little psychoactive effects. According to CAMH, the therapeutic benefits of cannabis that have been reported are its ability to regulate (and manage):
- nausea (e.g., for chemotherapy patients)
- appetite (e.g., for people with cancer or HIV/AIDS)
- pain (e.g., chronic pain or cancer-related pain)
- depressed mood and insomnia
The theory behind improved sleep quality is that cannabinoids, like CBD, bind to receptors in the brain, sending messages to increase levels of sleep-promoting hormones (like adenosine). In addition, CBD can change the body’s circadian rhythm – or sleep clock – helping to keep one sleep longer.
Clinical Studies on Cannabis and Sleep
Large clinical studies that directly prove that cannabinoids improve sleep are few and far between. Some studies suggest that cannabinoids could improve deep sleep by reducing time in the REM sleep stage. And some studies suggest that CBD’s sedative effects could decrease the time to fall asleep and prevent waking from interruptions.
However, the sample sizes of these trials were quite small. And sleep is often a secondary, rather than primary outcome in these studies. For example, one clinical study on patients suffering from fibromyalgia showed that a cannabinoid (nabilone) improved sleep, in addition to alleviating pain.
How to take Cannabis for Improved Sleep
If you plan on trying cannabis as a sleep aid, your doctor can provide the best guidance based on your needs and medical history. After getting good medical advice, consider the form in which to ingest it, as cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, eaten, or placed under the tongue as a sublingual tincture. Retail dispensaries can then guide you on which cannabis products to try.
Experts suggest cannabis comes in over 700 strains, each with varying ratios of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. These strains affect everyone differently: depending how much you use it, your mood, your age, and whether you are currently on any other medication. Usually taken approximately one hour before sleep, people experiment with different strains before they find the format and dosage that works best for them.
Precautions & Dangers
Health experts agree that long-term use of any sleep aid isn’t recommended. Cannabis, specifically, can cause physical dependence if used regularly for a long period of time. People can experience mild withdrawal when use is stopped. Withdrawal from its use can lead to insomnia, worsening anxiety and mood.
Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, upset stomach, loss of appetite, sweating and disturbed sleep. These symptoms generally last for about a week, but sleep problems may continue longer.
Talk to your doctor before attempting to treat your sleep order with cannabis. There may be long-term health consequences of extended use, particularly in people under the age of 25.
Alternative Methods to Improving Your Sleep
The main therapeutic characteristic of cannabis is its ability to reduce anxiety and stress. Today, this can be achieved through a variety of other means without having to smoke or digest cannabis.
Many claim that topical CBD creams, oils, salves and gels provide pain relief and relaxation. The most powerful form of cannabis topical is the transdermal patch, which slowly releases CBD into the bloodstream through the skin.
These topical treatments are often scented with lavender, chamomile or coconut oil. For the newbie, a good starting point to improved relaxation could simply be a lavender-infused pillow or a calming lavender pillow spray.
You’ll find these and many other sleep accessories at Ultramatic. Do you know how your sleep is impacting your overall health? Do you know which steps you need to take to improve it? To learn more about improving your sleep quality, contact our friendly sleep experts.
Schedule a free consultation by calling 1-866-455-6421; emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; or by visiting our showrooms in Toronto / Mississauga / Oakville.