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Sleep Apnea and Cannabis

Written by Dr. Kimberly Landino

Perhaps you or someone you sleep with has sleep apnea. It can be alarming sleeping next to someone who has it. The breathing is heavy; there is usually snoring, and then the person holds their breath and gasps for air. This cycle can repeat through the night, leaving the person exhausted when they wake up, and feeling like they did not sleep soundly or peacefully. Dry mouth in the morning, daytime sleepiness, and irritability are common effects of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is found in 3 million people a year in the United States, and diagnosed with a sleep study test. The concern with sleep apnea is that the airflow is less, which means less oxygen is going to the extremities and organs which is not favorable. The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea, which can be treated in a variety of ways, and the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine has become a common form of treatment. The machine blows air through a tube into a mask worn by the person, to get more air into the lungs and to un-obstruct the airflow. It is the relaxation of the muscles around the throat that can be a cause for sleep apnea. Many people who have gained weight can develop sleep apnea, and people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease can also commonly have sleep apnea as well.

Can cannabis help people who have sleep apnea? There are many strains of cannabis, especially the indicas that offer a relaxed state and can help people to sleep due to the THC cannabinoid levels and terpenes such as linalool. CBN (cannabinol) is another chemical compound found in cannabis and hemp. CBN is formed when THC begins to break down, when the dried flower is old or has been exposed to the air or sunlight. CBN is used to reduce inflammation, promote hunger, and induce sleep.

Some people use cannabis before sleep in the form of a medicated gummy or other edible. This may be a good form of cannabis to take because once in the bloodstream, the THC from a gummy can last longer in the bloodstream and have a stronger effect which can promote a deeper sleep. Gummies can take up to one hour for their effect to take place, whereas a cannabis tincture can get absorbed more quickly in the mouth and the effects felt sooner. It is personal preference and effectiveness of the cannabis product which will determine a person’s cannabis regimen.


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