Updated on January 31, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Sleep is one of the most important factors of being healthy. But, many folks deal with insomnia and other sleep disorders that make it hard to fall asleep in the first place. The time you spend trying to get to sleep takes time out of your total sleeping time, especially if you stay awake for a while. Even just occasional insomnia can interfere with your daily functioning.
To fall asleep faster, some patients try sleep medication. But, these medicines don’t always work well for them. So, more patients are using the holistic alternative: medical marijuana.
The National Sleep Foundation worked with a panel of medical experts to develop guidelines for quality sleep. They established a good night’s rest involves falling asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed. But, The National Sleep Foundation found that up to 27% of Americans fall asleep after 30 minutes or more. So, if you take a long time to get to sleep, you aren’t alone.
When you see a doctor for sleep troubles, they will often start by suggesting approaches that don’t involve medication. They might recommend better sleep hygiene or a change in other habits. However, if you have severe insomnia, these therapies might not do the trick. At that point, your physician might recommend sleep medication.
Unfortunately, traditional sleep medication has a large list of drawbacks. Patients shouldn’t use them for a long period — making them unsuitable for persistent sleep problems — because they can develop a tolerance to stronger medications and even get addicted. Some medicine actually disturbs sleep or can make you feel groggy in the morning.
While many medications imitate or stimulate certain chemicals in your body to provide their benefits. medicinal cannabis works with a system specifically meant for its substances to give you relief. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, handles substances that resemble the ones in marijuana. Besides using our body’s cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, it can also process phytocannabinoids, which come from the cannabis plant.
The ECS works with cell receptors all over your body to regulate bodily functions — such as sleep. When you use the right kind of medical marijuana, it interacts with your ECS to make you feel relaxed and drowsy. Some patients consider this a negative side effect, but people struggling to sleep can use cannabis medicine for this purpose.
The marijuana plant can be cultivated into a wide variety of medical products that provide natural relief. Since it’s so versatile, you need to find the right medicine to cause sleepiness at night. While some types of medical cannabis will help a patient, others can have the wrong purpose.
The cannabis plant comes in two main types, or strains: indica and sativa. To promote sleep, you’ll want to use flower from an indica plant or another type of medication made with an indica strain. Indica plants and medicines create a sense of calm and help you feel tired. Meanwhile, sativa strains tend to provide energy and clear-headedness. They are great to use if you feel tired from your insomnia during the day, but they won’t help you rest.
Every patient has needs and desires that require personalized guidance. A marijuana-positive physician can create a treatment plan and help you become eligible for medical marijuana. Once you join a medical marijuana program, you can consult with your dispensary staff for advice tailored to their selection.