By Angela Johns, PhD
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to fall back to sleep. This can greatly affect your ability to function normally at home and at work. Most adults require 7-8 hours a night to function effectively. Many adults will suffer from short term insomnia at some point during their life due to stress or a traumatic event. However, some people suffer from insomnia long term known as chronic insomnia.
Treatment for insomnia depends on the cause but can involve relaxation techniques and cognitive behaviour therapy.
Can Medical Cannabis help me to sleep?
Cannabis has a long history of human use. Most ancient cultures didn’t grow the plant to get high, but as herbal medicine, from around 500 BC. The history of cannabis cultivation in America dates back to the early colonists, who grew hemp for textiles and rope. Misuse in the 20th century led to the criminalization of cannabis globally, although its legal status is now changing in many countries.
A recent review of the current scientific findings was published in 2017 (1) which show that early findings indicate that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia. The most well known cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is thought to decrease sleep latency (the amount of time taken to fall asleep), but it could in the long term impair sleep quality. There are over 80 compounds known as ‘cannabinoids’ that can be extracted from the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa). THC is just one of these. Other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) is showing some potential to help with sleep behaviour disorders and excessive daytime sleepiness. In addition, synthetic cannabinoids (man-made), may reduce nightmares associated with post traumatic stress syndrome and could improve sleep amongst individuals with chronic pain.
There are currently no specific medical cannabis based treatments for insomnia. However, now that medical cannabis is legal in Australia and in over half of the US states, this will help enormously with future research as more researchers can access the cannabis plants and its active ingredients to find out more about how it works. There are strict rules and regulations surrounding the use of medicinal cannabis in Australia. The use of medicinal marijuana in Australia is only for individuals with painful and chronic (long term) conditions.
- Babson KA, Sottile J, Morabito D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(4):23.