Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

Updated on June 24, 2022.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

Advanced sleep phase disorder (ASPD) can affect anyone, and if you’re looking for a way to treat your symptoms, you can now take a closer look at medical marijuana. If you have the condition, it can disrupt your circadian patterns, leading to fatigue and difficulty staying awake until bedtime. Or even worse, it can cause you to fall asleep while eating or driving, both of which can be dangerous. Fortunately, medical marijuana and advanced sleep phase syndrome can help with both fatigue and alertness. Learn more about ASPD, how it affects patients and how medical marijuana can help provide relief.

How Is Medical Marijuana an Effective Treatment for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder?

The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), an ancient biological system that’s also present in other mammals. In 1992, scientists believed the ECS is responsible for the release of human cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body.

You have cannabinoid receptors in your liver, brain, kidneys, lungs and immune system. When the cannabinoid receptors activate, you experience both the psychoactive and therapeutic properties of cannabis.

Overall, science suggests cannabinoids bring balance to your biological systems and tissues. Researchers continue to study how far cannabinoid receptors affect overall health, but as of today, they’re known to play an essential role in numerous body processes, including:

  • Cravings
  • Metabolic regulation
  • Immune function
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Sleep
  • Moods

Medical marijuana has been used as a medicine for centuries as a pain and nausea reliever, for alleviating anxiety and other mood and sleep disorders. Scientists found the first cannabinoid in the mid-1960s.

Medical weed has many different natural chemical substances that affect sleep and sleep cycles. Cannabinoids and terpenes are two of the most important cannabinoids for sleep.

Cannabinoids

Researchers have found over 100 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. They’re studying their benefits for different health conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic pain as well as for sleep.

CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) promotes relaxation. There are various benefits of CBD — sleep is one of them. CBD isn’t psychoactive, meaning you don’t get the “high” with this compound like you do with THC. Researchers believe CBD instead works to balance out or counteract THC’s psychoactive effects.

cannabidiol benefits

Because of its ability to relieve pain, reduce anxiety and promote mental clarity and focus, CBD has become very popular. It can promote alertness and reduce daytime sleepiness. It can even reduce anxiety without having an impact on sleep-wake cycles.

Researchers have made much progress in understanding how the compound produces its pain-reducing, anti-inflammatory and calming effects in the body. But, they’re still learning. What they do know is CBD interacts with various proteins, receptors and other brain chemicals. These interactions generate changes in the activity of hormones, neurotransmitters and other cells in the body and brain. CBD seems to affect many of the functions of the body through these interactions.

Because CBD reduces anxiety, it’s helpful in decreasing sleep problems and improving quality of sleep. CBD might increase overall amounts of sleep, improving insomnia. It was found to reduce insomnia in individuals suffering from chronic pain.

CBD reduces daytime sleepiness and stimulates alertness when administered in smaller doses — important for consistency and strength of the sleep-wake cycle and daytime performance.

THC

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana. It helps with pain relief and reduces nausea. Studies show it has sedative effects, making it simpler to fall asleep. There’s also growing evidence that suggests it could improve breathing during sleep, making it a potential therapy for treating sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea.

Terpenes

While cannabinoids have taken the spotlight for their potential benefits for mood, pain and sleep, terpenes are also beneficial and seem to impact marijuana’s effects, especially on sleep. Researchers are still learning how terpenes affect the mind and body. But, they think terpenes enhance the effects of different cannabinoids as well as directly interact with the body in various ways.

Terpenes are aromatic, tiny molecules in medical marijuana that influence its taste and smell. They’re in cannabis as well as many natural fruits, plants and flowers. There are different terpene combinations in various strains of medical weed, and they contribute to the different effects experienced upon consumption.

Science shows terpenes affect mood, energy, alertness and sleepiness.

symptoms treated by medical marijuana

Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder Symptoms Treated by Medical Marijuana

Obviously, the main symptom of advanced sleep phase disorder that medical marijuana can potentially help treat is sleep problems. These sleep problems can be either disrupted sleep patterns that lead to insomnia or strong urges to fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while eating or driving.

Research shows marijuana’s effectiveness in improving sleep. Many individual users report anecdotal evidence that they’ve had great results with cannabis improving their sleep.

Taking marijuana in the evening is beneficial in alleviating insomnia symptoms directly. Many individuals report that when they compare it with conventional sleep medicines, marijuana works much better, isn’t addictive and leaves them feeling more refreshed the following day.

How to Get Medical Marijuana for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

After checking the medical cannabis laws in your state to learn if there is an active medical marijuana patient registry, you’ll need to talk with a certified medical marijuana doctor and receive a written recommendation for advanced sleep phase disorder. Then you’ll need to obtain a medical marijuana card. After receiving your card, you can begin shopping for your cannabis products at a local dispensary.

Ways to Use Medical Marijuana for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

While you can eat marijuana in foods like cakes and brownies or apply it topically as lotions, salves, and ointments, in the past people have mostly smoked the herb. Smoking medical weed allows you to titrate the dose more carefully by experiencing the subjective effects before you take another puff.

Many cannabis patients are now using other methods to take their medical marijuana, including vaping the herb to absorb THC to prevent smoke inhalation. The setting in which you use your medical marijuana for advanced sleep phase syndrome can also affect your experience.

Best Marijuana Strains for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

Indica strains seem to be the most relaxing and therefore meant for sleep. Some good indica strains to help with insomnia and similar sleep problems are:

  • God’s Gift
  • Skywalker OG
  • Ingrid
  • Blackberry Hashplant

If you’re struggling with the strong urge to fall asleep during passive activities, you may want to try a sativa strain which is more energizing and uplifting. While not helpful when you’re trying to fall asleep, sativa strains can help keep you alert so you don’t fall asleep during the day.

best strains of marijuana

Top strains known for their energizing effects are:

  • Amnesia Haze
  • Strawberry Cough
  • Sour Diesel
  • Blue Dream

Side Effects of Marijuana for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

Cannabis can significantly improve your advanced sleep phase syndrome symptoms, but it’s important for patients to understand the possible side effects. When compared with most conventional medications, the effects are usually mild. Side effects are not experienced by everyone; those that do occur are temporary and only last up to a few hours.

Possible side effects of medical marijuana include:

Sleepiness –This is the desired effect for those struggling with insomnia.

Intoxication – Marijuana can be euphoric. This is more typical in strains high in THC.

Dry mouth – Also commonly referred to as “cotton mouth.” It’s a common side effect that is alleviated by increasing fluid intake.

Red eyes – Bloodshot eyes are another common side effect of cannabis you can alleviate with eye drops.

Increased hunger – Marijuana gives you the “munchies,” making you crave food.

When you compare medical pot with prescription sleep aids, you’ll see the benefits of this treatment over the other. Prescription sleep aids can be addictive. With research on medical marijuana, patients with symptoms of advanced sleep phase syndrome may soon have enough reasons to choose cannabis treatments.

Before starting your treatment, you’ll want to sit down with your cannabis doctor to discuss all potential side effects. Most are mild, and rarely occur, but it doesn’t hurt to know what to expect.

More Information About Marijuana and Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

Many patients medicate with cannabis to overcome their sleep issues and disorders. Medical marijuana treatment is beneficial for many sleep disorders, including these two:

Sleep apnea: The Frontiers in Psychiatry published a study where researchers used synthetic medical marijuana for the treatment of sleep apnea in individuals. The herb significantly reduced their sleep apnea without producing any negative effects on their sleep.

Restless leg syndrome: Sleep Medicine published a study where researchers found medical weed fully resolved six patients’ restless leg syndrome.

Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

Now that you’ve learned how medical pot can help treat symptoms of advanced sleep phase disorder, let’s dive into exactly what the condition is, its symptoms, causes, other treatments, and more.

What Is Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder?

Advanced sleep phase disorder or syndrome is a circadian rhythm condition in which you experience excessive sleepiness and the necessity to sleep earlier than desired or what is socially acceptable. It can also correspond to earlier than desired waking times. Early morning awakening with ASPD, occurs after regular night sleep, which means that other than the timing of sleep, patients experience normal sleep cycles.

For example, if you have advanced sleep phase disorder, you may need to go to bed between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. only to wake between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., while still receiving a full seven to eight hours of sleep.

Advanced sleep phase disorder is estimated to affect approximately one percent of the adult population, and older adults experience it more commonly, according to the American Sleep Association.

The condition may be underdiagnosed because many people with it manage to arrange their work and social engagements to accommodate the condition to minimize its impact on their daily lives. Others may have less accommodating social or professional requirements that seriously impair and disrupt their lives.

What Causes Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder?

Some in the medical community believe the loss of response to light as patients age causes advanced sleep phase disorder. This loss of light responses may be the result of cataracts or other lens problems associated with aging.

advanced sleep phase disorder causes

Other contributing factors that impact one’s susceptibility to advanced sleep phase disorder include:

Genetics: There are a variety of genetic mutations associated with higher risks of advanced sleep phase disorder.

Childhood Development: Children who have certain disorders, like autism, appear to have a higher prevalence of the condition.

Age: The condition seems to be more widespread among the elderly population.

Symptoms and Side Effects of Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

While everyone experiences unique symptoms with any health disorder, some are standard with advanced sleep phase disorder. They include:

  • An overwhelming urge to sleep early in the evening.
  • Early morning awakenings coupled with an inability to return to sleep.
  • Falling asleep during passive afternoon and evening activities, including things like watching television, reading or even while eating.
  • Falling asleep during active afternoon and evening pursuits. This is a rarer symptom and can include falling asleep while walking, driving or exercising.
  • Awakening in the morning feeling refreshed and alert.
  • Experiencing the same symptoms of excessive sleepiness consistently over months or even years.

Because other conditions cause early morning awakenings, patients must meet specific criteria before being diagnosed with advanced sleep phase disorder.

  • Symptoms must be present for a minimum of three months.
  • Early morning awakenings must occur, regardless of delayed sleep times.
  • Ruling out other possible causes of early morning awakenings, including sleep apnea, substance abuse, prescription medications and depression, or mental health disorders.

A sleep study is often required to rule out undiagnosed sleep apnea or treatment efficacy.

current treatments available

Current Treatments Available for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder and Their Side Effects

There are essentially two primary types of treatment that physicians and sleep specialists widely use to treat advanced sleep phase disorder. One is light therapy, the treatment artificially “resets” the body clock. The other treatment is behavioral therapy that involves retraining the body to sleep and awaken at more socially acceptable or normal times.

Bright Light Therapy

With this type of treatment, patients use bright light exposure during the evening hours when patients typically experience excessive sleepiness. Ideally, the therapy would begin two hours before the patient’s “normal” sleep time to help trick the mind into staying awake longer. While it is sometimes used, there is little evidence about how effective this particular treatment method happens to be.

Chronotherapy

Chronotherapy involves the introduction of various behavioral changes designed to help patients remain awake later in the evening, incrementally, until they are in the habit of staying awake until their desired bedtimes. It involves a combination of mental triggers, nighttime routine and “sleep hygiene” practices.

Learn More About Medical Marijuana for Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder

For many, medical cannabis is a better alternative for advanced sleep phase disorder than over-the-counter and prescriptions sleep aids and other medications.

If you’re experiencing sleep problems because of advanced sleep phase syndrome, exploring cannabis as an affordable supplemental or alternative treatment for your symptoms could help improve your sleep. At Marijuana Doctors, we can help you find a cannabis doctor and dispensary so you can begin treating your condition.

Book your appointment today to find relief from advanced sleep phase syndrome so you can get better sleep and be more alert during the day.

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Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1470919
  2. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jnatprod.5b00949
  3. https://web.stanford.edu/~dement/advanced.html
  4. https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-disorders/more-sleep-disorders/advanced-sleep-phase-syndrome/