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How to Treat Insomnia With Medicinal Marijuana

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January 05, 2015 9:00 AM

How_to_Treat_Insomnia_With_Medicinal_MarijuanaUp to one third of adults have had insomnia. Whether you can’t fall asleep or you can’t stay asleep, or both, you know that insomnia can affect the rest of your waking life as well. It can make interacting with others, working, going to school, and driving difficult. It can deteriorate your body and mind’s health. A proper night’s sleep is important in all facets of your life, so it’s no wonder that those who suffer from insomnia will try just about anything to get a good night’s sleep.

Why Medicinal Marijuana?

Chronic sleeplessness is often a symptom of another condition rather than a primary condition. For illnesses like cancer or fibromyalgia, the severe pain’s keeping patients awake. Not only can medicinal marijuana treat insomnia, but also its therapeutic benefits can reduce the symptoms associated with illnesses, such as pain, inflammation, and pressure, that can keep patients awake. It allows people to be more comfortable so they can get a good night’s sleep.

How It Works

The endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for medicinal marijuana’s effect, has been known to play a part in sleep regulation. Some scientists believe that a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system may be the cause of insomnia, which is why many believe that medicinal marijuana can effectively treat insomnia.


Patients often take over-the-counter medicines meant for other conditions in order to treat insomnia, such as antihistamines. Taking meds for a condition you don’t have can be dangerous, especially if you’re also taking other drugs at the same time. If it isn’t prescribed by a doctor, you can’t fully understand the consequences that could occur. Approximately 95% of insomniacs try prescription sleeping pills, like Ambien. However, sleeping pills tend to have many side effects, such as depression, headaches, anxiety, aggression, daytime dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, lack of coordination, and abnormal dreams. These side effects can be too severe that insomniacs cease taking them and continue to lack sleep.

Sleep Cycle

Though prescribed pharmaceuticals can effectively treat insomnia, it doesn’t allow for the same type of sleep cycle that is found in a person that is drug-free. Medicines like Valium suppress some of the sleep cycles, like the one conducive to dreaming. Benzodiazepines don’t allow for deep sleep, rather, they convert it into a lighter sleep, which isn’t as restful.

As an alternative, some patients self-medicate with alcohol to fall asleep. However, constant alcohol intake can be dangerous and leads to fragmented, lighter sleep. Anyone who’s had a hangover can tell you that he or she doesn’t feel rested when waking up.


A 1973 study on the effects of THC on sleep cycles showed that medicinal marijuana could in fact treat insomnia by decreasing sleep latency and increasing stage-3 sleep. A 20 mg dose of cannabis was shown to reduce the amount of time it took to fall asleep by an hour, though a higher 30 mg dose was shown to make it more difficult to sleep. However, results also indicated that low and high doses of THC did slightly decrease REM sleep, and although it initially increased deep sleep, repeat use of marijuana decreased the effect. Another study in 1981 researched the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and results indicated that patients who get 160 mg of CBD sleep for longer periods of time.

Though results are promising so far, further clinical trials are needed to understand how medicinal marijuana can treat insomnia and to find the most optimal strain and dose to provide the most beneficial effects.

Topics: treat insomnia

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