Cannabis as a treatment for insomnia
There is more than one reason why people who suffer from insomnia turn to cannabis.
You try everything, to count the sheep, to count the thoughts, to turn around in bed. We turn around, get up, but do not fall asleep. Insomnia is a unique agony, but now that the stigma of cannabis is slowly rising, more and more people are looking for its therapeutic sedative properties.
Acute insomnia - which usually only lasts a night or two - happens to almost all of us. It is usually triggered by a stressful external event.
But, chronic insomnia - seen regularly with three or more restless nights a week during the month - affects a billion people around the world.
Interestingly, insomnia affects women at twice the percentage rate of men. And it doesn't improve with age.
Half of all seniors are regularly affected by insomnia.
Beyond the feeling of drowsiness and feeling irritable the next day, chronic insomnia is associated with some serious long-term health problems: cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
So what is it that causes insomnia, what are the traditional treatment options, and how could cannabis be a healthier and more viable alternative?
Patel turned to cannabis after prescribing the Ambien. Fear of potential side effects has found research to validate what cannabis users have long suspected: cannabis helps people sleep.
Oddly enough, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Big Pharma Sanofi-Aventis may agree. They also funded a study that showed that using THC has allowed some people to fall asleep easier and faster.
Here are some of the most important tests:
Faster time to fall asleep. As early as 1973 research has documented that some individuals manage to fall asleep faster after THC ingestion. More recently, a 2013 study in healthy subjects validated previous results.
Sleep longer and better. Early studies have shown the effectiveness of cannabinoids in aiding sleep. A THC study found that subjects experienced fewer interruptions during the night and some decrease in awakenings during the first half of the night.
Enjoy a deeper sleep. Cannabis can have a positive impact on the sleep cycle. Studies show that THC can increase deep sleep. Why is this important? Because scientists believe that deep sleep plays a fundamental role in our body's natural restoration process.
Improve breathing during sleep. About 17% of men and 9% of women regularly have breathing problems during sleep - a condition called sleep apnea - and most are never diagnosed. However research published in January 2013 by Frontiers in Psychology shows that cannabis can help people breathe better when they sleep.
Evidence of cannabidiol, CBD, as a sleep aid has been contradictory.
In one study, CBD - which is non-psychoactive - seemed to be as effective as an "alarm-inducing agent," which means it can make you feel more awake, the opposite effect of what a sleepless person wants.
However, others who participated in the study reported that ingesting CBD-rich extracts or tinctures a couple of hours before going to bed had a relaxing effect that allowed them to sleep better at night.
According to the CBD project, some patients with sleep problems report that "ingesting a CBD tincture a couple of hours before bedtime has a balancing effect that facilitates good night's sleep."
The key is to find the right balance, the right one for you.
Everyone's body reacts differently to cannabis, so it may take a bit of trial and error before finding the perfect fit.
Try a heavy indica or an edible. Consider something with a little CBD.
You may be surprised to find that the remedy for making sleep easier is not what you thought it would be.