Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
As the term implies, sleep disorders interfere with your sleep. Common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and nightmares. No matter what kind of sleep disorder you have, having low-quality sleep makes functioning difficult. Plus, sedatives can lose their effect over time and make you groggy.
Some kinds of marijuana medicine can enhance sleep by making you feel relaxed and sleepy. It can also treat conditions that cause you to have a sleep disorder in the first place. Plus, patients with other symptoms in addition to sleep problems can benefit from its versatility.
Ware et al. observed the effects of nabilone on fibromyalgia patients’ sleep problems — nabilone is a synthetic cannabinoid that researchers often use for studies. Many folks with pain conditions like fibromyalgia also deal with sleep issues. The researchers wanted to see if cannabinoids could work as a treatment for these two problems.
Thirty-one participants entered the study, and 29 of them completed it. For two weeks, they received nabilone or a pharmaceutical fibromyalgia drug. After a two-week washout period, they took the other treatment for two weeks. The team mainly scored the patients’ sleep, but they also considered pain, mood, quality of life and side effects.
Both treatments helped the subjects with their sleep, but the nabilone increased restfulness better than the other drug. The participants dealt with side effects like dry mouth and dizziness, but nothing severe enough to stop them from taking nabilone.
Gorelick et al. explored THC’s ability to promote good sleep. While plenty of studies covered the subject in the past, there still wasn’t enough information to get a conclusive result. So, the team wanted to add more data to the building evidence on THC and sleep.
Thirteen volunteers spent a week in an inpatient clinic, so the researchers could monitor their sleep and sleeping habits. The patients all smoked cannabis daily, so they had some tolerance to THC already built up. They received multiple doses of THC every day and filled out a sleep questionnaire every morning. The researchers also took blood samples to check THC concentrations.
When the patients took higher doses of THC in the evening, they had less difficulty falling asleep. They also reported more daytime sleep, suggesting THC’s effects were long-lasting. Although their hours of sleep decreased overall, the new sleeping environment probably had a detrimental effect.
Haney et al. examined the medical benefits of dronabinol and marijuana for patients with HIV. Dronabinol is a synthetic cannabinoid medicine. HIV-positive patients make up one of the largest populations that uses cannabis for medicinal purposes. But, no studies compared the effects of smoking marijuana and taking dronabinol in this group.
Ten patients spent two 16-day periods in an inpatient clinic for observation and either received dronabinol, marijuana or a placebo. When taking dronabinol or marijuana, they took the same drug for four days, then a placebo for four more. The team monitored the patients’ sleep with professional equipment and kept track of other symptoms, as well.
The marijuana dosages made the patients feel more rested and satisfied with their sleep. Due to technical issues, only seven patients could have their sleep analyzed. But, the self-reported sleep benefits from taking marijuana were significant.
Join the many patients taking control of their sleep with medical marijuana. Our comprehensive guide to sleep disorders can help you learn about using medical cannabis as a sleep aid.
If you’re ready to find out how to join your state’s medical marijuana program, schedule an appointment with a cannabis-positive doctor today.