After a big day, there’s nothing better than jumping into bed and getting some much-needed rest. But unfortunately, for someone who suffers from insomnia, staying and falling asleep is a taxing challenge.

Sadly, a study has found that more than half of adult Australians are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom that is affecting their everyday lives.

What’s Insomnia?

Insomnia is defined as being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can affect not only sleep but also your everyday life.

Insomnia is defined by a range of symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Irritability, depression, or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

When talking about Insomnia, it’s important to note that there are different types of sleep disorders:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Sleep Hypoventilation
  • Bruxism
  • Nightmares and night terrors
  • Rapid eye movement behaviour disorder

Insomnia in Australia

Very little of Australians speak to their doctor about their lack of sleep, despite nearly half of Australia’s population reporting insufficient sleep.

“It’s troubling to see just how common it is for Australians to struggle with their sleep when it’s such a vital aspect of good health and happiness,” said senior author Professor Robert Adams from the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.

In a study conducted by the sleep health foundation of Australia, around 60% of Australians report they have at least 1 sleep symptom occurring 3 or more times per week, which is consistent across all age groups.

The graph below shows the number of Australians who meet the threshold for clinical insomnia and potentially will need to seek health care help.

Graph data collected from https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/Special_Reports/SHF_Insomnia_Report_2019_Final_SHFlogo.pdf.

How is Insomnia generally treated?

Insomnia is generally treated with prescription sleep aids in conjunction with cognitive behavioural therapy. These prescription sleep aids can include:

  • Anti-psychotics
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) medications
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants

These prescription medications are all associated with significant negative side effects and risks of dangerous drug interactions [6] such as:

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory impairments

These side effects and the risk of becoming addicted to these medications may make people with insomnia willing to try alternative sleep aid therapies, such as Medicinal Marijuana, which is commonly used and legal in Australia for treating insomnia [5,6,7].

Can Medical Cannabis potentially help treat insomnia?

With Medical Cannabis’s long history as a medical herb and medicine, it’s no surprise that there are studies showing positive effects in improvement in sleep and other insomnia symptoms when medicating legally with Medicinal Cannabis.

Cannabis and Insomnia Research

Australian researchers from The University of Western Australia have reported interesting results from the world’s first placebo-controlled clinical trial that tested the effectiveness of Medical Cannabis in treating chronic insomnia.

The trial recruited 23 subjects who suffered from chronic insomnia. Each subject was given either an active dose or a placebo for two weeks. The Medical Cannabis was administered as an oil under the tongue, and subjects were allowed to take either a single or double dose depending on their symptoms. The oil that the patients were administered was a Tetrahdrocannabidiol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) blend.

The sleep quality was measured using the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), subjective responses and wrist-based sleep trackers. These measuring tactics were used alongside objective subject improvements in feeling rested upon waking and increase in overall time spent sleeping.

The results showed a significant improvement in ISI scores which decreased by 26% across all participants whilst those on the highest Medical Cannabis dosage achieved a total of 36% reduction in their ISI score. Participants also reported that their sleep quality had improved and they felt well-rested once waking since using the CBD THC oil.

Lead researcher, Professor Peter Eastwood from UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science, stated that “This study was the most rigorous clinical trial ever undertaken to assess the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis to treat the symptoms of chronic insomnia.”

The side effects that patients experienced from the CBD THC oil were very minor such as dry mouth and headache, which quickly passed for most patients.

Another study that was conducted in America, concluded that the consumption of Medicinal Marijuana flower is linked to substantial improvements in perceived insomnia with differential effectiveness and side effect profiles, depending on the product characteristics.

Clinical research has shown that Medical Marijuana can help some patients improve restfulness, sleep quality and insomnia. Unlike other typically prescribed drugs for insomnia, Medical Cannabis is non-toxic and to this day there are no direct deaths in history that cannabis has caused. However, it’s important to note that Medical Cannabis can interact with some medications, which is why consulting with a Doctor or Nurse is very beneficial as they specialise in Cannabis medicine.

 

Sources:

  1. Cannabis proven to help insomniacs sleep. News | The University Of Western Australia. (2020). Retrieved from http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/2020040711981/research/cannabis-proven-help-insomniacs-sleep.
  2. hClients3.weblink.com.au. (2020). Retrieved  from https://clients
  3. weblink.com.au/pdf/ZLD/02222988.pdf.ttps://clients3.weblink.com.au/pdf/ZLD/02222988.pdf3. 
  4. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/news/special-reports/chronic-insomnia-disorder-in-australia.html
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164964/
  6. Bonn-Miller M.O., Babson K.A., Vandrey R. Using cannabis to help you sleep: Heightened frequency of medical cannabis use among those with PTSD. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2014;136:162–165. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.12.008.
  7. Bradford A.C., Bradford W.D. Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare Part D. Health Aff. 2016;35:1230–1236. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1661.
  8. Piper B.J. Substitution of medical cannabis for pharmaceutical agents for pain, anxiety, and sleep. J. Psychopharmacol. 2017;31:569–575. doi: 10.1177/0269881117699616.