Catching some z’s. Getting 40 winks. Hitting the sack.
Maybe there are so many slang terms for sleeping because it’s such a huge part of our lives. As much as we try to downplay it in our busy days, humans need solid, restorative sleep time.
The ability of medical marijuana to promote restful sleep makes it a powerful aid in treating a range of illnesses and conditions. Now, a new survey shows that cannabis users enjoy better sleep. Perhaps more importantly, many reduced or stopped their use of over-the-counter medications and even opioid painkillers – a hopeful sign in the search for non-addictive solutions.
“Both pain relief and sleep promotion are common reasons for cannabis use, and the majority of respondents who reported using cannabis for these reasons also reported decreasing or stopping their use of prescription or over-the-counter analgesics and sleep aids,” the researchers reported in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
Medical marijuana improves sleep and relieves pain
In Pennsylvania, legal medical marijuana use is approved for 23 serious medical conditions. They vary widely, but many have one thing in common – disrupted sleep that slows healing and worsens symptoms.
Medical marijuana offers the promise of restored sleep for patients suffering from a range of ailments:
- PTSD patients often endure recurring nightmares, losing sleep while reliving past trauma.
- Chronic pain and neuropathies cause restless, sleepless nights.
- The sleeplessness of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS can accelerate progression of the disorders, researchers are finding.
- The flareups of Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome disrupt sleep, putting patients at risk of further complications.
- Better-quality sleep helps the body and mind fight cancer, but sleep is elusive. About one-quarter to half of prescriptions written for cancer patients are for insomnia, a frequent and recurring problem.
- Withdrawal from substance abuse is hard enough, but insomnia is a common side effect that can lead to relapse. Sleep loss can have “significant negative effects on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of people in recovery,” reports the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Without proper sleep, the road to recovery can be hampered by exhaustion, depression, and anxiety.
In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released its landmark “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.” Researchers concluded that patients treated with cannabis or cannabinoids “were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms.” They also found “moderate evidence” that cannabis or cannabinoids can improve short-term sleep outcomes in patients suffering a range of conditions, including fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.
What medical marijuana patients say about sleep
In Colorado, researchers asked 1,000 users of legal, recreational marijuana how they used cannabis for pain and sleep. They also asked those who turn to cannabis as a sleep aid how it affected their use of prescribed and OTC pain medications.
Researchers embarked on the study to learn more about the perceived benefits of cannabis to relieve pain and promote sleep, especially as alternatives to commonly used medications that patients fear can lead to misuse, addiction, or overdose.
The results were dramatic:
- 74 percent of respondents reported using cannabis to promote sleep. Of those, 83 percent found it to be very or extremely helpful. Among those who had taken OTC sleep aids, 87 percent said they had now stopped or reduced their use. And for those who had taken prescription sleep aids, 83 percent said they had reduced or stopped use altogether.
- 65 percent of respondents reported using cannabis to relieve pain. Of those, 80 percent said that cannabis was very or extremely helpful. A full 88 percent of those pain sufferers who had used opioid medications reported they had reduced or stopped their use. Of those who had used OTC painkillers, 82 percent reported reducing or stopping their use.
While the researchers said that more studies are needed, they concluded that the results suggest “at least some adult use customers may substitute cannabis use for prescription and over-the-counter analgesics and sleep aids.”
The Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana program opens the door for legal medical cannabis for children and adults suffering from those 23 medical conditions. Patients who obtain a medical marijuana ID card, consult with health care professionals, and visit a Pennsylvania medical marijuana dispensary can find new treatment options, finally drifting off to dreamland every night in the quest for better quality of life.