Finding Sleep: When & Why Cannabis is an Option

Natural Sleep Aids insomnia is a common complaint among my patients. Research shows that approximately 20% of Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder. Sleep disorders can lead to mood disorders, anxiety, hypertension, illness and a whole host of other maladies.

Standard Treatments

The primary culprit is insomnia followed by apnea. First line recommendations for the treatment of both are lifestyle modifications: diet, exercise, stress reduction. If these fail, or if there are suboptimal results, other methods: mechanical and/or pharmacological are usually introduced.

For insomnia, which can be transient in about a tenth of the population, pharmacological treatments often have unwanted side effects:

  • vivid dreams/ nightmares
  • sleepwalking
  • daytime drowsiness
  • and even addiction.

Homeopathic remedies are at times hit or miss and can sometimes have side effects. Melatonin, for example is notorious for causing people to awaken to use the bathroom in the middle of the night (which sort of defeats the purpose). Magnesium has the side effect of causing gastrointestinal disturbances.

The Cannabis Option for Sleep

I prefer to recommend Cannabis for the treatment of insomnia. Cannabis in either THC predominant formulations or CBD predominant has shown to be highly effective at sleep induction and maintaining uninterrupted sleep.

Because Cannabinoids do not work on the brainstem like narcotics do – there is no risk of overdose or death. . According to current research, cannabis formulations containing both CBD and THC have been been shown to be more effective than isolated formulations containing only CBD, even if contains low levels of THC (0.3%- which is the legal limit for CBD formulations). One must take care to consider that even at low levels, THC can accumulate in the system over time and cause positive drug tests.

It is advised that those interested in improving sleep should start with changing their lifestyle. Diet, exercise and stress reduction are the pillars. In addition, proper sleep hygiene is very important.

When choosing what form to take, Indica dominant strains are anecdotally reported to have a greater sedative effect. Oral formulations of THC are more potent and have greater duration than inhaled products. Sublingual method of administration works faster than oral, but slower than inhalation (smoking/ vaping) CBD can begin to cause somnolence in as little as 20mg depending on the individual. One should be careful to understand any possible drug interactions with cannabis if taking pharmaceuticals.

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