According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health concern.
Can I get an amen?
Sleep is precious and going without it for days, months, even years at a time is harmful to not just your physical well-being, but also your emotional well-being.
The effects of the lack of sleep can creep into every aspect of your life, from your ability to concentrate, remember things to your ability to drive to your performance at work and even your relationship with your loved ones.
Bill from Orinda, CA, who’s been struggling with difficulties sleeping for years now recently wrote in about using marijuana for his Sleep Apnea. Here’s what he writes…
Hey Dr. Patel,
So far none of the other doctors have been able to help me with my troubles sleeping, but I’m hoping you can.
I’ve struggled with sleep since as far back as I can remember. I’m now 55 and it’s only gotten worse over the years.
I’ve had a really hard time falling asleep since I was a teenager. I lay in bed for hours with mind racing. I think I’ve tried everything I can possibly try for my difficulty sleeping over the past 25 years.
Over-the-counter sleep aids, like Unisom and Zzzquil, have left me feeling hungover in the morning.
Melatonin doesn’t work.
I took Ambien for several years, but that stuff has some pretty scary side effects. Like this one time, I ended up buying a bunch of stuff on Amazon and didn’t realize I did the packages arrived at my front door. Another time, I woke up in the middle of the night, turned on the car, and was about to drive off to who knows where. Luckily my wife heard the garage door and stopped me before I could drive off.
Even when Ambien did help me sleep, I never woke up feeling fully rested. I’d be groggy the following day which made it really hard to focus at work.
As I entered my mid-40s, like just about every other man in America out there, I started snoring. And, I’m sure just like every other wife in America, it drove my wife nuts.
Eventually she insisted that I get checked out by a doctor. Sure enough, it turned out that I had Sleep Apnea. My doctors gave me this really weird contraption to wear. It was attached to what’s called a CPAP machine. I tried my best to make it work, but it was all so uncomfortable that I could hardly sleep. After 6 months I just gave up on it.
Now, I’m back to where I started. The only difference is that my loving wife has sentenced me to the guest bedroom until I can get my snoring under control.
Recently, I was telling a friend of mine about my difficulties sleeping. He happened to have some marijuana on hand that he gave me. I have to say I was definitely surprised. I had the best sleep I had ever had in years.
Was this just a fluke? Does marijuana really help with sleep?
I totally get it. If there’s one medical condition that I can completely relate to, it’s difficulty sleeping. Going through medical training in Emergency Medicine, there were times when I worked over 90 hours in a period of 5 days. I can relate to that feeling of being desperate for sleep.
In fact, at that time, I was having so much difficulty sleeping that I decided it was time to pay a visit to my primary care doctor. She wrote me a prescription for Ambien. But, after thoroughly researching the adverse effects of Ambien, I decided there’s no way I’m taking it.
Unfortunately, at the time I lived in a state where marijuana was deemed illegal, but I know if I lived in a state where marijuana was considered legal, it’s the first thing I would’ve turned to.
Medical Marijuana for Sleep: THE RESEARCH
So to answer your question, I want to first talk about the research on medical marijuana for sleep-specfically, sleep apnea.
The study I’m going to share with you was done using a medication called Dronabinol. It’s a man-made form of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)-one of the chemicals that marijuana makes a lot of. In the United States, Dronabinol is approved by the FDA to help reduce nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, especially when prescription anti-nausea medications just aren’t cutting it.
This particular study was done on 17 adults that had Sleep Apnea. Ultimately, the study measured the number of pauses in breathing pauses the patients had while they were sleeping.
Patients with Sleep Apnea have pauses in breathing while they sleep. These pauses in breathing can last anywhere from seconds to minutes. They occur pretty often-30 or more times in an hour. When the patients starts to breathe normally again, they may make a snorting or choking sound. It’s these pauses in breathing that disrupts the patient’s sleep cycle. They go from a deep to a light state of sleep. They wake up feeling unrested and end up feeling tired the following day.
When this study was completed, the researchers found a significant reduction, specifically 32%, in the number of pauses in breathing in 15 of the 17 patients. None of these patients experienced any adverse side effects from using the Dronabinol.
Medical Marijuana for Sleep: THE RESULTS
Now, on to what I love to share the most, the results I see in my own practice.
To start off with, I’ve found that I need to treat patients with mild to moderate insomnia much differently than patients with moderate to severe insomnia. I’ve also found that patients who have difficulty falling asleep need a much different approach to treatment than patients who have difficulty staying asleep.
In terms of results, I’ve found that patients who use medical marijuana for insomnia and sleep apnea report back that they
- fall asleep more easily.
- stay asleep throughout the night.
- fall back asleep easily, if they end up waking up in the middle of the night.
- average about 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
- wake up feeling refreshed rather than groggy.
Bill, I hope that information is helpful for you and your wife. I also hope that it’s useful for any other readers out there are thinking about using medical marijuana for sleep.
More information on Medical Marijuana for Sleep:
- Recent Research on Medical Marijuana and Sleep Apnea – NORML
- What Does Marijuana Do To Your Sleep Patterns?