Just What the Doctor Ordered: Using CBD for Sleep

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Using CBD for Sleep

By Daniel Lofaso, guest contributor

Did you know around 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders are among the top three chronic conditions that doctors in medical marijuana states are using cannabis to help treat. Here’s what our experience as THC physicians has taught us:

As one of the most common health issues in the United States, sleep disorders range from insomnia and narcolepsy to sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, as well as nearly 80 other different types of sleep problems.

But all of them share one trait: Sleep disorders affect your quality and quantity of sleep. And that has a direct impact on your overall mental and physical well being.

If you’re not clocking the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night, you put yourself at risk for developing serious health conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That’s because while you’re catching zzz’s, your body works on:

  • Storing your memories
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Repairing tissues and removing built-up toxins
  • Regulating your blood pressure and blood sugar levels

And guess what? All this sleep activity falls under the jurisdiction of your body’s very own endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Which is exactly why so many patients self-medicate with marijuana when they’re having trouble sleeping.

Marijuana Affects Sleep By Tapping Into Your ECS

Cannabis contains over a hundred cannabinoids, those diverse chemical compounds that act on specific receptors in the brain. You’ve probably heard of the the two most popular cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

These compounds provide therapeutic benefits as they dock into your body’s ECS through cannabinoid receptors all over your body and in your brain. Research shows both THC and CBD offer different benefits when it comes to your beautyrest.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology suggests THC may have a positive impact on sleep by helping patients become sleepy faster.

However, there have also been studies showing THC may shorten the important REM stage in your sleep cycle, which may reduce your quality of sleep.

But CBD may be able to combat that downside.

What CBD Does for Sleep

In higher doses, CBD has been shown to improve patients’ quality of sleep by:

  • Increasing total sleep time
  • Decreasing sleep interruptions  
  • Counteracting the tiring effects of THC the following morning

Patients not only report zero negative side effects when using medical marijuana for sleep, there’s also no risk of becoming addicted, which are two major disadvantages of taking prescription pills for sleep disorders.

Since medical marijuana sleep research is limited and has yielded mixed results, we can only go by the evidence being reported by patients within our medical practice who are being treated for sleep-related disorders.  

Doctors’ Suggestions for Using Weed for Sleep

At THC Physicians, our preferred ratios of THC:CBD for better sleep range from 5-10 mg of THC from an Indica strain of cannabis, combined with 50-150 mg of CBD oil.

Why is combining CBD oil with MMJ a smart idea? Taking CBD oil alongside the THC coming from medical marijuana has improved sleep for our patients better than either cannabinoid does on their own.

We know THC works well to directly induce sleep so you fall asleep quickly. But THC is also responsible for the psychoactive properties found in cannabis, which may make you anxious and jittery if you use too much before bedtime.

On the other hand, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that’s been studied for its ability to reduce anxiety and counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

Known as “The Entourage Effect,” both THC and CBD enhance the good qualities of each other while lessening the bad.

If you have trouble falling asleep, we recommend 5-10 mg of Indica (THC) to be administered via vaporizer at bedtime, combined with 50-150 mg of CBD to be administered orally and taken throughout the day.

This works well because vaporizing THC will produce effects in about 90 seconds, peak around 15-30 minutes after use, and last between two and three hours. Our patients are usually asleep before peak time ends.

If you have trouble staying asleep, we often recommend 10 mg of Indica oil (THC) to be administered sublingually two hours prior to bedtime, combined with 50-150 mg of CBD taken throughout the day.  

This intake is a bit different in that you’ll let your body naturally fall asleep on its own and then the THC will kick in around 90-120 minutes later when you’re fully asleep.

While the effects will peak in your body three to six hours later, they may last anywhere from four to 12 hours so you’ll be able to sleep through the night.

If you can’t fall or stay asleep, you can combine both methods.

Most of our patients report positive results in both falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. They often say they feel more refreshed in the morning after using medical marijuana the night before.  

Given the positive feedback from our patients and the increased acceptance of use, it’s clear medical cannabis is slowly emerging as a viable alternative to harmful, traditionally prescribed medications used to treat sleep disorders.

As more research is conducted, we’re hopeful medical marijuana treatment options for sleep disorders will expand, while simultaneously becoming more accurate and precise.

Daniel Lofaso is a serial cannapreneur who co-owns marijuana doctor and dispensary directory Humidify.  
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