Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a sleep disorder in which there is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired. While the term is sometimes used to describe a disorder demonstrated by polysomnographic or actigraphic evidence of disturbed sleep, this sleep disorder is often practically defined as a positive response to either of two questions: “Do you experience difficulty sleeping?” or “Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep?”
Insomnia is most often thought of as both a medical sign and a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical, and psychiatric disorders characterized by a persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep or sleep of poor quality. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. Insomnia can occur at any age, but it is particularly common in the elderly. Insomnia can be short term (up to three weeks) or long term (above 3–4 weeks); it can lead to memory problems, depression, irritability and an increased risk of heart disease and automobile related accidents.
Those who are having trouble sleeping sometimes turn to sleeping pills, which can help when used occasionally but may lead to substance dependency or addiction if used regularly for an extended period.
Insomnia can be grouped into primary and secondary, or comorbid, insomnia. Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder not attributable to a medical, psychiatric, or environmental cause. It is described as a complaint of prolonged sleep onset latency, disturbance of sleep maintenance, or the experience of non-refreshing sleep. A complete diagnosis will differentiate between free-standing primary insomnia, insomnia as secondary to another condition, and primary insomnia co-morbid with one or more conditions.
Medical Marijuana Efficacy
In recent years, scientists have become increasingly aware of the endocannabinoid system’s role in regulating sleep. In addition to maintaining a regular sleep pattern, the system, which is responsible for the effects of marijuana, has been identified as a potential target for the treatment of insomnia. Studies show that endocannabinoids increase sleepiness and that insomnia may even be caused by a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system.
On the other hand, few studies have investigated the use of medical marijuana on human patients with insomnia. Only one study in the past few decades tested the effects of THC on insomniacs.
The study was published in 1973 by researchers in the United States and involved 9 test subjects that were given varying doses of THC – 10, 20 and 30mg – once a week for 6 weeks. Each dose reduced the time it took to fall asleep (sleep latency), with the most effective dose being 20 mg. 20 mg of THC was found to reduce the average time it took patients to fall asleep by more than an hour.
Official Research Reports
The effects of cannabinoid administration on sleep: a systematic review of human studies. (Gates PJ, Albertella L, Copeland J, 2014)
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