Sleep issues affect an enormous chunk of the world’s population. In Canada, about 40 percent of people present at least one symptom of insomnia, according to research from Université Laval.
If you’re part of this statistic, you’re probably already aware that the majority of sleep therapy options are centered around sleeping pills. While this type of conventional medication can be an effective option – in the short term, at least – it does carry a range of unpleasant side effects that have prompted patients and physicians alike to explore the use of medical cannabis.
Which option is right for you? To help you answer this question, we’ve dived into the research to bring you a balanced comparison of medical cannabis and sleeping pills for treating sleep issues.
Sleeping Pills as a Sleep Aid
Sleeping pills come in many shapes and sizes, but generally fall under the umbrella of a ‘sedative hypnotic’. Benzodiazepines induce drowsiness and reduce anxiety, barbiturates depress the central nervous system, and some modern sleep aids focus on regulating your body’s natural melatonin production.
Sleeping pills are fairly effective for helping you get a good night’s sleep. In a study of insomnia complaints published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, investigators analyzed data from more than 11,000 French patients and found that “Most consumers took sleep-enhancing drugs on a daily and long-term basis and most reported that the medication improved their quality of sleep.”
Despite the apparent benefits, it’s important to note that sleeping pills are far from a perfect solution. While they do provide a decent short-term fix, the vast majority of sleeping pills are not suited to long term use due to a number of reasons. Firstly, both benzodiazepines and barbiturates are addictive substances and many patients develop a physical dependency on them within a few weeks. Research published in Psychopharmacology identified that 47 percent of patients who had been using benzodiazepines for more than one month had developed dependence. Those who stop taking sleeping pills are often subjected to severe withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, nausea, seizures, anxiety, depression and more.
Looking beyond the addiction potential, the use of sleeping pills is also associated with a range of side effects, such as dizziness, headaches, tingling in the extremities, stomach pain and general weakness. Some sleeping pills are also known to induce parasomnia, a sleep disorder in which you may move and behave erratically during certain stages of sleep without your knowing.
Medical Cannabis as a Sleep Aid
Given the long list of side effects linked to sleeping pills, it’s not surprising that so many people are exploring the use of medical cannabis as a sleeping aid. There’s a growing body of research that indicates both THC and CBD – two of the most medically beneficial chemical compounds found in cannabis – can be used to decrease sleep latency, improve sleep apnea, reduce mid-slumber awakenings and more.
Perhaps the most important difference between medical cannabis and sleeping pills is the fact that the former is safe to use over the long term. As noted, sleeping pills are addictive and the body quickly builds a tolerance to them, which leads to larger doses and greater dependency. While it’s also possible to build a tolerance for medicinal cannabis over time, it’s exceedingly rare (if not impossible) to develop a physical dependence. Essentially this means that medical cannabis is viable as a safe and permanent solution to sleep issues, while sleeping pills are simply not sustainable without putting your health at risk.
Treat Sleep Issues with Cannabis
Canabo Medical Inc. has identified a few strains of cannabis that work well for treating sleep issues. The company has recently launched an online self-referral program for individuals with sleep issues.
Each patient is unique and should be assessed by one of Canabo’s Cannabinoid Specialists to get the correct strains and amount of cannabis.
By: Jareth Trigwell