Embracing a New Form of Insomnia Treatment
The Case of Medical Marijuana to Naturally Combat Insomnia
Most, if not all, of Americans have experienced some level of insomnia. Our lifestyles, stress levels and diet can influence the ease of falling into a restful slumber. For millions, bouts of insomnia are short-lived and often momentary. However, roughly 10 percent of United States population experiences chronic insomnia (1). The prevalence of insomnia has triggered a massive amount of research, and subsequent pharmaceuticals, to provide much-needed relief. Unfortunately, as many have experienced, synthetic medications are often accompanied by undesirable side effects.
In the quest for a solid and restful sleep, patients and researchers have reached into the realm of medical marijuana. Although the use of cannabis to treat insomnia has yet to be fully understood, preliminary findings are promising.
The Never-Sleeping Mind | Dangers of Untreated Insomnia
It comes to no surprise that insomnia can lead to serious health consequences. While researchers haven’t fully understood our true need for sleep, the side effects are well-documented. Studies have found those with chronic insomnia, which is characterized by three or more sleepless nights over a period longer than three months, experience (2)(3):
- Higher rate of accidents
- Mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
- Lack of energy
- Poor work or school performance
The risk of mental and physical harm is significantly increased the longer insomnia goes untreated. Therefore, many patients are actively turning to the sleep-inducing qualities of cannabis. However, how exactly does marijuana elevate the quality and duration of sleep?
The Connection Between Sleep and Cannabis | Evidence-Based Research
For generations, cannabis users have reported an increased ability to fall and stay asleep. In fact, one study found roughly 45 percent of cannabis users experience instantaneous relief from insomnia (4). In fact, researchers have found cannabis users generally experience an ability to fall asleep faster while simultaneously experiencing higher quality sleep (5). Although researchers aren’t quite sure how cannabis influences sleep, it’s believed the non-psychoactive compound, CBD (Cannabidiol) plays a vital role.
CBD cannabinoids seem to have an affinity for the neurotransmitters within the brain (6). Therefore, it’s commonly used to treat a variety of neuro-disorders. In the realm of insomnia, it’s believed CBD may mediate insomnia symptoms directly or indirectly (7). When treated directly, the various neurotransmitter mechanisms responsible for inducing sleep are treated. However, if insomnia is due to an external influence – such as pain – the inability to sleep is mediated by treating its underlying cause.
The Human Endocannabinoid System | The Key Element in Sleep Regulation
Since the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the 1990s, our understanding of cannabis and health is ever-compounding. When it comes to sleep, the ECS seems to play a direct role in regulating this essential daily requirement. There are two primary cannabinoid receptors throughout the ECS, which include:
Preliminary understandings have found the activation of CB-1 receptor sites directly supports your ability to achieve sleep. While CBD doesn’t bind to the CB-1 receptor site, it does elevate and sustain the concentration of our own naturally made cannabinoid, anandamide (7). Therefore, it appears cannabis doesn’t directly induce sleep. Rather, it sustains our natural ability to achieve and sustain sleep (8).
In the battle against insomnia, it may seem you’re running in the sand. Because of the wide array of underlying causes resulting in insomnia, finding the best treatment can be quite challenging. However, as our understanding of how cannabis influences our natural bodily functions increases, so does our arsenal of treatment options.