Sleep, THC and You by Jennifer Mayer FNP-AASM

Updated: Mar 9

With the recent approval by the stated of Illinois for recreational use, we've been inundated with questions about how people can utilize many different forms of this drug to treat a multitude of sleep problems. I hate to start off your February by breaking your heart, but if you are looking to cure your insomnia or other sleep disorder with the use of marijuana, THC, cannabis or CBD...... well, you are going to need to keep looking.


While the internet (insert eye twitch), your neighbor, friend, aunt, uncle, etc may claim that you can get "good sleep" from use of an edible, smoking, vaping or using an oil made of TCH or its derivative- just like our other "sleep medications", medical marijuana does NOT improve sleep quality OR reduce the severity of insomnia. It does NOT improve sleep apnea (OSA) symptoms. The endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter system in our brain is not directly involved in the onset or maintenance of normal sleep cycles- so any cannabinoid, or substance containing it or its derivative, cannot produce normal sleep patterns! Marijuana, while possibly inducing a "sleepy" feeling, will actually increase the occurrence of lighter stages of sleep and decrease your time in REM sleep. Decreased REM/deep sleep over time can lead to weight gain, memory issues and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Regular marijuana use, similar to other prescriptions or over the counter sleep aide use, has been shown to induce dependence/tolerance, requiring higher and higher doses over time to achieve similar effects, as well as withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use.


In comparison, cannabidiol (CBD), demonstrates even increased complications when used in the treatment of sleep disorders. In recent studies, it disrupted sleep pattersn more by reducing not only REM sleep, but lighter stages of sleep too- actually causing increased episodes of insomnia!


So currently, we have no indications of recommendations to use medical marijuana, recreational marijuana or CBD for "sleep issues". While marijuana or its derivatives may have uses for other medical treatments (i.e. pain, nausea, cancer,etc), they have not shown any more promise with less risk to treat sleep disorders than the other medications/treatments we already have available.



References

Conroy, D. A., Kurth, M. E., Strong, D. R., Brower, K. J., & Stein, M. D. (2016). Marijuana use patterns and sleep among community-based young adults. Journal of Addictive Diseases, 35(2), 135-143. doi: 10.1080/10550887.2015.1132986


Gates, P. J., Albertella, L., & Copeland, J. (2014) The effects of cannabinoid administration on sleep: a systematic review of human studies. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 18(6), 477-487, doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.02.005


Gates, P. J., Albertella, L., & Copeland, J. (2015). Cannabis withdrawal and sleep: A systematic review of human studies. Substance Abuse, 37(1), 255-269. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1023484


Hsiao, Y. -T., Yi, P. -L., Li, C. -L., & Chang, F. _C. (2012). Effects of cannabidiol on sleep disruption induced by the repeated combination tests consisting of open field and elevated plus-maze in rats. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 373-384. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.08.013


Johnson, J. R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E. D., Potts, R., & Fallon, M. T. (2010). Multcenter, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC Extract in Patients with Intractable Cancer-Related Pain. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 167-179. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.20019.06.008


Maple, K. E., Mcdaniel, K. A., Shollengarger, S. G., & Lisdahl, K. M. (2016). Dose-dependent cannabis use, depressive symptoms, and FAAH genotype predict sleep quality in emerging adults: a pilot study. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 42(4), 431-440. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2016.1141913


Pacek, L. R., Herrmann, E. S., Smith, M. T., & Vandrey, R. (2017). Sleep continuity, architecture and quality among treatment-seeking cannabis users: An in-home, unattended polysomnographic study. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 25(4), 295-302. doi: 10.1037/pha0000126


Wenk, G. L. (2019, April 21). Marijuana for Insomnia? Is marijuana better or worse than currently available drugs? Your Brain on Food.

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