Can Cannabis Help Me Stop Snoring?

If your deep sleep sounds like a midnight lawnmower, chances are you barely even notice it. It probably doesn’t consciously bother you all that much. You go to bed and wake up like nothing happened.

Your partner, however, may have a somewhat different opinion…

So, for the sake of your significant other and your own health (we’ll get to that), please read on.

We’ve got some good news for you.

What Is Snoring and Sleep Apnea, Anyway?

Snoring is often a manifestation of a condition known as sleep apnea, in which breathing becomes interrupted or even completely stops during sleep. A person may gasp, make disturbing choking sounds, or even completely wake up. This disrupts the sleep cycle, which, in turn, disrupts all the restorative biological processes that occur during sleep. Most of the time a person has no idea they snore at all, oblivious to how much their sleep cycle is actually disturbed.

There are two kinds of sleep apnea, central, which has a neurological basis, and obstructive. Obstructive apnea is the kind we are concerned with here. This is where snoring comes from.

In obstructive apnea, the soft muscles in the back of the throat become completely relaxed, eventually collapsing and closing off the throat. The suction of the breath attempts to suck in the air, but the throat tissue constrictions the flow, turning the esophagus into some sort of demented whoopee cushion.

Why Does It Matter?

Maybe you don’t have a partner. Or maybe you are blessed with one who sleeps so deeply they don’t mind sleeping with a chainsaw. Why should you care?

Because it’s more than just the sound. Sleep apnea and snoring disrupt the sleep cycle. You may not be conscious of it, but when your breath becomes obstructed, you are bouncing yourself out of the natural deep sleep states that are essential to well-being. This disrupts all the restorative biological processes that occur during sleep.

This can lead to poor concentration, persistent tiredness despite “sleeping” a full night, moodiness, irritability, weight gain, or even more serious complications like cardiovascular problems, stroke, and even heart failure.

It’s not just the noise.

Cannabis to the Rescue!

So where does the green come in?

It’s well known that heavy indica strains of cannabis can improve deep sleep and help with insomnia. In the last 10 years, a number of studies have come out looking at how different cannabinoids may affect obstructive sleep apnea. The first ever sleep apnea and cannabis human trial in 2002 found that THC improved the sleep apnea index by 32%. Pretty impressive results for the first trial.

A more recent study in 2013 included giving cannabis pills to 17 patients—100% of them found improvement in their conditions. Promising results! In addition, a researcher investigating these effects found that THC increases the muscle tone in the upper airway during sleep by blocking a serotonin-mediated pathway that triggers the loss of muscle tone in the first place. Stop the collapse of the esophageal tissue, no blocked air passages, and thus no more snoring or choking or interrupted sleep.

Sounds like a good plan for you or that wonderful person who may or may not be highly irritated at sleeping next to a war movie soundtrack.

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Can Cannabis Cure Insomnia & Sleep Deprivation?

There’s not much better than a great night’s sleep. There’ nothing much worse than tossing and turning, counting sheep, and laying awake until the sun comes up.

The importance of sleep can’t be understated. It helps your body process memories from the day, protects your immune system, and restores the body. Lack of sleep can literally drive you crazy.

Fortunately, cannabis can be a powerful sleep aid. It’s no surprise that one of the top self-reported reasons for using cannabis is because it can help you sleep.

Why can cannabis help you sleep?

The endocannabinoid system — the body’s own cannabinoid system — is one of the body’s most important physiological systems. It’s involved in virtually every aspect of one’s physical and emotional health. So it should be no surprise, that the endocannabinoid mediates most the body’s rhythmic processes and can exert powerful influence over sleep.

How can cannabis help?

Cannabis can be helpful in a number of ways, from making it easier to fall asleep to helping you stay asleep once you've fallen asleep:

Cannabis may make falling asleep easier

Most sleep medications only have a nominal effect on the time it takes you to fall asleep. An National Institutes of Health study found that popular sleep medications accelerate sleep by a mere 12.8 minutes. Studies, on the other hand, have shown that a moderate amount of THC can help the insomnia-prone fall asleep up to an hour faster.

Cannabis may help you sleep more soundly during the night

Studies have demonstrated that cannabis can also help you sleep better at night, staying asleep longer without interruption. However, consume too much cannabis and you might feel drowsy the next day — a sort of cannabis “hangover.”

Cannabis may help you breathe better

Remarkably, 9% of women and 17% of men have what’s termed “sleep apnea” — problems breathing when they sleep. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Illinois published a study in the Frontiers in Psychology journal that provides evidence THC may open breathing pathways, thus making breathing easier.

CBD may help you sleep better (or keep you awake)

Anecdotally, through patients and clinicians, we hear CBD or strains rich in CBD work great for sleep. However, studies have demonstrated contradictory findings. Some studies have shown CBD can be a “wake-inducing” agent, meaning it would keep you alert and awake. Other studies suggest patients experience more restful sleep when administering CBD an hour or two before bed.

The reason for the disparity may likely be dose-dependent. Most drugs exert biphasic (or multiphasic) effects, meaning low and high doses affect people differently. CBD may be a wake inducing agent at lower doses and sleep inducing at slightly higher doses. For patients, finding the right dose can take a bit of trial and error.

It’s also possible that environment influences the effects of CBD. One animal study tested this hypothesis by administering CBD to rats with the lights on and the lights off. Interestingly, when the lights were on, CBD promoted wakefulness with the lights on and sleep with the lights off. The findings led researchers to conclude CBD may be helpful to treat patients suffering from somnolence (excessive daytime sleepiness).

Indica-dominant strains are generally better for sleep than sativa-dominant strains

Sativa-dominant strains are more likely to produce a stimulating head high, while indica-dominant strains are known for producing more sedative effects. Why? Most people think it has to do with THC. People incorrectly believe indica-dominant strains have more THC, so they are more sedative. This is actually incorrect. There are low THC indica-dominant strains, and high THC sativa-dominant strains (check out Durban Poison).

The reason indica-dominant strains produce a greater sedative effect is that they contain higher levels of a terpene called “myrcene.” Myrcene influences the permeability of cell membranes, and in fact, helps THC cross the blood-brain barrier more easily. Sativa-dominant strains have less than .5% myrcene, while indica-dominant strains often have between 1 and 3%.

Some popular indica-dominant strains for sleep are Granddaddy Purple, Bubba Kush, Northern Lights, Blue Cheese, Afghan Kush.

CBN may prove to be the ultimate insomnia-fighting cannabinoid

Everyone knows THC. More and more people are becoming familiar with CBD. But, CBN, another cannabinoid is generating interest for its potential as a sleep-inducing agent. Some are calling CBN, “the cannabinoid that helps you sleep.” While research is still lacking, many people report positive outcomes with CBN-rich strains. However, many strains are not particularly rich in CBN, as THC produces CBN when it degrades (after being exposed to light and oxygen — a process called oxidation. Over time, CBN levels in stored cannabis flower will increase. And, the poorer the storage method, the better — at least if you’re looking to increase CBN content.

Clearly, cannabis can be an effective sleep aid. However, cannabis (and all sleep medications) should be only be used as a temporary fix. It's important to also integrate lifestyle changes including more exercise (which helps boost vital cannabinoids in the body), better diet, relaxation techniques, meditation, and other effective methods that don’t pose any risks long-term. Likewise, everyone's body reacts differently to various cannabis strains. So keep in mind, it may take a bit of trial and error to find the strain that works the best.


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