Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

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Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to maintain sleep. In clinical studies, cannabis has been found to help most pain patients achieve restful sleep without residual grogginess the following morning. Long-term studies of up to four years have shown no tolerance buildup when using cannabis as a sleep aid. 

Cannabis and its extracts have been proven to successfully treat many sleep disorders, including insomnia, sleep disruption, and sleep apnea. A primary reason for this is that most cannabis strains/medicines are highly sedative. However, many studies have shown that the successful treatment of sleep disorders is dose-dependent and affected by the THC/CBD ratio of the cannabis medication. 

Molecules to target insomnia and sleep disorders

Sleep laboratories studies have shown that different cannabinoids vary in their ability to sedate or stimulate. THC produces residual sedation while CBD is wake-promoting. However, CBD is known for reducing anxiety which can make it easier to fall asleep. CBN, produced when THC oxidizes over time, is synergistically sedative when combined with THC. 

 The essential oils (terpenes) are particularly important when it comes to insomnia and sleep disorders. Myrcene and Terpineol are sedatives, and linalool has a calming effect and should probably be targeted by anyone having sleep issues. 

Dosing for insomnia and sleep disorders

As already stated, insomnia and sleep disorders are conditions for which the cannabinoid profile and the timing and size of dose are critical to a successful outcome. Nearly all recreational users note the residual sedative properties of cannabis that occur approximately 90 minutes after dosing, as the supplements’ initial stimulation gives way to sleepiness. THC appears to be initially stimulating while its metabolites are more sedative, which means patients should vaporize cannabis about an hour before bedtime to let these sedative metabolites accumulate.

If the patient awakens in the middle of the night, a dose of oral cannabis can be effective in keeping the patient asleep. However, overmedicating with cannabis can produce intense psychoactivity, making falling asleep difficult and interfering with regular sleep cycles. A low to moderate dose is recommended.   

Methods of ingestion

For most patients, vaporized cannabis is quite effective for insomnia when taken an hour before bedtime.

If the patient is waking in the middle of the night, oral cannabis—with its longer-lasting effects may be more appropriate. Care must be taken not to overmedicate since the stimulating and psychoactive effects may awaken the patient and make sleep impossible.