Insomnia is thought to affect 10-30 percent of people globally, rendering them unable to function optimally during the day.
But now a small new study out of Australia suggests that medicinal cannabis can be added to the basket of potential treatments for this debilitating condition.
The research, published in Sleep, tested the effect of a cannabis proprietary blend (ZTL-101, developed by Zerila Therapeutics) in 23 people with chronic insomnia. This cannabis extract consists of the cannabinoids THC, CBD, CBN, and some terpenes in the plant.
Though small, the study, carried out by a team at the University of Western Australia, was a gold standard randomized, double-blind study, in which half of the subjects were given a nightly sublingual dose of cannabinoid extract, while the other half were given a placebo.
To assess the effects of both treatments the investigators collected physiological and subjective data on each subject’s quality of sleep. Those taking the experimental cannabis medicine received between 0.5ml and 1ml one hour before going to bed.
Researchers found that the subjects who took the ZTL-101 did indeed get better sleep than the placebo group, going to sleep sooner, and sleeping longer, waking up less in the night and feeling more rested upon waking.
Overall, subjects reported statistically significant improvements on the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), a standard metric for evaluating insomnia symptoms.
“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 authors wrote in their study. “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.”
It’s worth noting that the evidence on cannabis and sleep is mixed and that frequent cannabis might actually have a negative impact on long-term sleep quality. People who smoked weed as teens may also experience insomnia as adults.
On the other hand, studies have concluded that medical cannabis can help patients with chronic pain get better sleep and data published in 2018 reported that the nighttime inhalation of herbal cannabis was associated with “clinically significant improvements” in patients with insomnia.