Millions of people around the world suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Sleep is essential for the well-being of our bodies that we sometimes take it for granted by willfully skewing with our circadian rhythm. Let’s take a look at how cannabis helps with insomnia and other sleep disorders.
There are many therapeutic solutions for sleep disorders, which range from taking melatonin to taking Ambien to help patients fall asleep easily. But there is one therapy that seems to be not only controversial, but also effective in helping to treat insomnia — cannabis.
Certain cannabis strains, predominantly indica, can help aid with sleep by restoring a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with dominating schedules in today’s modern lifestyle.
Many to complain of insomnia due to chronic pain, which keeps them up all night, find the relief they need in cannabis, since it can help with pain which can better help patients fall asleep.
CBD vs. THC and Indicas vs. Sativas
Both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) elicit very different effects. While CBD is known to ease a number of ailments without evoking psychoactive effects, it is actually THC, which does had psychoactive effects, that helps with inducing sleep. It does this by inducing sedative effects on the endocannabinoid system.
In many clinics, doctors will prescribe an indica strain that contains more THC than CBD to help patients who are suffering with insomnia to get to sleep. Researchers are unsure why indica strains typically help with sleep over sativa strains, which are generally thought to be energy inducing and mood uplifting.
Some researchers believe the sedative effects of indica are due to the terpene content. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that makes each strains distinctively different. Indicas may contain more of the relaxing terpenes than its sativa counterpart.
Risks associated with long term THC use
Cannabis is also found to reduce the amount of dreams a patient has. According to a study published in 2008, ingesting cannabis strains with higher levels of THC reduces the amount of REM sleep. Reducing REM sleep also reduces the amount of dreams, which is how cannabis is thought to help patients with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who experience nightmares as a result of their disorder.
However, patients should be cautious since decreasing REM sleep also has its risks. REM sleep is essential to maintain healthy cognitive and immune functioning, and strains with higher THC levels could impair sleep quality if taken for an extended amount of time.
It is also worth noting that cannabis-infused edibles take longer to elicit effects than inhalation, but their effects can last several hours and help the patient stay asleep longer. Patients are recommended to eat their cannabis two hours before they go to sleep to have better effects.
Many physicians recommend cannabis with less than twenty percent of THC. Anything more than that may make a patient feel groggy and sleepy the next morning.
As a clinician who has assessed many patients for cannabis therapy, I can say that many patients found that cannabis helped them to fall asleep and stay asleep with limited ruminations. They report better quality of life because of cannabis use for sleep.
However, I have also seen in my practice, many patients who say higher THC strains exacerbated their anxiety symptoms. For these patients, we usually advise to use more CBD strain with minimal amount of THC so their bodies can get used to the compound. CBD also has the ability to block the psychoactive effects of THC thereby reducing the “high” felt in association with it.
Cannabis is beneficial for sleep disorders and can be even more effective than other traditional medications like Ambien and lavender oil. However, a patient must weigh all risks and benefits before starting the treatment.