Patient Stories – Treating Insomnia with Cannabis


August, 2018
Patient Stories, Wellness
Consistently getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most valuable things you can do for your health. Not only does it give your body a chance to repair and restore itself after a hard day’s work, it’s also linked to a number of next-day and longer-term benefits: improved memory, a brighter mood, better-functioning brain processes, increased cardiovascular health, and weight loss. Good sleeping habits may even help fight cancer.

But attaining these benefits might seem like a faraway dream if you’re among the millions of people in the US who struggle with insomnia.  Insomnia affects nearly all of us at some point in our lives, either acutely or chronically. In fact, 45% of Americans reported that less-than-optimal sleep negatively affected their daily activities at least once in the past week, per the National Sleep Society.  

Insomnia is a complex problem because it can be caused by a number of things: anxiety, stress, arthritis, acute or chronic pain, caffeine intake, certain medications, or asthma…just to name a few.  Sleep medications can be effective at helping you fall asleep in the short-term, but aren’t recommended for long-term use as patients can become dependent on them, unable to fall asleep without them.

Fortunately, we have good news when it comes to treating the common yet debilitating condition of insomnia.  The answer is…cannabis! In our last blog post, 5 Steps to Seek Relief from Insomnia, we explained how medical cannabis is becoming increasingly accepted as a viable way to leave those nights of tossing, turning, and counting sheep behind you.

We chatted with a couple of patients to learn about their experiences using cannabis to treat their insomnia.  Here are their stories:

Cynthia (age 66):

I had lumbar spinal fusion 15 years ago.  The surgery was successful, but I experienced facet joint degeneration over time, which began to cause severe acute pain in my right shin (Sciatica) and affect my sleep.  It got to the point where I couldn’t stay asleep for more than 1-2 hours at a time. I went through months of physical therapy and dry needling to lessen the pain, but things didn’t improve.  My doctor told me to start preparing for another back surgery.

Then my daughter suggested I try cannabis edibles.  I was initially skeptical and didn’t expect them to work, but decided it was worth a shot.  I started with a very low dose of 2.5mg an hour before bed. To my surprise, I slept better that first night…and the second…and the third.  I continued taking that same dose every night after that. During the first two weeks I was able to go 4-5 hours without waking up, but now, four months later, I can sleep between 7-8 hours uninterrupted.

I’m also experiencing an increase in my mood.  I’m able to respond to stress better, and I no longer think worst case scenario.  I’m more open-minded and have a positive attitude towards life. I’m learning not to sweat the small stuff.  There are worthier things to think about.

Lisa (age 26):

I work rotating shifts in a hospital as an RN.  This means my sleep schedule is very irregular. I started taking Ritalin a couple of years ago to help me stay focused during my shifts.  When I got home after my shift was over and tried to go to sleep, I couldn’t do it. I had too much anxiety. I was lucky if I got an hour of real sleep before my next shift.  I was prescribed Ativan and Ambient to help with that. They helped, but they also turned me into a zombie the next day.

I started smoking cannabis, recreationally at first, to chill out when I got home from work.  I noticed that it helped me get to sleep, but not before getting the munchies and raiding my fridge.  But then I realized that the Ritalin I was taking killed my appetite so much that I wasn’t eating during my shifts at the hospital.  Cannabis brought my appetite back, chilled me out, and helped me get to sleep. I started eating small snacks at work and stocked my kitchen with healthier foods, so now I don’t get the munchies as bad as I used to.  I live in a state that has really strict medical marijuana rules so I can’t get flower all the time, so I started buying CBD oil online. That seems to help just as well, but smoking is more immediate. Hopefully my state loosens up its rules soon.

Do you struggle with insomnia?  Consider trying cannabis. It has an excellent safety profile and is anything but a one-track treatment, as you may have gathered from the accounts above.

Interested in tracking your cannabis use while treating insomnia? Download the Releaf App in the Google Play or iTunes store and follow our Getting Started guides!

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