It’s national sleep awareness week (14 – 19 March) – an opportunity to look at the affect of conditions that impact sleep and how medical cannabis can help with treatment.

Did you know that around 67% of UK adults say they don’t get the right amount of sleep, while 31% suffer from insomnia – that’s as many as 16 million people in the country.

Insomnia is a psychiatric condition that affects your ability to sleep over a longer period of time. Whether it’s short-term insomnia (less than three months) or long-term insomnia (3 months or longer) the condition can have a serious impact on your quality of life.

On average adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and if you’re getting less than that, it could be an early sign of insomnia.

Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty sleeping, waking up early and being unable to get back to sleep, finding it hard to nap even if tired and being unable to concentrate in the day because you’re tired.

Sleep conditions, including insomnia, can be brought about by several different things – depending on you and your sleeping habits.

Stress, anxiety and depression can contribute, as well as your sleeping conditions – this includes noise or light distractions, room temperature, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine – and even other contributing factors such as jet lag or regular shift work.

Treatment

While treatment for insomnia tends to focus on self-help techniques, studies have shown that there are therapeutic benefits linked with using medical cannabis to treat insomnia, as demonstrated in a 2017 study titled ‘Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a review of the literature’ by Kimberly A Babson, James Scottile and Danielle Moabito.

Specifically, CBD is believed to help those suffering from interrupted REM sleep cycles and exessive daytime sleepiness. In addition, naboline (another element of medical cannabis) may reduce nightmares in PTSD patients, improving quality of sleep and reducing anxiety.

In a 2021 study* titled ‘Treating insomnia symptoms with medical cannabis’ resulted in an improvement in insomnia symptoms and sleep quality in individuals with chronic insomnia symptoms versus those on the placebo.

*Jennifer H Walsh, Kathleen J Maddison, Tim Rankin, Kevin Murray, Nigel McArdle, Melissa J Ree, David R Hillman, Peter R Eastwood, Treating insomnia symptoms with medicinal cannabis: a randomized, crossover trial of the efficacy of a cannabinoid medicine compared with placebo, Sleep, Volume 44, Issue 11, November 2021, zsab149, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsab149