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Medical Marijuana and Persistent Insomnia

What Is Persistent Insomnia?

Persistent or chronic insomnia is a sleep disorder that presents as trouble sleeping for several nights in a row. It can occur every night or most nights for weeks, months or even years at a time, though it must occur for at least one month to be considered persistent. While the insomnia is occurring, it must affect sleep in one or more of these ways to be considered insomnia. It can be difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, difficulty falling back asleep after early waking or any combination of these symptoms. Chronic insomnia can interfere with a person' daily life. It also has consequences in some sufferers, especially if the sleep interruption is severe or results in prolonged sleep deprivation. These effects include general weakness, hallucinations, slow motion perception, double vision, difficulty concentrating, aching muscles, nausea and various symptoms often related to mental and emotional disorders. According to Loughborough University's Professor James Horne, sleep is necessary for the body's automatic functions. Significant lack of sleep can affect those functions, though the most severe symptoms come with the most sleep deprivation.

Medical Marijuana and Persistent Insomnia

Persistent Insomnia and Medical Marijuana Use 

Medical marijuana and marijuana in general have long been known to cause sleepiness. The right dose and the right active components of the marijuana plant can help individuals fall asleep and may help them fall back asleep after waking early as well. Some research suggests that medical marijuana can even boost the quality of a person's sleep and reduce frequency of nightmares in people with stress-related sleep problems.

Persistent Insomnia, Underlying Causes and Medical Marijuana

Persistent insomnia is often called a symptom rather than a condition. Nevertheless, insomnia as a sleep disorder with no underlying cause is an established diagnosis known as primary insomnia. In cases of primary insomnia, medical marijuana may be able to help individuals get more and/or better sleep. The added benefit is that it may be able to treat some of the underlying causes of insomnia for sufferers without primary insomnia as well. 

Common causes of insomnia include stress, depression, anxiety, pain, restless legs syndrome, neurological disorders (cluster headaches, migraines, epilepsy, etc.) and parasomnia. Medical marijuana has shown promise in relieving stress, pain, anxiety, some neurological disorders and other sleep disorders that are co-morbid of insomnia. In cases where medical marijuana can treat the underlying cause of insomnia, it will treat the insomnia itself in turn. Medical marijuana may also increase the severity or cause some of these problems, so monitoring by a medical professional to ensure optimal results is necessary.

Medical Marijuana and Other Treatments for Persistent Insomnia

Some treatments for insomnia are non-medicinal. Therapy may be indicated to treat stress or any other emotional or mental causes of the disorder. Another non-medicinal treatment is called sleep hygiene. It essentially consists of changing sleep habits, making the sleeping environment more conducive to sleep and may include some other lifestyle changes that seem unrelated to sleep but can affect it. These treatments work in some cases of persistent insomnia. They may also simply alleviate the problem enough that it becomes tolerable for the duration of the period of insomnia.

There may also be attempts at correcting sleep cycles before medication is indicated in cases of persistent insomnia. Patients may be told to try to stay awake at night as a sort of reverse psychology. They may also be told to sleep very little and to stay away from their beds until they are falling asleep. This is a form of conditioning that helps the insomniac associate the bed with sleep and nothing else. Once the lack of sleep starts to make it easier to fall asleep, a more acceptable sleep schedule can be implemented. A benefit that medical marijuana has in this department is that it can aid these non-medicinal treatments. Unlike many sleep medications, it does not make sleep an urgent matter. A person can still go about their nighttime routine without fear of falling asleep before he or she is ready and/or being unable to wake up on time. 

Some sleep medications are only viable in the short-term. It has been shown that long-term use of some sleep aids can cause dependency. Dependency on sleep aids is much like insomnia in that those who are dependent have difficulty falling asleep without medication. There is still debate about whether medical marijuana can cause dependency but it is much safer in terms of dosage and overdose than most pills.

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