Many people with sleep disorders such as obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) will try just about anything to get a good night’s sleep. This includes the use of cannabis as a possible sleep aid. Now that the sale and production of cannabis in legal for those 18 and over in Canada, we look at some of the scientific research on whether marijuana products are safe and effective in treating OSA and what other treatment you may want to consider.
The Difference Between THC and CBD and How They May Affect Sleep
The flower from the cannabis plant has more than 100 different active compounds, known as cannabinoids. Two of the most common are THC, which is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and results in euphoria, hallucinations, anxiety, and tachycardia, and the other is CBD (cannabidiol), which is said to counteract the effects of THC and is known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
A study done in humans found that CBD produced a more alert state, while THC acted as a sedative.
While research has shown that THC has sedative effects, and those who smoke or ingest it may have an easier time falling asleep, there is limited evidence that the use of THC improves respiratory stability in patients with OSA.
While research is inconclusive at the moment on how CBD can be used to treat sleep-related disorders, an article in Consumer Reports has Dr. Joseph Maroon, a clinical professor and neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, saying that using CBD could help some people sleep better as it is shown to relieve anxiety and pain, both of which can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.
The Use of Dronabinol (THC) in Treating Sleep Apnea
Also known as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), dronabinol is a synthetic form of the naturally occurring THC found in marijuana.
After early animal studies demonstrated that the use of dronabinol improved respiratory stability, other recent studies in humans have explored the potential use of dronabinol as an alternative treatment for sleep apnea.
However, in the abstract, Medical Cannabis and the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, published by the AASM, it was found that while synthetic medical cannabis may cause sleepiness or drowsiness, the long-term effects on other sleep quality measures, tolerability, and safety are still unknown, and therefore it is not recommended that cannabis be used as a treatment for OSA.
In addition, dronabinol is currently not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in treating sleep apnea, and medical cannabis and synthetic extracts other than dronabinol have not been studied in patients with OSA. In Canada, dronabinol, under the brand name Marinol, is no longer being manufactured for sale in Canada.
The Most Effective Treatment
Any changes in your stages of sleep are a factor to consider when evaluating whether, and how long, to use cannabis. It is also known that taking cannabis to sleep is not a natural method of inducing sleep, and can lead to a dependency on the drug as well as other side effects.
While the jury is still out on the use as cannabis as a safe and effective sleep treatment, medical studies show that CPAP therapy (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is the most common and reliable method in treating OSA. Those who use a CPAP mask for more than seven hours at night normally see a decrease in daytime sleepiness, along with many other important health benefits.
For more information on the effectiveness of CPAP, read how CPAP Therapy Reduces Depression.
Snore MD offers tried and true sleep solutions, including CPAP therapy and professional medical care for snoring, apnea, insomnia, and other sleep issues at its sleep clinics located throughout B.C. Contact Snore MD’s sleep specialists to find a clinic near you.