Most of us know what it is like to suffer through a restless night.  Whether the cause is situational stress, excitement for a big event or even too much caffeine, hours of tossing and turning is a distressing experience which in turn impacts one’s daytime energy.  However, for approx. one in 10 Australians a lack of sleep extends past a night or two, lasting anywhere from weeks right through to even years or even decades.  This is known as chronic insomnia.

Some of the most common symptoms of insomnia include:

  • 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

While the debate on how much sleep is “enough sleep” is still not settled, it is painfully apparent to those who suffer from insomnia what a “lack of sleep” feels like. For many, it is a self-feeding beast that gets perpetually worse as the dread of a sleepless night rolling into the exhaustion of the following day.  An infinite circle that can have devastating affects on one’s mental health.

Importance of Sleep

From athletes to office workers, parents to shift-workers and everyone, a good night sleep will make a tangible difference to one’s performance over both the short and long term.  In the short term, a notable increase in mood, sharpness and willingness to tackle the days challenges is evident after a deep slumber.  The impacts of consistent, high quality sleep over the long term is even more beneficial, including:

  • Increased immune system
  • Weight/appetite moderation
  • Heart strength
  • Mental sharpness
  • Athletic output
  • Recover/inflammation reduction

With much at stake, it is no wonder many who suffer with insomnia turn to medications including highly addictive opioids for some form of relief.  However, recent studies are being to validate what anecdotal evidence has suggested for centuries – cannabis is an effective sleep aid.

Cannabis for Sleep

Unlike many over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills, cannabis is effective as it helps restores the natural sleep cycle.  It does so by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a communication system within human body that works to maintain homeostasis.  Comprised of enzymes, receptors and naturally occurring endocannabinoids, the ECS is responsible for the moderation of mood, appetite and sleep.

The cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis interact with the ECS in very specific and unique ways.  For example, THC interacts with both of the body’s natural endocannabinoid receptors whereas CBD has been found to enhance the natural levels of endocannabinoids by occupying specific enzymes.  Further, how cannabis is consumed will also play a part on the intensity, duration and time taken to feel the effects (i.e. vaping vs oral consumption).  As such, there are a plethora of factors to consider when looking which cannabis product is best suited to each individual, including:

  • THC vs CBD dominant
  • Isolate vs Full Spectrum products
  • Delivery method
  • Strain of cannabis

Takeaways

The bottom line, much like most topics in the medicinal cannabis space, is that more research is required.  Most cannabis doctors and patients alike agree that cannabis is a tremendous sleep aid, but the results are out on which combination of cannabinoids is optimal and how individual said combination should be from patient to patient.