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Sleep Disorders – 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.

Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that disrupt proper sleeping habits and thereby adversely affect health. Studies have shown cannabis improves the quality and duration of sleep and helps manage various sleep disorders.

Overview of Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are disruptions in normal sleeping patterns. Among the most common types of sleep disorders is insomnia, which is having difficulty of falling or staying asleep. Sleep apnea is characterized by breathing interruptions while sleeping. Restless legs syndrome is the tingling or prickly sensation in the legs while lying down. Narcolepsy is having sudden and irresistible bouts of sleep during the day. Parasomnias, which include nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep talking, wetting the bed, grinding the teeth, night terrors and head banging, can also disrupt proper sleep.

Sleep disorders can adversely affect one’s health and safety. Sleep deprivation decreases physical performance and alertness and impairs memory and cognitive abilities. This can increase the risk of occupational and automobile injuries and prevent participation in activities that require sustained attention. In addition, sleep deprivation and night disruptions can lead to relationship problems.

The method for treating sleeping disorders depends on the type. For some sleeping disorders, simply incorporating regular sleep habits can be effective. Making lifestyle changes, like adjusting one’s exposure to daylight, strategically scheduling naps, as well as sticking to a set sleeping schedule and routine, often help. For disorders that are caused by a disruption in circadian rhythm, a common treatment method is bright light therapy, which helps to synchronize the body’s clock by exposing the eyes to safe levels of intense light for brief durations throughout the day. Medications and melatonin treatments can help encourage quality sleep and assist in maintaining a proper sleep-wake cycle.

Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Sleep Disorders

Studies have shown that cannabis can improve the quality and duration of sleep and help treat various sleeping disorders. A major cannabinoid found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), effectively reduces the amount of time it takes those with insomnia to fall asleep4. One study found that regular consumers of oral THC fell asleep faster and without difficulty compared to non-consumers9. Another study found that cannabis, when administered acutely, eased the falling asleep process and increased the duration of stage 4 sleep24.

THC has also been shown to decrease the number of awakenings throughout the night4. An animal trial found that a synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC was effective at attenuating seratonin-induced apnea by relaxing a muscle in the chin and tongue that has been implicated in the cause of the disorder2. Studies have also found that cannabinoids are effective for treating nightmares in military personnel with PTSD6,10.

A cannabis-based medication, containing both THC and an other major cannabinoid found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), demonstrated in numerous studies to have positive effects on sleep22. One study found that acute CBD treatments were effective in increasing total sleep time3.

Most studies, however, have found that CBD possesses alerting properties13,15,17. One study found that CBD, when consumed while the lights were on, effectively increased wakefulness11. As a result, cannabis high in CBD could potentially help in the management of sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Medical cannabis patients commonly use cannabis specifically for treating sleep disorders. One study found that nearly half of the adults purchasing medical cannabis at a cannabis dispensary were doing so to help manage insomnia. Most of those individuals reportedly preferred strains of cannabis with significantly higher concentrations of CBD1.

States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Sleep Disorders

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 Sleep Disorders

References:

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  2. Calik, M.W., Radulovacki, M., and Carley, D.W. (2014, January 1). Intranodose ganglion injections of dronabinol attenuate serotonin-induced apnea in Sprague-Dawley rat. Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology, 190, 20-24. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880550/.
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  • January 5, 2016
  • Eve Ripley