Posted August 24, 2016 by Ljubica Kostovic

Trouble Sleeping? Why Patients in Canada May Look to Medical Marijuana

Patients use Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) dominant cannabis strains to help them improve their quality and duration of sleep. 

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Cannabis and Sleep: A Promising Sedative


Sleep has a significant impact on health. Good quality sleep helps the brain battle inflammation and the immune system ward off illness. A lack of sleep counteracts the body’s ability to cope with daily stressors in life and can pose additional challenges for patients living with chronic conditions. Patients who suffer from insomnia and other sleep conditions often report experiencing constant fatigue, difficulty focusing and memory problems. A lack of quality sleep can further exacerbate a patient’s medical condition and can make the management of symptoms extremely difficult. For patients living with chronic pain, it can make it difficult to break the cycle of chronic pain by exacerbating feelings of stress, depression and anxiety.

Although sleep deprivation is a global issue and 40% of Canadians suffer from insomnia, only 25% of patients seek medication to aid with sleep. Even fewer patients find symptom relief with minimal side-effects from traditional pharmaceutical options. With the many changes in the medical cannabis space in Canada, more and more patients are looking to cannabis as an effective solution for helping provide good quality sleep.

Cannabis is often used by patients to help them get to sleep and stay asleepStudies show that high cannabinoid levels promote sleep, and that THC is highly sedative. In an interview with Leafly, Dr. Kymron de Cesare, the Chief Research Officer of Steep Hill Labs, notes that as cannabis ages, some of the THC degrades into cannabinol, or CBN, which is 5 times more sedating than THC.

Studies on Sleep and Medical Cannabis


Although a large number of patients currently use cannabis to help improve their quality and duration of sleep, the majority of the research studies showing positive therapeutic effects of cannabis on sleep are studies examining the effects of cannabis in the treatment of conditions such as neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder. In these cases, research indicates that in addition to helping manage other symptoms of the condition such as pain, fatigue and painful flashbacks, cannabis also has impressive results on secondary outcomes, such as sleep.

Studies directly examining the effects of cannabis on sleep indicate that CBD can increase slow-wave activity, with no changes in light sleep. In addition, there is also some evidence to show that it may shorten the amount of Rapid Eye Movement, or “dream sleep”, that we have per night. This shortening of the REM cycle makes cannabis an excellent treatment option for individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and experience frequent night terrors.

Although less REM sleep might seem like a negative side-effect, it is actually a positive therapeutic effect of cannabis. Some dangerous symptoms of sleep apnea only occur during this final stage of sleep. In Canada, over 800, 000 people have sleep apnea, and a quarter are at risk of developing it. Sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions. With further advances in research, cannabis can provide insight into the condition and its role as a potential treatment for sleep apnea. As studies using dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC, already indicate, cannabinoids can help improve sleep without reducing the quality of rest.

What About Cannabis Grogginess?


Those who experience grogginess after using cannabis before bed are in luck. Advances in research have allowed patients to choose different doses and combinations of THC and CBD which results in the least amount of morning sleepiness for them. The gist? Take some CBD before you go to bed, as well, but not too much! Research shows that CBD has alerting properties in high doses (15 mg) and can serve to give you a bit of an energy boost when you need it. For those with a sleep disorder like somnolence, or even sleepiness from a restless night, CBD can provide alertness to get through the day, while THC can help you get the sleep you need at night.

The Take Away Message


Sleep deprivation can affect the quality of daily life and also contribute to other aspects of our health. A lack of sleep can put us at an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and obesity. Not to mention, sleeping repairs the body and primes the immune system to be in fighting condition during your waking hours.

Cannabis offers a sedative solution with very few side-effects. But if all else fails and you’re still lacking sleep, a high CBD strain can help fend off fatigue during the day and keep you awake after a night of restlessness.

About GrowWise Health


GrowWise Health provides free ACMPR medical marijuana education services to patients for whom medical cannabis may be an appropriate treatment option. GrowWise Health Patient Educators provide services for patients in Toronto, Brampton, North York, Niagara Region/Fort Erie and across Ontario and Canada.

GrowWise Health Patient Educators assist patients in selecting the strain(s) most appropriate for their condition and symptoms and provide guidance on dosing, safety and modes of administration. The GrowWise Health team provides medical cannabis patients with ongoing support to help improve their quality of life.

For more information on how to access GrowWise Health patient services, or to connect with a healthcare provider, please contact us here.

Follow the author of this blog on Twitter: @ljubicakostovic

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