Get the Facts on Medical Cannabis and Sleep

Cannabis & Sleep

 

We don’t need to tell you how important a good night’s sleep is. As humans, we function best with proper sleep, yet it is often the first thing to go when things get busy. Currently, Health Canada recommends average adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.

However, roughly 50% of adults have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep and 1 in 5 adults do not feel refreshed upon waking. Insufficient sleep can contribute to chronic stress, poor mental health and more sedentary time.[1]

 

Can medical cannabis help patients sleep?

According to a survey by Health Canada, 49% of respondents indicated that cannabis had a positive effect on their sleep. While we are still learning about cannabis and how it affects adult sleep patterns, there is anecdotal and clinical evidence that cannabis may help patients get a better night’s sleep.

Cannabis is considered effective for many sleep disorders, often without the negative side effects of pharmaceutical treatments such as benzodiazepines. Patients with physician approval to use cannabis frequently said that they had improved quality and quantity of sleep, even when they weren’t using cannabis for a sleep disorder.[2]

Studies have shown that consuming cannabis before bed helps patients fall asleep an average of 30 minutes faster, experience fewer interruptions to sleep, and feel more rested. Outcomes from different strains and terpene profiles can be highly individualized and will affect sleep patterns in patients in unique ways.[3]


How does it work?

What makes cannabis useful for sleep? The two main cannabinoids in cannabis, THC and CBD, both show properties that influence sleep. As research develops, it appears as if THC and CBD influence sleep in totally different ways. [4] Whether a person should use THC or CBD for sleep really depends on the individual and what affects they are looking for.

THC has been found to have sedating properties, helping individuals with insomnia falls asleep faster. The study notes that dosage is important, as too much can cause residual sleepiness the next day.[5] According to a 2018 study, THC also is more likely to put you in a deep and more restful sleep. Frequent cannabis users spend less time in REM sleep and therefore dream less. This can be helpful for individuals with sleep disorders and possibly even PTSD.[6]


Potential long-term benefits and risks

Believe it or not, cannabis can actually do more than make you sleepy in the moment. CBD has shown to increase daytime alertness, improve sleep quality, promote mental focus and lessen anxiety.[7].
While it may not make you sleepy, CBD helps regulate overall sleep cycles. According to a 2006 study, CBD may not have the sedative property of THC but it has the potential to regulate sleep cycles, leading to improved overall sleep over time.[8]

As with any line of treatment, there is a possibility of adverse effects and cannabis is no different. Some people have difficulty dreaming when they use cannabis daily, the plant has been shown to disrupt the ability to reach and maintain REM sleep. Long-term patients can experience disrupted sleep patterns and an increase in lucid dreaming when they abruptly stop regular consumption as a sleep aid.[9]

 

It is important to always discuss medical cannabis with your doctor, especially prior to making any changes to regular treatment.

 

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[1] Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National Sleep Foundation’s updated sleep duration recommendations: Final report. Sleep Health 2015; 1:233-43

[2] Tringale, Rolando, and Claudia Jensen. “Cannabis and insomnia.” Depression 4.12 (2011): 0-68.

[3] Schierenbeck T, Riemann D, Berger M, Hornyak M. Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Sleep Med Rev. 2008 Oct;12(5):381-9. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2007.12.004. Epub 2008 Mar 3. PMID: 18313952.

[4] Babson, K.A., Sottile, J. & Morabito, D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19, 23 (2017)

[5] Nicholson AN, Turner C, Stone BM, Robson PJ. Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2004 Jun;24(3):305-13.

[6] Schierenbeck T, Riemann D, Berger M, Hornyak M. Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Sleep Med Rev. 2008 Oct;12(5):381-9. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2007.12.004. Epub 2008 Mar 3. PMID: 18313952.

[7] Babson, K.A., Sottile, J. & Morabito, D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep 19, 23 (2017)

[8] Murillo-Rodríguez E, Millán-Aldaco D, Palomero-Rivero M, Mechoulam R, Drucker-Colín R. Cannabidiol, a constituent of Cannabis sativa, modulates sleep in rats. FEBS Lett. 2006 Aug 7;580(18):4337-45. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2006.04.102. Epub 2006 Jul 10. PMID: 16844117.

[9] Feinberg I, Jones R, Walker J, Cavness C, Floyd T. Effects of marijuana extract and tetrahydrocannabinol on electroencephalographic sleep patterns. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1976 Jun;19(6):782-94.

 

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