Tossing and Turning? Cannabis and Sleep

Sleep. That supposedly simple act of shutting down to recharge oneself is a problem for many Americans.

The National Sleep Foundation’s first quarter 2018 Sleep Health Index report found that just 27 percent of us report getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye a night and that a quarter of the adult population has spoken to a medical professional about sleep problems.

Even more alarming, 16 percent – or one in six – say they’ve been diagnosed with a sleep disorder or have taken medication to help them sleep in the past week, it said.

Marijuana sleep aid by prescription

While medical professionals routinely prescribe or recommend an array of pharmacological sleeping aids, many patients with problems sleeping explore natural alternatives such as cannabis.  A study published in January 2018 found that “having trouble getting, and staying, asleep,” was among the chief reasons given by those seeking certification/prescription for medical marijuana use.

But does cannabis actually help?

Certainly, there are abundant anecdotal testimonies and multiple studies indicating that it does.

1973 study by a researcher at Napa State Hospital in California , for instance, suggested that THC reduces the amount of time it takes those with insomnia to fall asleep. Another study found that those who regularly used THC fell asleep faster.

But the U.S. government’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, noted in a 2017 review of studies on cannabis and sleep that research “is in its infancy and has yielded mixed results. Additional controlled and longitudinal research is critical to advance our understanding of research and clinical implications.”

Cannabidiol and sleep disorders

As with so many questions related to marijuana and its chemical components like non-narcotic cannabidiol (CBD), the problem is that research into the plant’s effectiveness in combatting sleeping problems is limited – a result of its long classification as a Schedule I drug, an illegal substance that hampered research.

That is beginning to change. The University of Western Australia is embarking on what is billed as the first clinical study of its kind examining the effect medicinal cannabis has on adults suffering from chronic insomnia.

In the meantime, it’s possible to offer some general guidance based on studies conducted so far and the growing body of anecdotal evidence about cannabis and sleep:

The main thing to keep in mind is that the effects of cannabis vary from individual to individual and it may require experimentation to find a product and dosage that helps you get to drop off to sleep.

Indica or sativa for sleep?

For instance, while many users recommend using Indica strains of marijuana to relax before bedtime, a 2015 study found that patients using cannabis to manage nightmares preferred sativa strains over Indica.

As Dierdre Conroy, a sleep psychologist and clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, wrote in an excellent 2017 article on The Conversation website, “Existing research suggests that the effects of cannabis on sleep may depend on many factors, including individual differences, cannabis concentrations and frequency of use.”

In other words, if you decide to try cannabis to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better, be prepared for a trial-and-error period to find the right formula for you.

Visit www.greenlightapproved.com and find a retail partner near you. The helpful staff will provide some general guidance to get you started. Let him or her know what you are experiencing. After that you’ll need to pay close attention to what your body is telling you to find the right strain, the proper dosage level and the best timing for ingesting before your head hits the pillow.

When you finally get the formula just right, you may gain a new appreciation for this line in Homer’s “Odyssey”: “There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.”

Greenlight Approved is a consumer education platform dedicated to “guiding the cannabis curious.” We believe when you start something new, it’s best to start slow. Gather all the information you can to make a safe informed decision. Let Greenlight Approved be your guide so your first experience with cannabis is an educated, safe and positive one. We will direct you to high quality brands and participating retailers near you, at www.greenlightapproved.com.

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