We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, resting and recharging is not as easy for some as it is for others. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. Insomnia which lasts over 3 months is called long-term insomnia. There are several causes of insomnia including stress, anxiety, long-term pain, nightmares, and night-terrors.
There are many factors that contribute to insomnia, which relate to both physical and mental health. The Guardian reported a significant increase (15.7 percent to 24.7 percent) in insomnia-related symptoms throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, pointing to the association between anxiety and sleep.
For those who have suffered from insomnia for many years with little relief, medical cannabis could be the answer. Since its legalisation in 2018, many patients have sought assistance from medical marijuana specialists to help manage a variety of conditions, including insomnia.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is an essential function. Most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, and children and teenagers may require significantly more than this.
Our body operates on an internal cycle that is known as circadian rhythm. Throughout a 24 hour time period, we experience a series of physical, mental, and emotional changes. These changes are instigated by cues, including light. Humans are not alone in operating on this cycle; we can see the circadian rhythm in action when plants open their buds at sunrise and close them at sunset.
Anything that interferes with this cycle can impact our sleep, thereby reducing cognitive function, affecting our mood, and putting us at increased risk of certain health conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
People diagnosed with insomnia may have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. As a result, they spend the day quite fatigued and operate on reduced cognitive functioning. Over time, the continued lack of sleep can have more significant health repercussions.
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Waking early and being unable to fall back to sleep.
- Inability to fall asleep (often accompanied by stress and anxiety about sleep).
- Interrupted or broken sleep.
There are a number of different types of insomnia, including acute insomnia (short-term), chronic insomnia (affects you three months or longer), onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep), maintenance insomnia (difficulty staying asleep), and behavioural insomnia (typically associated with children who refuse to go to bed).
Insomnia can be caused by physical health concerns or psychological conditions. The latter often results in acute insomnia — extreme stress caused by an upsetting and traumatic event may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Chronic health conditions such as arthritis or diabetes can cause prolonged insomnia.
A healthcare professional will ask you a number of questions to get to the root cause of your insomnia. From there, appropriate treatment can be recommended.
Medical Cannabis To Help Manage Insomnia
To start with, it’s important to note that in the United Kingdom, medical marijuana cannot be prescribed as a “first-line treatment”. That means that you must have tried at least two other types of treatment or therapies before a specialist will prescribe you medical cannabis.
Medical cannabis contains a number of different ingredients, including two main cannabinoids — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabinoids interact with receptors found in the endocannabinoid system, which plays an important role in helping to regulate the circadian cycle. THC in particular is believed to have sedating properties and can help insomnia patients find relief from their symptoms by acting on CB1 receptors found in the thalamus and hypothalamus, two parts of the brain that regulate body cycles.
Where To Get Help
Not all doctors in the UK can prescribe medical cannabis. In fact, only those on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council are legally allowed. Your general practitioner may be able to refer you to a specialist medical cannabis clinic, or you can find one yourself through online research.
The clinic will likely ask you a series of questions to determine whether you are eligible for a medical marijuana consultation. These will include whether your condition (insomnia) has been formally diagnosed, what treatments and therapies you have tried, and any other pre-existing health conditions you have. Once it has been determined that you are eligible for a consultation, you can meet with the specialist to discuss your health concerns. If they believe medical cannabis may help, they will issue you a prescription and provide you with information as to how you can access your medication.
Sleep is so important for our physical, mental, and emotional health. If you’ve been suffering from insomnia for many years and believe that medical cannabis could help find relief from your symptoms, contact a specialist today.
Bridget is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.