Don’t Count Sheep: Cannabis Study Shows It Could Help Treat Sleep Apnea

There are plenty of stereotypes about teenage marijuana users being sleepy, however according to a study, people suffering from sleep apnea can benefit from cannabis as a sleep therapy. It’s also been shown as an effective treatment for sleep disorders such as insomnia, if diagnosed and used properly. A study published in 2013 by Dr. David Carley shared the results of the first human study on medical marijuana compounds and sleep apnea with seventeen adult patients.

Dr. Carley and his researchers discovered that cannabis does appear to have a beneficial effect on sleep. Before you can understand just how, a brief overview of the sleep cycle will help illustrate their findings.

During a good night’s rest, your body should go through four distinct cycles. Your brain goes through these cycles each night and needs to experience each one properly for sustained health and proper function. Most are familiar with the REM, or rapid-eye movement stage in the cycle – which is actually the fourth and final part. This is the part of the cycle where the brain is active and it seems to be the sleep cycle responsible for your dreams. The other three earlier stages of the sleep cycle are generally grouped together as NREM, or non-REM sleep. Scientists credit the early NREM stages with the restorative and regenerative qualities of sleep on the body.

Dr. Carley’s research team found that cannabis has the greatest effect on the NREM stage by increasing the time the body and brain stay in NREM (and thus shortening the time it stays in the REM stage). While all stages of the sleep cycle are important, for those suffering from insomnia or sleep apnea the use of cannabis to remain longer in the NREM stage can help their sleep deprived bodies gain the restorative properties they need and are missing out on. When administered properly and with the right strains, cannabis may help sleep deprived sufferers gain the rest they need.

Carley, David. “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®).” National Cancer Institute.
Front Psychiatry, Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

“Marijuana Could Improve Your Sleep, Study Finds.” THC Biz, 10 Apr. 2013. Web. 10
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