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Cannabis and sleep – tackling Britain’s battle with insomnia

Up to 10 per cent of people in the UK are thought to suffer from insomnia.

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cannabis and insomnia

Insomnia and sleep troubles are sweeping the nation, with thousands turning to search engines to find answers about their condition. Could CBD and medical cannabis be a solution?

Now its own NHS acronym, feeling ‘tired all the time’ (TATT) is a common issue that dominates Britain. According to NICE, six to 10 per cent of people in the UK suffer from insomnia, while a third say they experience sleep problems at least once a week.

Anecdotal evidence and a small but growing body of scientific research suggest that CBD and medical cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of insomnia and improve sleep quality.

For example, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial from 2021 found that medical cannabis was well-tolerated among chronic insomnia sufferers and improved symptoms after two weeks of consuming a sublingual oil.

Twenty three patients were given either a 20:1 THC:CBD preparation or a placebo. After a one-week washout period, the groups switched to the other treatment for another two weeks.

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The researchers found that Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores were markedly lower with the medical cannabis product than with the placebo. The treatment was also shown to decrease sleep onset and increase total sleep time and quality with no serious side effects reported by participants.

A retrospective study published last year investigated the effect of medical cannabis products on 991 patients across 24,189 cannabis use sessions. The results were positive, showing that cannabis products, especially those derived from Indica strains, were generally perceived as effective among patients with insomnia.

According to the CBD wellness brand Goodrays ‘insomnia’ was searched 41,000 times in the UK in the last month alone.

With 3,900 searches for ‘trouble sleeping’ in the same period and ‘struggle to sleep’ reaching peak search interest on Google Trends in June, it’s clear Britain isn’t getting enough sleep.

Sleep is critical to human wellbeing and health. Over a several-hour period, your body goes through different stages of sleep and all are important to successful rest. In the UK alone, it is estimated that around 16 million adults are affected by some kind of sleep disorder. This lack of sleep can lead to mood swings and even changes in personality.

Goodrays founder, Eoin Keenan, commented: “For those suffering from insomnia, the cycle can perpetuate itself. No sleep at night leads to naps and prolonged tiredness throughout the day, leading to no sleep at night. Finding a stopping point to get off the merry-go-round can be near impossible.

“Top sleeping tips can include adjusting your sleeping quarters to be darker and quieter can help. Exercise and a proper diet can also lead to finding a better solution for sleep.

“Some studies have shown that the use of CBD may help increase overall sleep amounts, promote deep sleep and reduce the amount of time taken to fall asleep. At the other end of the scale, small doses have been shown to stimulate alertness and reduce daytime sleepiness, improving performance and focus.”

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The term sleep hygiene refers to anything that helps us unwind and relax ahead of bedtime, such as setting a regular routine like having a warm bath before bed, going to bed at the same time every night, not looking at your phone or a screen two hours before and avoiding caffeine or high sugar foods after 4pm.

But if you have tried all the above and are still struggling it could be time to visit your GP.

Earlier this year, Dr Mark Weatherall, a neurologist and sleep expert at Sapphire Medical Clinics, told us: “It’s important to remember that while some people do suffer with insomnia that isn’t caused by anything, insomnia cases can be caused by an underlying health condition – the most common being chronic pain and anxiety and we need to treat that rather than dishing our sleeping pills.”

“There’s many treatment options available to treat these conditions, from different medications to talking therapy but if you’ve tried both of these with no success you may want to consider medical cannabis.”

Always consult your doctor before making any changes to your medical care. 

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