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Insomnia sounds like an inconvenience, but hardly a serious health condition, right? The truth is that even a few nights of poor sleep can disrupt your metabolism and your immune system. And that can make you more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, among other health risks.
The term insomnia comes from the Latin word “In” (which means no) and “Somnus” (meaning sleep). The causes behind periodic and chronic insomnia can be quite complex, combining both physiological and psychological conditions. That’s why insomnia can be difficult for physicians to treat.
Chronic insomnia, however, is a more significant problem. Some clinical studies have estimated that chronic insomnia occurs in between 33% and 55% of the adult population.
Insomnia is one of the most under-diagnosed health conditions. The primary reason is that people don’t realize the associated health risks. Mmany people feel that it is just a temporary problem. Something that will go away with time. However, that symptoms of insomnia can get worse and develop into chronic diseases.
Patients that do seek consultation for insomnia may not go back for follow-up appointments, or engage in a sleep study or other clinical tests to help determine the root cause of their sleeplessness.
Fortunately, there are more treatment options available today for people with insomnia. And some are looking at cannabis as a treatment to restore healthy sleep patterns.
What Symptoms or Conditions Can Contribute to Chronic Insomnia?
Clinical studies reveal that people who develop and have chronic insomnia have both physical and mental health concerns. Research also suggests that insomnia is more prevalent among divorced, separated, or widowed adults. Insomnia also occurs more often in adult women who are middle-aged or older.
Some of the health conditions that may predispose someone to chronic insomnia include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Smoking (tobacco)
- Chronic pain
- Excessive caffeine
- Lack of exercise
- Poor nutrition
- Muscular disorders like Parkinson’s disease
- Restless leg syndrome
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Sleep apnea
People with moderate to severe chronic pain may develop unhealthy sleeping patterns if symptoms are not well-regulated. It’s not uncommon to wake up in the middle of the night because of swelling, edema, inflammation, or pain. Some people may try to moderate their symptoms by taking pain relievers, which can be useful. But for some, certain pain medications contribute to other symptoms (such as gastric upset) that can also disrupt their sleep.
Neuropathy is a debilitating condition where the location of pain symptoms can be inconsistent. Different parts of the body can experience pain. For individuals who have diabetes, foot, toe, and leg pain can be frequent. And happen at any time of the day or night.
What Are the Environmental Factors That Disrupt Sleep?
Did you know that the average American spends more than 10 hours of screen time per day? That includes looking at a computer monitor or on personal devices like a tablet or smartphone. You are probably reading this article on your phone right now. And it wouldn’t be a big deal — that is if screen time didn’t significantly disrupt your natural circadian rhythm.
Your body has a built-in sense of time and the everyday activities of your day. Developing healthy sleep habits can sometimes resolve chronic insomnia. Creating new rules like “no screen time after 7:00 p.m.” or a “no television in the bedroom” habit. Because of the electrical relay of screens and the bright lights, they can trick your body into thinking it is daytime.
A hormone called melatonin is released by the brain, which starts a chain reaction of effects that will make you head to bed. When it gets dark, our bodies start releasing more melatonin. However, if you are surrounded (or staring into) bright lights, your body will release less melatonin. So, you won’t feel tired. And if you go to bed, chances are you are going to toss and turn. This is also true for city dwellers who have to cope with street and commercial lights at night.
Eating before you go to bed is probably not a good idea, either. Everyone is different, but you are kicking your digestive system into high gear when you have a late snack. And since your body prefers to digest when you are active and upright, that case of the munchies at 10 p.m. could cost you the regenerative sleep you need to stay healthy.
Strains of Cannabis That May Help With Symptoms of Insomnia
Prescription medications for sleep disorders may work but at a cost. Some types of drugs can be highly addictive. They can also counteract with alcohol, increasing the risk of an overdose. This concern over prescription sleep medications’ side-effects may encourage individuals with sleep disorders to try medical cannabis.
Certain types of terpenes are known to help with feelings of relaxation. They may be able to help you create healthier sleep habits and address problems with insomnia.
Caryophyllene is a terpene that has analgesic or relaxing properties. It is a popular choice for relief of stress, pain, and anxiety. Cannabis strains that are high in caryophyllene include: Chemdog, Sour Diesel, and Cherry Pie.
Terpinolene dominant strains of medical cannabis can be scarce and difficult to find. But if you have a medical card and live in a state where growing at home is legal, you could solve that problem. Look for flower or seeds for legalized home cultivation for strains like Golden Goat, Jack Herer, Golden Pineapple, or Orange Cookies.
Cannabis strains that are high in myrcene can be sleep-inducing. Other plants that are high in this terpene include hops, ylang-ylang, mangos, and lemongrass. Myrcene is the usual culprit behind cannabis strains that ensure you probably won’t be moving off your couch anytime soon. Edibles with myrcene source from OG Kush, Granddaddy Purple, or Blue Dream can help you stop counting sheep and drift off to deep sleep.
Can You Get a Medical Card for Insomnia?
Unfortunately, chronic insomnia is not a common diagnosis that all legalized states define as a qualifying health condition for medical cannabis. However, if you are a patient that has a chronic disease, you may qualify.
If chronic insomnia is an ongoing problem for you, talk to your practitioner. Your doctor will help you evaluate other health conditions, medications, or lifestyle habits that may be causing insomnia.
Remember, sleep deprivation can lead to serious health complications, a weak immune system. Treat it as a health condition and get the help you need. That may include getting a medical card and trying cannabis as a more natural and relaxing sleep aid.