Curing insomnia with cannabisTOI TRINH
Insomnia is a dyssomnia describing constant inability to initiate and maintain sleep. Cannabis is a multiplex drug with a vast number of effects, some of which have medical value. Cannabis contains chemical compounds known as cannabinoid. The major cannabinoid present in cannabis is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). These cannabinoid imitates the activity of chemicals naturally found in our body known as ‘endocannabinoid’. Endocannabinoids are chemical compounds with biological pathways that make up the body’s endocannabinoid system which is responsible for sleep control or maintenance.
To comprehend how cannabis affects sleep it is important to know the sleep cycle.
In the sleep cycle, humans have repeated episodes of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and Non-REM. Non REM cycle is divided into three stages, stages 1, 2, & 3, REM is considered as stage 4.
NREM stage 1- it is the stage where light sleep is experienced, lasting about 5-15 minutes. Persons may be drowsy, and may have sudden twitch like movements.
NREM stage2- is composed of theta activity where senses are withdrawn from the external environment and focus laid on the internal signals. A person in this stage may become slowly harder to awaken.
NREM stage3- is known as deep or slow wave sleep. Various body systems slow down namely; the heart rate, temperature, breathing rate and the brain has slow and larger waves. In addition to that, acetylcholine reduces in the brain.
Stage 4 REM- during REM the body is in a virtual state of body paralysis due to reduced muscle tone, in addition, brain waves are faster and shorter , the heart rate, breathing rate, body temperature become increased and uncontrolled. Dreaming is reported at this stage. An average adult reaches REM every 90 minutes.
Cannabis effects on sleep
CBD (Cannabidiol) found in high levels in the indica strain is known to induce much heavier sleep. Indica strains and indica dominant hybrids have been shown to induce sleep more readily than sativa and their genotypes. It has been theorized that the terpenes (distinctive compounds found in each strain’s unique effect finger print) found in the indicas contain more relaxing terpenes than in the sativas.
Given that cannabis has the ability to curb stress and relax body muscles, these effects will help individuals with insomnia fall asleep faster, thus enhances NREM stage 1.
Due to its effect on body pains especially in chronic illnesses, cannabis improves a person’s theta activity since external stimuli will be eliminated thus improving NREM stage 2; this without a doubt enhances a person’s time to progress on to deep or delta sleep.
Therefore, cannabis decreases the amount of time spent to fall asleep. In addition, cannabis affects the different stages of sleep notably, the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and the slow wave sleep by intertwining them. This leads to an increase in the slow wave sleep and a reduction in the REM sleep. Decrease in REM sleep causes dreamless sleep. Moreover, an increase in the slow wave sleep has been shown to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure in older men. Thus, persons experiencing lack of sleep altogether, may actually benefit from using cannabis.
Ultimately, cannabis should be considered in the treatment of some sleep disorders since it offers some health benefits. All in all, cannabis use at bedtime should be used with caution since therapeutic dose effects differ from one individual to the next. Notably, unlike other commonly abused substances like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine among others, not recommended at bedtime – all of which are known to distort sleep patterns as well as aggravated pre-existing sleep disorders, nighttime cannabis on the other hand, can be deemed beneficial for curing insomnia.