Can cannabis improve sleep for chronic insomnia patients?abril 30, 2020
In early April, Google searches for “why am I having weird dreams lately” has quadrupled. It appears the global coronavirus pandemic has caused anxious dreams involving lockdown or other vivid scenarios. But it’s also within reason that you’ve experienced difficulty sleeping since the pandemic started and would like some help falling asleep.
According to new research from Australia, cannabis could provide effective treatment for chronic insomnia patients. Though anecdotal reports have pointed to this possibility, this study represents the first double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial to show scientific evidence of the relationship.
The study was funded by medical marijuana company, Zelira Therapeutic, and conducted independently by researchers at the University of Western Australia.
Research began in 2018 after scientists recruited 23 participants who were considered chronic insomnia patients. Those subjects were then given, in the form of a cannabis tincture, either an active dose or a placebo for two weeks. Single or double doses were permitted, depending on user preference and their severity of symptoms. The active marijuana tincture was a proprietary cannabinoid blend called ZTL-101, with both THC and CBD. Researchers have not disclosed the exact formula at this time.
Scientists measured the sleep quality of subject through multiple channels, including digital sleep trackers, subjective responses and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) — a clinical tool used to register insomnia symptoms.
Treated participants reported feeling less fatigued, less stressed and reported significant improvements in their quality of life. / Photo: Getty Images Plus Getty Images Plus
Among those who’d taken an active marijuana dose, ISI scores dropped by 26 per cent and that reduction was higher for those who’d taken a double tincture dose. Treated participants also slept for more hours, fell asleep quicker and could fall back to sleep faster after waking than the placebo group. They also reported feeling less fatigued, less stressed and reported significant improvements in their quality of life.
“This study represents the most rigorous clinical trial ever undertaken to assess the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis to treat the symptoms of chronic insomnia,” lead researcher Peter Eastwood said in a statement. “The fact that ZLT-101 treatment achieved statistically significant, dose-responsive improvements across a broad range of key insomnia indices is impressive, particularly given the relatively short two-week dosing window.”
Insomnia affects around 30 per cent of Americans and can pose greater risk factors for those suffering from chronic pain, cardiovascular disease and mental disorders, like anxiety or depression. A recent study also found that medical marijuana helped chronic pain patients suffering from insomnia sleep through the night. However, the research indicated that chronic pain patients could eventually develop a tolerance to marijuana, which could result in interrupted sleep.