Cannabis has come a long way in the minds and hearts of American over the past ten years. As the laws around cannabis change from state to state, the attitudes of the American people towards cannabis and its use are shifting rapidly.
Those who associated cannabis with substance abuse and addiction are now opening their minds to its medicinal benefits. Furthermore, those who associated medical cannabis with cancer and chronic pain are now opening their minds to the idea that cannabis can treat much less serious, but more common, conditions such as sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders affect a huge proportion of the population. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 80 million Americans are suffering from a chronic sleep disorder. These sleep disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and cataplexy.
There are 70 known sleep disorders, many of which are symptoms of an underlying condition, such as a chronic pain condition or a mental illness such as anxiety. No matter what the cause though, research indicates that cannabis could be a safe and effective treatment.
Researchers are still exploring the ways that cannabis can affect sleep. They have discovered that sleep regulation is largely controlled by the endocannabinoid system. This is a system which is known to be found in the bodies of the vast majority of animal species today.
The endocannabinoid system produces and processes a group of chemicals which are called endocannabinoids. Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, these chemicals are remarkably similar to those which are found in cannabis, known as cannabinoids.
Studies show that the cannabinoids in cannabis can have play a support role to the endocannabinoid system. It is believed that they act in much the same way as nutritional supplements do. In simple terms, cannabinoids help the endocannabinoid system carry out its functions more effectively and efficiently, including regulating sleep.
In addition to helping with the regulation of sleep, cannabinoids can also have a pain reducing and mood stabilizing effect on the body. Both pain modulation and mood are also regulated by the endocannabinoid system. It’s not hard to understand how relief from pain and anxiety could help patients sleep more easily.
There is still much that scientists don’t understand about how cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, and the possible long term side effects they could have. However, all of the research so far suggests that they could be a very effective and safe alternative to many current pharmaceuticals, such as sleeping pills.