As a nurse in Pennsylvania, I have seen first-hand the struggles that patients with insomnia face on a daily basis. Insomnia is a condition characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. This can lead to a host of other problems, including fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and other health issues.
Traditional treatments for insomnia include prescription medications such as sedatives and hypnotics, but these can come with a host of side effects and can, at times, be addictive.
Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is much more tolerable. So, I’m calling all Yinzers to explore a potentially amazing night’s sleep in 2023 and for many years to come!
Does Cannabis Really Help You Sleep?
The short answer is yes.
Medical marijuana has been shown to have a number of benefits for those suffering from insomnia. According to the Sleep Foundation, 85% of medical cannabis patients report success with cannabis as a sleep aid. Using cannabis for sleep can be a meaningful, non-addictive solution.
What is Insomnia?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people in the United States, including in the state of Pennsylvania.
It is estimated that approximately 30% of adults in the U.S. experience insomnia symptoms, with 10% of adults having chronic insomnia. In Pennsylvania, it is estimated that around 3 million people are affected by insomnia. The prevalence of insomnia increases with age, with older adults being more likely to experience insomnia symptoms.
Insomnia can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being, including physical, mental and cognitive health. It can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can affect work productivity and overall quality of life. Chronic insomnia can also increase the risk of developing other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
It’s important to note that insomnia may be caused by a variety of factors, including medical conditions, medications, and lifestyle habits. Insomnia can also be caused by psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression, which are also prevalent in the state of Pennsylvania.
4 ways medical cannabis aids in sleep
- Increases the amount of time spent in deep sleep: THC has been shown to increase the amount of time spent in deep sleep, also known as non-REM sleep. Deep sleep is the most restorative stage of sleep, and is essential for overall physical and mental well-being. By increasing the amount of time spent in deep sleep, THC can help to improve the overall quality of sleep, making it more restful and rejuvenating.
- Reduces feelings of anxiety and stress: Anxiety and stress are major contributors to insomnia and can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. By binding to CB1 receptors in the brain, THC can reduce the release of neurotransmitters associated with stress, promoting relaxation and making it easier to fall asleep.
- Improves mood: THC can help to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and can also have a positive effect on appetite. This can be particularly beneficial for those with insomnia who may have trouble eating or have lost their appetite due to the condition.
- Reduces pain: Many people with insomnia have underlying conditions such as chronic pain or arthritis that can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Medical marijuana can help to reduce pain and inflammation, which can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
CBD for insomnia
One of the main active ingredients in marijuana, CBD, has been shown to have a relaxing effect on the body. This can help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, which are often major contributors to insomnia. Even though CBD is proven to be well-tolerated, it has been shown to cause drowsiness, which can help to promote sleep.
How CBD contributes to healthy sleep
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the main non-psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD does not bind directly to the CB1 receptors in the brain, but it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) in a complex way. The ECS is a system of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids that are involved in regulating many physiological processes in the body, including sleep.
CBD has been found to interact with the ECS in several ways that may contribute to the drowsy feeling people experience after consuming it:
- Enhancing the activity of GABA: GABA is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety. CBD has been found to enhance the activity of GABA, which can lead to feelings of calmness and drowsiness.
- Inhibiting the activity of the enzyme FAAH: FAAH is an enzyme that is responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoid anandamide, which is associated with feelings of well-being and euphoria. CBD has been found to inhibit the activity of FAAH, which can lead to increased levels of anandamide and a sedative effect.
- Modulating the activity of the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating mood, anxiety, and sleep. The 5-HT1A receptor is a serotonin receptor that has been found to be involved in the regulation of sleep. CBD has been found to modulate the activity of the 5-HT1A receptor, which can lead to increased serotonin levels and promote sleep.
It’s important to note that the effects of CBD on the body can vary depending on the dosage, the method of administration and the individual. CBD can lower cortisol levels but is not necessarily as helpful as THC and CBN in treating insomnia. It is always encouraged to speak with your certified MMJ Doctor for guidance.
THC for sleep. How does it work?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the main active ingredients in marijuana. It is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, such as the feeling of being “high.” When THC is consumed, it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, specifically CB1 receptors.
The biological process that makes people tired when consuming marijuana is related to the interaction of the active ingredients in marijuana, specifically THC, with specific receptors in the body known as cannabinoid receptors.
THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, binds to cannabinoid receptors primarily located in the brain and central nervous system, specifically CB1 receptors, which are known to play a role in regulating sleep. When THC binds to these receptors, it affects the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, and can cause changes in the activity of the hypothalamus, the brain region responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
The activity of the hypothalamus is controlled by the release of the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production is influenced by the level of light in the environment, and is highest at night when it is dark. THC has been found to inhibit the production of melatonin, which can lead to drowsiness and an increased desire to sleep.
THC has been found to inhibit the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress and waking hours, that can also contribute to the drowsy feeling people experience after consuming marijuana.
Can you get medical marijuana for trouble sleeping?
While insomnia is not one of the 23 qualified conditions in Pennsylvania, there are other conditions most often experienced in tandem with insomnia, including:
- Chronic Pain
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Contacting a specialist at getyouridcard.com will get you on the right path to certifying for the program.
What is the best strain of medical cannabis for insomnia?
There are a multitude of strains considered to be helpful on the journey to a better night’s sleep. My best advice is to speak with your local MMJ pharmacist to find an indica strain with the perfect combination of THC and CBD to give you the calming, sleepy feeling you desire. But to get you started, here are a few to look out for. All containing a terpene called myrcene which is known to have slightly sedating effects (couch locking).
- Grand Daddy Purple- A strong indica with a rich history. High THC. Low CBD. Not recommended for beginning patients as it is considered very potent.
- Northern Lights- another classic known to aid in sleep
- Bubba Kush- With terpenes including delta-limonene, beta-myrcene, and beta-caryophyllene terpenes, all aiding in sleep, this is known to be a CBD rich strain.
4 Hacks To Help You Sleep
- Drink a warm beverage. Hot tea is a great way to relax as you let your medicine take effect. One of my favorites is banana tea. The potassium helps your muscles and somehow, this one puts me to sleep as well.
- Take a warm bath or hot shower to relax your muscles.
- Medical cannabis lotions paired with tinctures to help with issues such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
- Indica strains are known to have more of a drowsy effect than sativas and most hybrids. On your journey to find a restful night’s sleep, be sure to discuss your needs with you MMJ doctor and pharmacist. They will assist you in finding the perfect strains.
How Can I Get My PA MMJ card?
If you are a resident of Pennsylvania and are interested in using medical marijuana to treat your insomnia, it is important to first get certified in the PA medical marijuana program. This involves consulting with a certified physician and getting a medical marijuana card. A Medical Marijuana Specialist can help you get certified in as little as 15 minutes.
Once you have your card, you will be able to purchase medical marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary.Educating and advocating for yourself can be life changing. If you feel like you’d like more info or are ready to certify simply call 833-667-4665 to speak to a specialist today!