Sleep disorders seem to be increasingly present in recent generations, and several factors contribute to this trend. In this article we will examine the main causes of sleep disorders, as well as possible uses of cannabis to address them.
Understanding sleep disorders:
Sleep disorders encompass a variety of conditions, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy, among others. These disorders disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep, maintain sleep or achieve restful sleep. In addition to a loss in quality of life, patients with these disorders face the risk of chronic disturbances that can be detrimental to both physical and mental health, affecting cognitive function, emotional stability, nutrition and social relationships over time.
The Endocannabinoid System:
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a complex system composed of endocannabinoids produced by the body, enzymes and cannabinoid receptors found primarily in the brain and skin. The SEC is responsible for maintaining the balance of sleep-wake cycles, and in cases of existing sleep disorders, an imbalance in the SEC may have occurred that may now be affecting the proper functioning of the processes.
The role of cannabis:
Cannabis contains numerous compounds called cannabinoids, two of the best known of which are THC and CBD. These molecules share similarities with endocannabinoids produced in the human body and can bind to the same CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. In doing so, they can interact with the SEC and modulate various physiological processes, including sleep.
Cannabis and sleep onset:
The main challenge faced by people with sleep disorders is falling asleep, either for the first time during the night or after being awakened by something. THC-rich cannabis strains have been shown to have sedative properties that can help people fall asleep. However, it is important to keep in mind that the optimal dose and strain may vary for each individual, and more research is needed to elucidate the precise mechanisms underlying this effect.
Cannabis and sleep maintenance:
Maintaining uninterrupted sleep is crucial to overall sleep quality. CBD, another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, has shown promise in addressing this aspect of sleep disorders. CBD appears to interact with serotonin receptors and exert anxiolytic and analgesic effects, which can reduce anxiety, pain and other factors that often disrupt sleep.
REM sleep and cannabis:
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is a cycle that occurs approximately every 90 minutes from the time a person falls asleep. It is during this phase that vivid dreams and memory consolidation occur. THC has been shown to inhibit or decrease REM sleep, which reduces dreaming and may help people suffering from nightmares or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the long-term effects of THC on sleep architecture need further investigation, as continued suppression of REM sleep may have unfavorable implications.
Possible side effects and risks:
While cannabis shows promise in the management of sleep disorders, we must recognize that there is always the possibility of side effects and risks associated with its use. Probably not in most cases or for most people, but we should be aware. These can include cognitive impairment, dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and drug interactions. For that reason, it is important to consume the best quality products and always be aware of the percentages of cannabinoids in them, preferably purchasing products from a reliable source and properly labeled. It is never advisable to buy cannabis on the street. For that purpose, here in Barcelona we have approved governmental institutions, such as cannabis associations and weed clubs, which have trained staff that can advise on the content and quality of the products, as well as the best consumption habits.
As a disclaimer, it is always best to consult and follow the advice of your healthcare provider before attempting any treatment for sleep disorders with cannabis. That said, we can only hope that more and more countries around the world continue to legalize the medical use of marijuana, so that more people can access these natural remedies and improve their quality of sleep and, therefore, their quality of life.