5 Ways Marijuana Edibles Can Help With Insomnia
The National Institutes of Health estimate that 7% to as many as 19% of American adults do not get enough sleep. And one of the markers of poor sleep quality is falling asleep during the day at least once a month. The NIH estimates that this happens to about 40% of Americans regularly.
In terms of chronic sleep disorders, at least 50 million Americans suffer from the problem. And with poor sleep quality comes several health risks. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections and diseases. And it can contribute to mental health disorders.
While there are many conventional treatments for insomnia, including prescription medications, long-term treatment success is low. And there are risks associated with prescription sleep aids, including addiction and drowsiness.
Now that medical and recreational (adult-use) cannabis is legally available in most states, can marijuana be used to help with insomnia? Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis gummies formulated for sleep have become increasingly popular and may be an option if you suffer from chronic insomnia.
What Causes Insomnia?
One of the reasons why insomnia is a difficult condition to treat is because the causes can be varied. And for some patients, it is a combination of health conditions and lifestyle habits that contribute to the problem.
The causes of insomnia can be one or more of the following:
Poor Sleeping Environment
How you think about your bedroom matters because your sleeping environment plays a big part in getting the restful sleep you need. Sleep problems can be caused by things like urban light pollution, the quality of your mattress, bedding, and much more.
Electronics also have an impact on sleep quality. For example, many people have a desk, laptop, or computer in their bedroom. You may also have a television to help you fall asleep. Even your smartphone can generate electrical fields that may significantly disrupt the quality of sleep you get.
When creating a healthy sleep environment, clutter can also mess with your relaxation. Keep the contents of your bedroom neat, organized, and minimalist. That way, you’ll have less trouble falling asleep.
Chronic Pain and Neuropathy
When you have a cold, chest, or nasal congestion, it can be hard to sleep. That is because the symptoms can keep waking you up, whether from a stuffy nose or a persistent cough. The good thing is that a cold doesn’t last forever, and eventually, you’ll start to sleep better.
But people with chronic pain or neuropathy are not as lucky. If you experience back pain, you may move positions constantly to be more comfortable. Pain symptoms may be persistent, like an ache in certain areas that doesn’t go away.
Neuropathic pain can strike anywhere, at any time, and range from moderate to severe discomfort. It makes falling asleep difficult and waking you up throughout the night.
Shift Work and Disrupted Sleep Schedules
Not everyone is lucky enough to work a day job or a conventional 9 to 5 job. Many people in transportation (trucking, airlines, hospitality, healthcare, or other careers) have alternating work schedules.
Whether you work a steady night or overnight shift, or your schedule alternates on twelve-hour continental work schedules, it can negatively impact deep sleep. That kind of high-quality sleep allows your body to rest and repair.
If you are scheduled for shift work, sleeping can be very difficult also because of noise and other disruptions during the day. Cannabinoid edibles (including CBD) before bedtime could help.
Stress and Mental Health Conditions
We have all experienced those nights when we have a lot on our minds and cannot sleep. No matter how hard you try. When thoughts are racing from stress or anxiety, your body can surge cortisol (the stress hormone).
Cortisol is our “fight or flight” hormone. When we are stressed, the brain triggers the release of more cortisol, which provides something like a nitro boost to the central nervous system. Blood pressure elevates, and the brain becomes both more alert and reactive. This is why it is so hard to fall asleep when you are experiencing anxiety or stress.
Experiencing REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is not insomnia but can disrupt healthy sleep. When someone has RBD, they actively move their body to act out what they are dreaming. If the individual is often acting in response to a nightmare, they can injure themselves.
REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a sleep disorder in which you physically act out your dreams unknowingly while you’re asleep. The movements involved in RBD can cause injury to you or your bed partner, especially if you’re acting out a violent nightmare. It’s essential to seek treatment because of this.
How is Chronic Insomnia Diagnosed?
If you feel like you may have chronic insomnia, a good place to start at home is with a sleep tracker. Many different devices as FitBit™, connect to your smartphone. Very affordable devices, such as the Amazon Halo, will do the same thing.
Personal wellness trackers monitor your sleep statistics. They provide a report that estimates how much sleep you receive in terms of hours and breaks down sleep quality data. For example, the Amazon Halo can report how much REM and deep sleep you experienced the previous night. And how many “wake” incidents you had that disrupted your deep sleep.
If you have identified a problem, the next step is to talk to your doctor. Your physician may ask you to keep a sleep diary and track lifestyle habits (such as snacks or caffeine before bed) and other contributing factors.
For more advanced cases of insomnia, your physician may order a sleep study or polysomnogram. Or a specialized test called actigraphy, which accurately measures sleep-wake patterns.
When a doctor determines chronic insomnia as a sleep disorder, they may suggest mental and physical health strategies to correct the problem, which may help you fall asleep faster (address sleep latency) or prescribe prescription sleep medicine.
Health Impacts of Untreated Chronic Insomnia
Research into sleep disorders suggests that chronic insomnia can be challenging to treat because multiple factors often contribute to the problem. But it is essential to understand that chronic insomnia can pose significant risks to your health.
When you do not get enough sleep, it negatively impacts many of your critical bodily functions. Some of the potential effects of long-term and unresolved insomnia include:
- Hypertension (increased blood pressure).
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Short-term memory impairment.
- Increased risk of psychiatric disorders.
- Lower fertility rates.
- Weakened immune system functioning.
The good news is that even long-term sleep deprivation can be corrected. However, it may take up to a week of good sleep hygiene to help your body recover. New sleep habits combined with effective natural or prescription sleep aids can help you get back on track.
Is Cannabis Safe to Use for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a severe and potentially life-threatening medical condition. When an individual has sleep apnea, or the most severe form, obstructive sleep apnea, breathing patterns are irregular. There are periods throughout the night when people with sleep apnea stop breathing entirely.
The pause in breathing is why sleep apnea is potentially life-threatening. Heart damage and heart failure can occur when insufficient oxygen is in the bloodstream. Sleep apnea can also cause a significant increase in pressure in the blood vessels surrounding the heart. Studies suggest using a CPAP machine can cut the dangers and risks by two-thirds.
Using cannabis before sleep is not recommended for patients diagnosed with sleep apnea. Over thirty million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition. But as the common strains used for sleep disorders are sedatives (Indica), it may not be safe for individuals with sleep apnea to use medical marijuana.
However, there are other alternatives for patients with sleep apnea. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is non-sedative but can still help with symptoms like pain and anxiety. Formulated with natural extracts to promote rest, patients with sleep apnea may be able to use CBD nighttime formulations. Talk to your physician for guidance before taking any supplement for sleep if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
How Can Medical Cannabis Help With Insomnia?
You won’t see insomnia alone as a qualifying health condition for medical cannabis. But insomnia may be a symptom of another health problem that could qualify you for medical cannabis use. There are many neurodegenerative diseases where insomnia may be a secondary condition.
If you are thinking about talking to a qualified marijuana doctor about using cannabis for symptoms of insomnia, here are some of the ways it may help:
1. Cannabis Can Help Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety is more than passing feelings of worry or concern. Anxiety symptoms can prevent you from falling asleep and may even trigger dreams and upsetting thoughts that may wake you up when you are trying to sleep.
Cannabis does not permanently resolve feelings of anxiety. Still, it can help as a natural sleep aid by lowering the cognitive volume of that inside “head chatter” that may keep you up at night.
Cannabis can have a positive effect on the GABA neurotransmitter. The gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a chemical manufactured in the brain. The function of GABA is to reduce the ability of nerve cells to receive and send messages through the central nervous system (CNS).
But too much GABA can cause an increase in anxiety, and symptoms of numbness around the mouth, tingling in extremities, and shortness of breath. Cannabinoids can help reduce the amount of GABA produced and the symptoms associated with anxiety. Common antianxiety medications like benzodiazepines also work the same way.
2. Marijuana Edibles Can Provide Long-Lasting Pain Relief
There are two advantages to using medical cannabis to help with sleep disorders. First, the onset of psychoactive and physiological effects is slow. The THC in your edibles (and secondary cannabinoids) must pass through the digestive tract, which makes absorption slower. That means it may provide help with pain and anxiety for the duration of the night. Helping you get better sleep.
The second reason is that compared to other routes, such as smokable cannabis for sleep problems, edibles are easy to take about an hour before bedtime. You can store them on your night table, and you do not need a device or pipe to consume them.
Some clinical studies share that an oral dose of THC (up to 30 mg) may help lower systolic blood pressure. However, increased heart rate and blood pressure may occur when the THC dose exceeds 75 mg. Your body normally lowers blood pressure during sleep (nocturnal dipping), equivalent to about a 15% reduction in heart rate compared to waking hours.
3. Marijuana May Help Reduce Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is defined as a compelling need to move your body relative to a number of triggers. You can be resting or lying down for an extended period of time, and you may find yourself fidgeting, moving your toes, feet, or legs, bouncing your legs, or moving your hands.
People who have RLS find that the compulsion to move extremities increases in the evening. And some people experience nighttime leg twitching. Either acting out a dream or without provocation, the leg(s) may kick throughout the night.
Anytime your body moves while you are sleeping, it may lead to chronic sleep disruption. The sedative effects of Indica cannabis, for example, may help reduce the messages from the brain to extremities and calm movement.
4. Cannabis May Help Suppress Nightmares for Patients With PTSD
Some studies have suggested that high-potency cannabis can disrupt REM sleep. That is the sleep stage where you dream vividly throughout the night. Most people enjoy dreaming, but if you are an individual suffering from nightmares relative to past trauma, an edible before bed may help you reduce sleep disruptions.
Individuals diagnosed with PTSD can experience significant sleep disruptions because of flashbacks of traumatic events. If you are not getting relief from other therapies, talk to your doctor about medical cannabis for PTSD-related insomnia.
5. Marijuana Can Reduce Symptoms of Nausea and Indigestion
Nausea can be caused by many different things, including the food you eat, health conditions, prescription medications, and symptoms of anxiety. Medical cannabis is sometimes recommended to patients undergoing treatment for cancer because it can help reduce nausea and gastrointestinal upset.
Some strains of moderate to high THC cannabis can directly affect the dorsal vagus nerve. That is the nerve that extends along the spinal column and helps control lung and heart functioning. It also helps control stomach activity and aids in healthy digestion. And also reduce symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
What THC Potency Can Work Best for Insomnia?
Dr. Jordan Tishler, a Harvard-trained physician, and cannabis therapeutics specialist, recommends a strain with less than 20 percent THC. Anything more than that, he says, will make dosing difficult. Too much THC might make you feel groggy and sleepy the next morning.
Different strains will also have different amounts of cannabinoids in them, but when it comes to getting sleep, both Roman and Tishler recommend an Indica strain to induce sleep.
Which Strains of Cannabis Are Suggested for Insomnia?
Indica or Indica dominant hybrid cannabis strains work best for insomnia. That is for two reasons; first, Indica’s can be highly effective at reducing pain symptoms for a period of time.
That means if you have chronic pain, including muscle spasms, diabetic neuropathy, back pain, and more, Indica cannabis may alleviate some (or all) of the discomfort. And that can help you get to sleep faster and reduce pain-related sleep disturbances.
The second way that medical cannabis can help with insomnia is by reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Can’t sleep because your brain is in overdrive? Some strains of marijuana do a great job of pushing the “pause” button. The worries won’t go away indefinitely, but they can fade into the subconscious, giving you a break from worrisome thoughts. And help you get better sleep.
Some of the most popular strains of cannabis for sleep disorders include:
- Hindu Kush.
- Grape Ape.
- Girl Scout Cookies (GSC).
- Wedding Cake.
When you are hoping to address sleep problems with medical marijuana, you will need to experiment with the right dose. Ask your DocMJ physician for recommendations on potency. If the cannabis edible you take is too mild, you may not get the desired results. However, a high-potency edible can also make you groggy in the morning.
If you are not experienced with cannabis edibles, try different types of products and potencies on the weekend. That way, you won’t be heading to work with symptoms similar to a hangover.
Can You Combine CBD Edibles and Cannabis for Sleep?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is non-intoxicating. But you have to read the label on the product you are purchasing. Many sleep aid-formulated CBD edibles can have natural extracts and secondary cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG), making you feel drowsy.
Many people who use medical cannabis also take a daily CBD supplement. Some studies suggest that THC and CBD work best to reduce inflammation (pain), nausea, and anxiety.
DocMJ Now Serving Patients in Pennsylvania
We are proud to share that DocMJ is now serving patients in Pennsylvania. We offer telemedicine appointments and support to help eligible patients apply for their PA medical marijuana card.
Join the DocMJ family for quality care and friendly and compassionate physicians. Our support team provides assistance and resources for patients to help them make an informed choice about medical cannabis and their wellness needs.
I am a Chief Marketing Officer at DocMJ, a leading provider of medical cannabis health services to qualified patients. I have over 20 years of experience in healthcare marketing and communications, with a proven track record of delivering impactful and compliant campaigns that educate, inform, and empower patients to make better choices for their health and wellness.