Approved by Dr. Riyaan Hassen

Anyone who has experienced trouble sleeping will tell you: a poor night’s rest will throw a wrench into the rest of your day.

Not only is insufficient sleep a nuisance, but it is also linked to a variety of poor health outcomes. Serious conditions including obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression are all correlated to a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep.

cannabis for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common culprit behind these restless nights, with approximately 3% of Canadians diagnosed with the condition. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type, which occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked during sleep.

The word apnea itself means “no breathing” and that is exactly what happens when these individuals sleep. These pauses in breath typically last anywhere from 10-30 seconds, and can cause result in the following:

  • Memory loss
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleepiness

How is sleep apnea treated?

With treatment options ranging from surgery to oral appliances and, most commonly, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, those suffering from this condition appear to have many options. 

Unfortunately, these therapies are quite costly, and most require a doctor’s referral to a sleep specialist

Even with proper diagnosis, it has been reported that those with access to these therapies, specifically CPAP devices, often don’t use them as prescribed. The machines themselves can be uncomfortable, noisy and difficult to become accustomed to, resulting in an estimated 46-83% of sleep apnea patients ignoring their doctor’s recommended guidelines.

With non-adherence and an inability to access therapeutic treatments, it is clear that an increase in accessible, pharmacological options are required for these patients.

One natural drug commonly used to treat sleep disorders is beginning to make its mark in the sleep apnea community: cannabis.

Cannabis for sleep disorders

The relaxing properties of cannabis have earned the plant a reputation for soothing anxiety, calming a worried mind and reducing pain. As such, many people reach for cannabis to help them fall asleep, especially when stress and chronic pain are responsible for nighttime issues.

We have already presented some of the evidence behind marijuana’s ability to help you fall asleep, increase slow-wave sleep and reduce nightmares. To learn more about these promising healing properties, click here.

Cannabis for sleep apnea

In an animal study published in 2002, it was discovered that both exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids were successful in suppressing sleep apnea in male rats. These findings suggested that THC helped stabilize autonomic output during sleep and has reduced spontaneous sleep-disordered breathing.

These exciting results prompted further research, with a small human trial taking place ten years later. In this setting, 17 sleep apnea patients were given dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC commonly used to increase appetite in AIDS patients and reduce nausea for chemotherapy patients. The majority of participants in the study reported improvements in their sleep quality in only a matter of weeks, suggesting that dronabinol could be an effective short term option for treating OSA.

Further research on this topic is definitely required. However, given cannabis’s success in treating other sleep disorders, it is unsurprising that it is showing promise with sleep apnea patients.

Marijuana for Sleep: Accepting New Patients Canada-wide

Appointments for Alberta residents are free and covered by Alberta Health Services. Prior to your medical consultation with one of our licensed physicians, you will be educated on how medical cannabis works in our body and how it reacts to our endocannabinoid system.

During your education session with a Cann-Expert, you will learn:

  1. The main differences between an Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid strain
  2. Benefits of THC, CBD, and Balanced strains
  3. The body’s unique Endocannabinoid Systems (ECS)
  4. The timing of inhalation vs ingestion

At the time of your consultation, your Revolution Medical Cannabis doctor will review your medical history and ensure that cannabis will not conflict with any medications you’re currently taking.

We will ask you to take a sleep test to learn more about your sleep disorder. Because sleep disorders is multi-faceted, it must be treated with a multi-disciplinary approach. Depending on your province, we may be required to refer you to a sleep physician.

Our Calgary and Edmonton medical cannabis prescribing doctors can help prescribe a sleep treatment plan for you. Our team will guide you in selecting a licensed producer as well as the registration.

Schedule your appointment today.