It’s an exciting time in the world of medical cannabis. New research is suggesting medical marijuana could one day provide part of effective treatment plans for a range of different medical conditions, from epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease to HIV and AIDS.
While research in these fields is still young and requires many more rigorous scientific studies, medical cannabis is showing promise in other areas. The best-studied use of medical marijuana is currently in the treatment of chronic pain. Another area where there’s been much investigation has been in sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
The research wants to answer the question, “Can medical cannabis help with insomnia?” While more research is, of course, required to prove anything definitively, the answer appears to be yes.
How Medical Marijuana Could Help
Those familiar with stereotypes about cannabis users may use the words “sleepy” or “drowsy” to describe people who have used cannabis. There is some truth to the idea cannabis can make you sleepy or tired. Indica strains, which have high concentrations of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), are known for their sleep-inducing effects.
Many medical cannabis users prefer indica strains at night. THC does appear to induce some drowsiness or sleepiness in higher doses. Low doses may not have the same effect.
What’s the mechanism? THC is a psychoactive substance, which acts on the brain. THC connects with receptors in the brain that control the sleep/wake cycle. Other substances may also be implicated in the sleep-inducing effects of cannabis.
Can It Help with Insomnia?
Currently, North Americans are facing a health crisis in the area of sleep. Millions of Canadians suffer from some form of sleep disorder, whether it’s sleep apnea or insomnia. Many people have trouble getting to sleep, while others may have trouble staying asleep once they get there.
The North American lifestyle is heavily implicated in the Canadian national epidemic of insomnia. Canadians lack “sleep hygiene.” They stay up too late watching television, playing video games, or surfing the internet. Others may find it difficult to sleep when they’re experiencing stress in their work life or personal life. Still others suffer from a health condition, such as chronic pain, that can make it difficult to get some shut eye. Medications can also interfere with sleep.
Some studies also contend the current North American lifestyle forces people into routines that don’t match up with their circadian rhythms. Some people naturally rise early while others prefer to stay up late and sleep in. Increased noise and light pollution, in addition to blue lights from electronic devices, are also interrupting sleep.
Is Medical Cannabis the Answer?
With so much interrupting Canadians’ sleep and interfering with their ability to get some quality rest, it’s little wonder sleep has become a concern in the medical community. People function better when they’re well-rested, and they lead more productive lives.
Currently, sleeping pills and other sleep-inducing medications are the most popular choice for dealing with insomnia. These medications, however, can have detrimental side effects, including addiction and risk of overdose and accidental death. As the number of Canadians suffering sleep disorders continues rising, so too does the number of people relying on sleeping pills.
As with the opioid crisis, healthcare practitioners are becoming more concerned about over prescribing sleeping pills. They want to avoid creating another epidemic. As a result, medical researchers are looking for alternative treatments. Medical cannabis may be one of them.
Aleafia Health has a sponsored research study by Acadia University to look at how cannabis affects sleep. We are starting this now in our Toronto clinic under Dr. Michael Verbora as leader.
As discussed, the different substances in medical cannabis can help control the sleep/wake cycle in the body and brain, which could help more Canadians treat their insomnia. If you’re looking for effective treatment of insomnia, consider medical cannabis as one option.