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Early Morning Disorder – Medical Marijuana Research Overview

The following information is presented for educational purposes only. Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an understanding of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to third party websites do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Medical Marijuana Inc. and none should be inferred.

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). One study found that the acute administration of cannabis facilitated falling asleep and increased the duration of stage 4 sleep (Schierenbeck, Riemann, Berger & Hornyak, 2008). THC has also been shown to decrease the number of awakenings throughout the night (Cousens & DiMascio, 1973).

A cannabis-based medication, containing both THC and another major cannabinoid found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown in numerous studies to have positive effects on sleep (Russo, Guy & Robson, 2007). One study found that acute CBD treatments were effective in increasing total sleep time (Chagras, et al., 2013).

Cannabis high in CBD may also help those with early morning disorder manage the impact of decreased sleep. Most studies on CBD’s impact on sleep have found that the cannabinoid has alerting properties and is actually a wake-inducing agent (Murillo-Rodriguez, et al., 2014) (Nicholson, Turner, Stone & Robson, 2004). One study found that when CBD was administered during the lights-on period, it increased wakefulness (Murillo-Rodriguez, et al., 2006). In another study, those same researchers again found that CBD enhanced alertness (Murillo-Rodriguez, et al., 2011).

Medicinal cannabis users commonly consume cannabis to treat sleep disturbances. One study found that 81 of 163 adults purchasing medical cannabis at a cannabis dispensary reported doing so to help manage insomnia. Most of those individuals with insomnia preferred strains of cannabis with significantly higher concentrations of CBD (Belendiuk, Babson, Vandrey & Bonn-Miller, 2015).

Research has shown that both THC and CBD can reduce anxiety and stress, both of which can lead to early morning disorder. One study found that THC and CBD reduced the neural, electrodermal and symptomatic response to fearful faces, while CBD reduced autonomic arousal and subjective anxiety (Fusar-Poli, et al., 2009). In one study, CBD was shown to affect the activity in the limbic and paralimbic brain areas, which lead to a significant decrease in anxiety (Crippa, et al., 2011).

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


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  • December 11, 2015
  • Eve Ripley