What is insomnia? How is insomnia normally treated?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep throughout the night, or wake up early in the morning and aren’t able to fall asleep again. This can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life, function and well-being.
Current treatments encompass helping people with sleep hygeine, psychological and behavioural changes, and over-the-counter and prescription medications. Whilst some medication can be used in the short term, there are potential issues with effectiveness and even dependency in the long-term.
Does cannabis help with sleep?
I’ll describe the effect of cannabis in general on sleep, before describing how medicinal cannabis fits into this afterwards.
Cannabis has been used by people for sleep for a long time. However, it seems there may be factors in cannabis that cause it to be more or less useful.
One known (side) effect of cannabis is that it can cause sleepiness, or lethargy (tiredness). Although this may be seen as a side effect, especially for people who are working during the day and need to get out and about, it can actually be beneficial if it is taken before bedtime, as it can help with getting to sleep.
On the other hand, in one study, people who have been using cannabis who were quitting, had worse sleep in the first two weeks of stopping.
Can medicinal cannabis be prescribed for insomnia?
The decision to prescribe a medication relies of weighing up the benefits and risks of starting, as well as seeing what other treatments patients have tried before considering medicinal cannabis. Medicinal cannabis isn’t considered a first-line treatment, but in certain circumstances, it may be considered in insomnia.
But which form of cannabis is better for insomnia?
Most medicinal cannabis, unlike recreational cannabis, tends to contain just two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD [link to other article – cannabis oil]. The main difference between these two are that THC is psychoactive whilst CBD is not. Psychoactive means that besides being able to cause hallucinations at higher doses, and dizziness, it can also cause agitation and increase anxiety.
For those reasons, you can probably see why the main cannabinoid of choice for insomnia is CBD! CBD on the whole tends to cause much lower number, and more mild, side effects than THC, if any at all.
Although more studies are needed, there was one that found a decrease in time for a person to fall asleep when taking cannabidiol (compared with a placebo).