It’s that time of the year, falling leaves, cool nights, comfort meals, and sleep.
When daylight shifts, so do sleep schedules. We get to bed earlier and sleep later… or so it seems. What’s likely happening is an effect of the clock turned back combined with diminishing sunlight hours.
For those who struggle with sleep, it may be a difficult time of year. A recent study published in Exploration of Medicine by the Department of Psychology at Washington State University (WSU), analyzed survey responses from 1,216 people who struggle with insomnia and chose Cannabis to improve their sleep. The surveyed respondents reported that Cannabis helps to relax their mind (83.0%) and body (81.0%). Furthermore, 56.2% reported it helps them get a deeper sleep, 41.6% reported it helps them get a longer sleep, and 36.3% reported it provides them with uninterrupted sleep.
Insufficient sleep is recognized as a public health epidemic by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Forty percent of U.S. adults report symptoms of insomnia getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep in a 24- hour period. People resort to over the counter (OTC) sleep aids or prescription medicines, which may have a high potential for addiction or undesirable side effects. Participants in the study reported feeling more refreshed, focused, better able to function, fewer headaches, and less nausea the morning after using Cannabis. However, they also reported side-effects common to Cannabis use, excessive drowsiness, red-eyes, dry mouth, and anxiety. Altogether, most respondents chose to use Cannabis every night (68%) and have been using it for more than one year (70%)
As with all therapeutic substances, dosage matters. Knowing which Cannabis product to use for sleep requires some understanding of its active product ingredients (API). Cannabis flowers contain, cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other potential API. The Cannabis flower contains approximately 20% cannabinoid by weight, mostly consisting of cannabinoids, THC and CBD. Cannabis flowers can be classified into Type I (high THC, low CBD), Type II (equivalent THC and CBD), and Type III (high CBD, low THC). Generally, THC content is considered important for any product made for sleep. However, THC alone might be stimulating. Typically, Cannabis sleep aides will contain an equal amount of THC and CBD. Some might also contain another cannabinoid, CBN, the oxidative form of THC.
Terpenes might also contribute to sleep. Many terpene afficionados bring up linalool, a Cannabis terpene also found in lavender and known to have sedative effects. However, most other Cannabis terpenes may be cognitively stimulating. As well, the synergistic effect of combined cannabinoids and terpenes may be energizing. Preliminary results from CESC’s Dosing Project Initiative suggest that Cannabis flowers with attenuated terpenes may be most relaxing and best for sleep.
Although most of the WSU study participants smoked (46.1%) or vaporized (42.6%) Cannabis flower, it’s well known that ingesting Cannabis products also works as a sleep aid. Some consumers prefer ingesting as it results in a longer effect and may be useful for those who tend to wake up in the middle of the night. It is not yet clear whether terpenes significantly contribute to the effect of ingested Cannabis and even less clear whether other Cannabis biochemicals contribute. Cannabis products labeled “Indica” or “Sativa” are generally marketed, but unreliable and the designations are unlikely to predict sleep inducing effects.
The WSU study contributes to a better understanding of Cannabis consumers and how they use Cannabis to fall asleep. Outdoor Cannabis is harvested in fall and winter, which are great seasons for sleep. Thanks to regulated and improved access, Cannabis products are available in most states as a safer and more effective option for sleep. Choose wisely, know your dose, and happy dreams from MediCann.
Jean Talleyrand, M.D.,