Millions of people suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia is one of the most common conditions in humans. But many of those who are suffering from this condition could not feel more alone. All those late nights struggling to get just a few hours of sound sleep with no success in sight.
Anyone who has sought help for their insomnia may have already gone through the following steps. These are common first steps your doctor will take to diagnose and treat your insomnia.
1. Investigate current sleep habits and address any issues
2. Discuss medical conditions or unusual stress
3. New medications that cause wakefulness or agitation
4. A sleep study to rule out sleep apnea
5. Using prescription medications, such as Lunesta or Zolpidem. These can help temporarily but can have side effects or be habit-forming.
6. Over-the-counter sleep aids. These can make you drowsy but are not intended for regular use. Many contain antihistamines and can cause dizziness or confusion and even cognitive decline.
7. Cognitive behavior therapy can allow the release of negative thoughts that might be keeping you awake.) The following might be included in this therapy:
Sleep restriction (like avoiding naps and using the bed only for sleep)
Remain awake, also called paradoxical intension, takes the stress of going to sleep at a certain time off the table
Light therapy. Some people fall asleep too early and rise before they would like. This therapy provides artificial light to help adjust the internal clock.
Sleep hygiene adjusts habits that can interfere with sleep like smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking caffeine late in the day, or lack of exercise. Even large meals or beverages before bed.
Besides missing out on restorative sleep, long-term insomnia can increase your risk of health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain. Insomnia is unlikely to get better without treatment.
Even if you have all of these symptoms, you should meet with your doctor or another credentialed physician to discuss symptoms and receive a diagnosis to be sure. Your doctor may want you to keep a sleep diary over several months before meeting so that a pattern can be established and note if patterns exist more than three days out of the week. This measurement lets the doctor know if your insomnia is acute or short-term. Your physician may also want you to participate in an overnight sleep study to provide more information. These are typically conducted at home or in a sleep study center.
But, if you’ve already gone through these steps and still find no relief, there could still be a solution to your sleepless nights.
The cannabis plant has been used for centuries as a sleep aid. Studies have verified what users of the plant have known for centuries: cannabis has relaxing and sedative effects. In particular, cannabis makes falling asleep easier. One recent study found that cannabis shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, both for people with sleep problems and people who fall asleep without trouble.
Among people with active difficulty falling asleep, cannabis use resulted in an average of 30 minutes less time to fall asleep than without it. The study also included a group of people who were able to fall asleep without difficulty. Among this group of strong sleepers, cannabis helped them fall asleep even faster, by 15 minutes.
Other studies show cannabis use reduces the time it takes to fall asleep, and lengthens the time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep. Cannabis also appears to shorten time spent in REM sleep, likely as a result of one of its primary active ingredients, THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol.
Cannabis has dozens of different natural chemical compounds that have effects on sleep and sleep cycles. There are two main components in cannabis that can affect sleep: cannabinoids and terpenes.
Scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Many are being studied for their benefits for sleep and other health conditions, including psychological conditions like depression and anxiety, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, seizure disorders, different forms of cancer, and chronic pain.
Three of the best-known cannabinoids all have effects on sleep.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-mind-altering cannabinoid that promotes relaxation. CBD can reduce anxiety, relieve pain, promote mental focus and clarity. CBD also has the ability to reduce daytime sleepiness and promote alertness. Studies of CBD show that it reduces anxiety without affecting sleep-wake cycles.
Cannabinol, or CBN, is not as well-known as CBD but it has powerful sedative effects, which may be enhanced when its combined with THC. CBN also has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory properties.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. THC can provide pain relief and research shows THC has sedative effects, and can make it easier to fall asleep. There’s also emerging evidence suggesting that THC may improve breathing during sleep, which makes THC a potential therapy in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
THC is shown in studies to alter time spent in stages of sleep. Specifically, it reduces time in REM sleep and increases time spent in slow-wave sleep. Because of this diminished time in REM, THC reduces dreaming. That can be helpful to people who have conditions such as PTSD that involve frequent, disturbing dreams and nightmares. People who regularly take cannabis products containing THC may experience fewer dreams. It’s common to have a lot of dreams when stopping those products. That’s called “REM Rebound.”.
Along with cannabinoids, terpenes also play an important part in the healing effects of cannabis. Terpenes are found in all plants. It’s what provides the fragrance and color. In addition to these pleasant effects, scientists think terpenes may work to enhance the effects of different cannabinoids, as well as affect the body directly in a number of ways. Different combinations of terpenes in different strains of cannabis create distinctive tastes and smells. They also contribute to different strains having different effects when we consume them.
If you’re considering trying cannabis for insomnia, talk to your medical marijuana pharmacist to find out what strains will work best for you. It can be a bit intimidating at first. Working with a knowledgeable medical provider and dispensary is essential,
If you’d like to find out if cannabis might help with your insomnia, The Healing Clinics offers an assessment and physician evaluation with a 100% full refund if the doctor does not think it will help you. Just click the button to fill out your forms.