Cannabis As An Insomnia Treatment

Cannabis as an insomnia treatment
Image: C_Scott

While many of us experience sleep problems at some stage of our lives, for some it can be chronic and seriously impact on their quality of life and ability to operate.

Conventional medications used for treating insomnia can have undesirable effects – including tolerance and dependence. The use of medical cannabis might be a solution for some.

In a recent study, 409 users reported using cannabis flower to treat insomnia during 1,056 sessions. The methods of usage were joint (13%), pipe (38%), and vape (49%). The mean tetrahydrocannabionol (THC) level of the cannabis used was 20%  and the mean cannabidiol (CBD) level was 5.7%. Observations were omitted where THC potencies were greater than 35% or CBD potencies greater than 30%.

“Our results showed that on average, Releaf App users experienced a statistically and clinically significant improvement (−4.5 points on a 0–10 point scale) in perceived insomnia levels,” according to the study report, which was published in the journal Medicines.

Releaf is a popular app that helps patients track and discover the types of cannabis, dosing, and consumption methods that work best for them.

An interesting result from the study is while results did not seem to show a clear relationship between THC or CBD in its impacts, other cannabinoid chemical such as as cannabinols and terpenes may be coming into play. However, CBD potency levels were associated with greater symptom relief than were THC levels.

This would make sense as high levels of cannabidiol are thought to counteract some of the anxiety side-effects that can occur with THC. Cannabidiol also has a very good safety profile.

“Cannabinoid and terpene profiles vary across strains and we did find that the most frequently used cannabis strains for insomnia treatment were quite distinct in their chemotypic characteristics,” state the authors.

While acknowledging the limitations of their research, the authors state their results indicate consumption of cannabis flower is associated with significant improvements in perceived insomnia with differential effectiveness and side effect profiles. Given the wide use of cannabis as a sleep aid, they say the topic warrants further investigation to better determine risk and benefit.

While smoking or vaping raw cannabis may not interest some insomniacs, there are other cannabis medications targeting insomnia being developed.

Australian company Zelda Therapeutics Ltd (ASX: ZLD) completed patient recruitment for its insomnia trial in April and we can expect to hear more about how that’s going soon.