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Early morning disorder is a sleeping disorder that causes a person to involuntarily wake up extremely early. Studies have shown cannabis, depending on its cannabinoid content, can promote longer sleep or help one function in the day following sleeping disruptions.
Overview of Early Morning Disorder
Early morning disorder is a circadian rhythm disorder that causes a person to wake up several hours earlier than most people. In the disorder, which is also commonly referred to as advanced sleep phase disorder (ASPD), the circadian rhythm becomes disrupted. The circadian rhythm is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus.
The disruption in circadian rhythm can be caused by external demands that require someone to periodically wake especially early, like rotating work shifts or traveling across multiple time zones. Psychological stress caused by personal or family member health problems, or life and work changes, can also cause a disruption in circadian rhythm.
The irregular and limited sleep hours caused by early morning disorder can lead to excessive sleepiness, insomnia, sleep loss, depression, impaired work and physical performance, stressed relationships and disrupted social schedules.
The treatment goal for early morning disorder and other sleeping disorders is to reset the circadian rhythm. Lifestyle changes, such as adjusting daylight exposure, making changes in daily routines and strategically scheduling naps, can help. Bright light therapy, which works to synchronize the body’s clock by exposing the eyes to safe levels of intense light for brief durations throughout the day, is also a common sleep disorder treatment technique. Medications and melatonin treatments can also be used to promote sleep and to help maintain a proper sleep-wake cycle.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Early Morning Disorder
Research suggests that cannabis can help improve both the quality and duration of sleep. One of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been found to reduce the time it takes those with insomnia to fall asleep (Cousens & DiMascio, 1973).
Another study found that those who regularly consume oral THC were able to fall asleep faster and had less difficulty falling asleep (Gorelick, et al., 2013).
THC has also been shown to decrease the number of awakenings throughout the night (Cousens & DiMascio, 1973).
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Early Morning Disorder
Currently, no states have approved medical marijuana for the treatment of early morning disorder. However, in Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment. In addition, a number of other states will consider allowing medical marijuana to be used for the treatment of early morning disorder with the recommendation from a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Massachusetts (other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Effect on Early Morning Disorder
- Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD). (n.d.). Sleep Health Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/fact-sheets-a-z/419-advanced-sleep-phase-disorder-aspd.html.
- Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders. (2008). American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.aasmnet.org/resources/factsheets/crsd.pdf.
- Cousens, K., and DiMascio, A. (1973). (−)δ9 THC as an hypnotic. Psychopharmacologia, 33, 355-364. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00437513.
- Gorelick, D.A., Goodwin, R.S., Schwilke, E., Schroeder, J.R., Schwope, D.M., Kelly, D.L., Ortemann-Renon, C., Bonnett, D., and Huestis, M.A. (2013, September-October). Around-the-clock oral THC effects on sleep in male chronic daily cannabis smokers. The American Journal on Addictions, 22(5), 510-514. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4537525/.
- Murillo-Rodríguez, E., Palomero-Rivero, M., Millán-Aldaco, D., Arias-Carrión, O., and Drucker-Colín, R. (2011). Administration of URB597, Oleoylethanolamide or Palmitoylethanolamide Increases Waking and Dopamine in Rats. PLoS ONE, 6(7), e20766. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136458/.
- Murillo-Rodriguez, E., Poot-Ake, A., Arias-Carrion, O., Pancheco-Pantoja, E., Fuente-Ortegon Ade, L., Arankowsky-Sandoval, G. (2011, September 1). The Emerging Role of the Endocannabinoid System in the Sleep-Wake Cycle Modulation. Central Nervous System Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 11(3), 189-96. Retrieved from http://www.eurekaselect.com/89056/article.
- Pava, M.J., Makriyannis, A., and Lovinger, D.M. (2016). Endocannabinoid Signaling Regulates Sleep Stability. PLoS ONE, 11(3), e0152473. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816426/.
- Prasad, B., Radulovacki, M.G., and Carley, D.W. (2013). Proof of Concept Trial of Dronabinol in Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 4, 1. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3550518/.
- Rueda-Orozco, P.E., Soria-Gomez, E., Montes-Rodriguez, C.J., Perez-Morales, M., and Prospero-Garcia, O. (2010, April 5). Intrahippocampal administration of anandamide increases REM sleep. Neuroscience Letters, 473(2), 158-162. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394010002284.