A new study published in the Sleep journal is adding to a growing pool of research suggesting that short-term cannabis use can help fight insomnia.
A team of Australian researchers recruited 23 subjects suffering from chronic insomnia to test whether a custom blend of cannabinoids could help them get quality sleep. In this randomized, double-blind study, half of the subjects were given a nightly sublingual dose of cannabinoid extract, while the other half were given a placebo. Over the course of 2 weeks, researchers collected physiological and subjective data on each subject’s quality of rest.
The subjects in the experimental group were given ZTL-101, a proprietary cannabis extract developed by Australian medical marijuana firm Zerila Therapeutics. This extract included a custom blend of plant-derived THC, CBD, CBN, as well as an assortment of terpenes. Each subject received between 0.5ml and 1ml of this experimental medicine one hour before bedtime.
Researchers found that the subjects who took the cannabinoid blend did indeed get better sleep than the placebo group, without suffering from any serious side effects. Subjects who took ZTL-101 reported statistically significant improvements on the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), a standard metric for evaluating insomnia symptoms.
The study authors explained that the cannabis blend was associated with improvements in measures of “sleep onset latency (SOL), wake after sleep onset (WASO), total sleep time (TST), sleep efficiency (SE); and self-reported assessments of sleep quality (sSQ) and feeling rested upon waking.”
“This study has demonstrated that ZTL-101, a novel cannabinoid therapy, is well tolerated and improves insomnia symptoms and sleep quality in individuals with chronic insomnia symptoms,” the study concluded, according to NORML. “These improvements, observed over a two-week dosing period, are encouraging and support further investigation of ZTL-101 for the treatment of insomnia in studies with larger sample sizes.”
The study may help shed some light on the murky field of cannabis and sleep research. One research study from 2017 found that frequent cannabis use may actually have a negative impact on long-term sleep quality, and another study found that people who smoked weed as teens may experience insomnia as adults. But other studies have concluded that medical marijuana can help patients with chronic pain get better sleep, and also found that sales of traditional sleep aids are declining in states with access to legal weed.
And although the present study certainly adds to the evidence that specific cannabinoids could be used as an effective sleep aid, the extremely small number of subjects makes it difficult to draw wider conclusions. The brief two-week study is also unable to indicate whether medical marijuana can help insomniacs in the long term. Further research will clearly be necessary to determine the efficacy of cannabis as a natural sleep aid.