Medical Marijuana For Insomnia: Everything You Need To Know
Good sleep itself has become a distant dream. With the new world order of continually pushing ourselves to the limit to make the best of what we have with the time we have got. In the midst of pushing our bodies to the limit, there have been a couple of casualties, the most obvious one sleeping.
Multiple studies have pointed out the increasing difficulty we have in sleeping as we age. Every year beginning with when we hit puberty has shown that we sleep later every passing year. This sets in a feeling of dissatisfaction and restlessness, which creates a negative impact on day to day activities.
Common side effects include loss of concentration, fatigue, low energy levels, anxiety, and failure to perform at school or work. The generalized inability to sleep is called insomnia.
Insomnia in the US
In the US alone, around 50 to 70 million adults experience one or another form of sleep disorder. The study further went on to highlight that during their lifetime, about 30 to 40 percent of the population suffers from insomnia. 10 to 15 percent never really grow out of it and develop chronic insomnia.
With the increasing number of people having this issue, the research in this area has also been extensive. Unfortunately, at this moment, treatment options available at the market are next to nonexistent. There are, however, some over the counter and prescription medicines that can help manage the symptoms of insomnia.
A drug that can induce a regular sleep pattern, however, does not exist. The drugs available on the market are also not as foolproof as one would like them to be.
Our bodies, when subjected to the repeated consumption of the available drugs, develop a tolerance to the drugs. This forces people who have chronic insomnia to increase their dosage over time.
The worst part about these straightforward drugs used to treat the complex insomnia is that once you leave these drugs, the withdrawal symptoms are no less than that of an opioid on the market. These symptoms include violet nightmares, along with increased insomnia.
The current drugs can be considered akin to putting a band-aid over a knife wound.
The Internet Legend or Myth? : Cannabis
With statewide legalization in about 33 states to treat medical conditions, cannabis has the potential to provide a new lease on life to people suffering from various chronic diseases. From Parkinson’s to anxiety and depression, research is underway into multiple conditions and their interaction with cannabis.
Cannabis has been used to aid in sleep-related issues for well over centuries. It is an integral part of various cultures all over the world. Contemporary studies have, however, been in preliminary stages. The federal classification of the drug as a Schedule 1 Drug until now has been a significant hindrance in trying to understand what the scope of this drug truly is.
Some studies have been successful in showing the promise that the drug has in the case of chronic diseases. One of the illnesses has been insomnia.
The most commonly used words to describe the feeling of marijuana is drowsy and calming.
Most research has pointed towards that cannabis shortens the time required to fall asleep, irrespective of whether or not they have insomnia. People suffering from any form of sleep difficulty were found to fall asleep by about 30 minutes. This aligns with earlier studies that also came to the conclusion that cannabis use reduces the number of hours it takes to fall asleep.
Cannabis: Understanding the structure through Cannabinoids
Cannabis is structured differently than other drugs. It can entice various kinds of reactions in different users. To understand cannabis, we need to first understand what goes behind the plant.
The herb works by bonding itself to the endocannabinoid system that exists in our brain.
There are over 100 cannabinoids that exist in the cannabis plant. Each one of them reacts differently in our bodies. There are three cannabinoids that are well known.
Cannabidiol is the non psychoactive ingredient of the makeup of a cannabis plant. That means there is no “High” associated with this compound. Instead, this is what is responsible for the calming effects of cannabis. Some scientists believe that CBD is what balances out the high that one receives from THC, the other cannabinoid present.
CBD products have been gaining momentum separately as they are known to be great anxiety and pain relievers.
Studies have also shown that CBD causes no harm to our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
This is what most recreational users run behind when it comes to a strain. THC is behind the euphoric high that a person gets from the consumption of cannabis. THC is also an enormously effective pain remedy. Research into THC has highlighted its sedative effects, making it a natural sedative to induce sleep.
THC might also hold the answer to patients suffering from sleep apnea as it may help people breathe better while sleeping.
THC does seem to alter the stages of sleep, more specifically, the time spent in each phase. It reduces the time one spends in the REM sleep and increase the one in slow-wave sleep.
So a side effect now becomes that you dream a lot less. As you are not spending time in the REM stage. This works great for patients suffering from PTSD and withdrawal symptoms. These people often have violent and frequent dreams.
Changes to the sleep cycle for an extended period of time can deprive us of the complete functioning of the brain that a full night of sleep is designed to give. So beware of changing your sleep architecture over a long period of time.
Cannabinol or CBN is much less talked about cannabinoid than CBD or THC. But it still appears to have potent sedative effects, the kind that has anti-pain and inflammatory properties. CBN is usually found in aged cannabis. It is believed that THC itself changes into CBN over a while.
Cannabinoids do tend to get a big chunk of the spotlight in their effects, but an equally important part of this credit should go to terpenes. Terpenes are something each one up to experience all our lives.
If you were to put it simply, you would say terpenes are what give orange the citrusy smell we are so familiar with. Lavender also credits its calming effect s to terpenes.
For the longest time, it was assumed that it was cannabinoid compounds that did all of the work, but as research has widened into this area, it has come to light that there might be something called an entourage effect that takes place.
This has created the implication that cannabinoids, along with about 100 other compounds and terpenes, all work together to deliver the healing effects of cannabis to the user. Yes, isolated compounds have been gaining momentum, but it is the whole plant at the end that might be the best in delivering the results.
Humans create most strains, and this has led to the isolation of terpenes and their effective integration into the selected strains.
Some of the most well-known terpenes whose addition helps in sleep are:
It is one of the most commonly occurring terpenes in cannabis. It is also found in mangoes, thyme, lemongrass, and basil. Myrcene has some significant sedative effects and is also anti-inflammatory.
This is what is found in all citrus peels and also cannabis and other plants. Limonene has also been proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and have antidepressant effects. It has also been shown to have calming properties that ease OCD behaviors. All these qualities make it a good sleep promoter.
This anxiety, stress, and elevation of pain terpene might also be an excellent promoter of sleep. With anxiolytic and analgesic properties, it has a spicy taste and is found in cloves and black pepper.
A large number of people consider the smell of pine, lilac, and eucalyptus as profoundly calming. Terpineol is to thank for this effect. It is found in some strains and provides an instant calming effect to the user.
We are in lavender again. As mentioned above, lavender is a calming agent, and the terpene it contains is linalool. Lavender is great to have a good sleep in addition to being an excellent suppressant of anxiety and depression. Linalool aids in increasing adenosine, a hormone that acts as a sedative and helps us sleep.
Which is the strain for you: Indica vs. Sativa vs. Hybrid
Once you speak to a doctor and figure out if there is no existing medication that might have an interaction with marijuana, you can figure out what strain works for you.
Just like a choice exists between different types of coffee, there is a differentiation that exists between strains. Earlier, we told you about the difference between THC and CBD. Now we’ll let you know the gap that exists between strains.
Three broad classifications exist between the strains :
This strain is considered to have a higher concentration of CBD and a lower concentration of THC. This gives it the same effects as that of a sedative.
On the terpene end, Indica is thought to contain myrcene with its sedating effects.
This strain is known for the “Body high” it provides. It is supposed to help with anxiety and has higher concentrations of THC to give a euphoric high to the user.
Terpene wise Sativa strains usually have limonene and pinene assisting them.
These are a cross between Indica and Sativa and are usually governed by the breeder. Practically any combination of the compounds can be achieved. These are also further categorized as Indica dominant or Sativa dominant, depending on the concentrations inside.
For sleep purposes, it is usually recommended that one goes in for an indica or indica dominant strain. This is because any strain that has more than 20 % THC is bound to give you grogginess in the morning. Different strains work differently for different people, but an Indica strain is the most likely to provide you with that sleep you’re looking for.
Methods of Consumption: Insomnia Edition
Whether you have smoked before or for the first time, there is a misconception that the only way to consume cannabis is via smoking or eating it. The truth is that there exists an entire ecosystem of options beyond those two.
For this list, however, we will go in detail about the ones that are easy at the same time effective.
The most common way to consume cannabis is to smoke it via a pipe, joint, or bong. Now, if you are smoking it for the first time, a couple of puffs might be enough for the effects to set in. Since you have control over the amount, this is the best method for beginners.
If smoking is not your cup of tea, you can go in for vaping. In this, a device called a vaporizer heats up the plant matter or oil to a temperature that turns it into vapors. These are more discreet than smoking and one of the healthiest ways to consume cannabis. One of the drawbacks would be that the high is diluted according to some users.
Since the 1960s, edibles have been quite popular in the US. A discreet way to consume cannabis, it is advised one exercises extreme caution as the effects are prolonged and don’t set in immediately. A big problem with a delayed setting in period is that as users feel no effect immediately, they over-consume and have a prolonged high, which can be disorienting.
This method is faster than edibles but not as rapid as inhalation. Full effects kick in somewhere after the 20-30 min mark. Since tinctures are formulated with alcohol, they are not desirable to all the users in the same proportion.
Word of Caution
Marijuana is a boon for people who suffer from chronic pain and provide them relief, which in turn helps them sleep. In insomnia patients, pain is not the problem.
Everybody’s mind works differently, and while typically marijuana produces a calming effect, there are moments when it can heighten your senses and increase your paranoia. This usually happens with strains with high concentrations of THC. Some hits and misses will take place before you can find an appropriate strain to help you sleep.
Also, like any other drug, your body tends to develop a resistance to marijuana after prolonged use, which may just lead to consuming more than you bargained for.
Laws Governing the Use
The Laws governing Cannabis consumption are under continually changing. At the time this was written, there were 33 states plus Washington DC, which allowed recreational use of marijuana with some caveats, of course.
On the federal level, cannabis continues to be illegal, which means one should try and avoid crossing state borders with marijuana on them.
For more information, you can have a look at this handy, updated continuously chart.
Is Medical Marijuana the answer to Insomniac woes?
Completing a sleep cycle is essential. There are various biological functions associated with sleeping soundly and throughout the night. If you think that marijuana is not for you as you can’t figure out the source of where it comes from. You can always go in and apply for a Medical Marijuana Card. This allows for you have certain privileges that would otherwise be lost.
It is an excellent alternative to prescription and over the counter drugs that exist in the market. So if you’re up for it, marijuana might be the answer to Insomnia.