Study: THC promotes sleep

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Study: THC promotes sleep

It is no secret that cannabis can make for a good night‘s rest, but why and how it works is only slowly being understood. As medicinal cannabis becomes more popular, researchers are again looking at how THC influences sleep.

It is no secret that cannabis can make for a good night‘s rest, but why and how it works is only slowly being understood. As medicinal cannabis becomes more popular, researchers are again looking at how THC influences sleep.

Confirming the obvious, a recent preliminary study suggests that THC can help promote sleep. Previous work in the field was promising and showed that THC has successfully promoted sleep in animals, but the effects on humans have been inconsistent.

20mg of THC orally around the clock, for seven days

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between Sanofi-Aventis and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The findings have published in the American Journal on Addictions. The goal of the study was to obtain solid evidence as to whether the anecdotal reports of cannabis promoting sleep are scientifically sound.

They enrolled 13 male, long-term daily cannabis smokers to observe. Each volunteer was given doses of 20mg of THC orally around the clock for seven days. Each morning each participant was asked to fill in the St. Mary’s Hospital Sleep Questionnaire, and blood samples were taken each night. This allowed the researchers to compare the self-reported effects to the actual levels of THC within the blood.

The data suggests that higher concentrations of THC in the blood during the evening resulted in significantly shorter sleep latency, less difficulty falling asleep and increased amounts of daytime sleep the following day. Interestingly, the actual amount of self-reported night time sleep seemed to have decreased over the course of the study.

What this suggests is that the chronic use of THC can help to induce sleep; however, the shorter time asleep may suggest that a tolerance to its effects is slowly built up.

One could argue that the study uses a number of questionable methods. Firstly, administering THC around the the clock for seven days does not accurately reflect how cannabis as a sleeping aid is commonly used - which is right before going to bed. Also, by using a THC extract, the influence of all the other cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids has been excluded.

Natural alternative to sleeping pills?

Cannabis as a natural sleeping aid is one of the more common medicinal uses. Most people who have used cannabis are familiar with its sedative effects, particularly in higher oral doses of indica plants. To see this study backed by one of the leading pharmaceutical companies suggests that cannabis is closely under the watch of the big players. As legalisation advances, it‘s becoming clear who is getting ready to join the game.