Although sleep is important for our health, its biological purpose is not fully understood. Oddly, the seemingly inactive state of sleep is really a dynamic and critical method that allows us to store memories, build immunity, repair tissue, regulate metabolic process blood pressure level, control appetite and blood sugar levels, and process learning, plus a multitude of other physiological processes – all of these are regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke on the National Institute of Health (NIH), new findings suggest “sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins within your brain that build up when you are awake.”
Poor sleep is the number one reported medical complaint inside the Unites States as well as a serious public health concern. The typical adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep each day. Yet, 10-30 million Americans regularly don’t get enough sleep.
Those that have chronic illnesses have reached greater risk for insomnia, which exacerbates their discomfort. Comorbid medical disorders – including issues that cause hypoxemia (abnormally low blood oxygen levels) and dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing), gastroesophageal reflux disease, pain, and neurodegenerative diseases – possess a 75-95 percent increased probability of insomnia.
In 2016, in accordance with the industry research firm MarketsandMarkets, Americans spent $3.38 billion on prescription sedatives and hypnotics, over-the-counter (OTC) sleep drugs, and herbal sleep aids. It’s projected that the market for such products will experience in regards to a 4.5 percent growth rate between now and 2021.
The search for good night’s sleep may be hazardous to one’s health. Daniel F. Kripke, MD, sleep expert and co-founding father of Research at Scripps Clinic Vitebri Family Sleep Center, discusses the risks of sleep helps with his paper “Hypnotic drug risks of mortality, infection, depression, and cancer: but lack of benefit.”
Dr. Kripke reviewed 40 studies conducted on prescription sleeping pills, including hypnotic drugs like zolpidem (Ambien, Edlmar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), temazepam (Restoril), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), triazolam (Halcion), flurazepam (Dalmane and Dalmadorm), quazepam, and other barbiturates employed for sleep. Of these 40 studies, thirty-nine discovered that consumption of hypnotics is “associated with excess mortality” to the tune of any 4.6 times greater risk of death for hypnotic users.
Grim statistics: ten thousand deaths each year are directly due to and related to hypnotic drugs, based on medical examiner data. However, large epidemiological studies suggest the number of fatalities could possibly be nearer to 300,000-500,000 annually. The main difference may be attributed to underreported utilization of hypnotics during the time of death and the fact that prescription hypnotics are rarely listed as the reason for death.
Dr. Kripke concludes that even limited utilization of sleeping pills causes “next day functional impairment,” increases chance of “on-the-road driver-at-fault crashes,” increases falls and accidental injuries especially among seniors, is associated to “2.1 times” as many new depression incidents in comparison to randomized placebo recipients, and increases the chance of suicide. Furthermore, the usage of opioids combined with hypnotics – two known dose-dependent respiratory suppressants – can be quite dangerous, specially when combined with alcohol along with other drugs.1
Due to the issues with conventional soporifics, medical scientists happen to be exploring alternative methods to boost sleep by targeting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Since the primary homeostatic regulator of human physiology, the ECS plays a major role inside the sleep-wake cycle along with other circadian processes.
Italian scientist Vicenzo DiMarzo summarized the broad regulatory function of the endocannabinoid system within the phrase “Eat, sleep, relax, protect and end up forgetting.”
The two main kinds of sleep: non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), which has three stages, and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, which can be their own stage of sleep. A full sleep cycle occurs five to six times per night. The initial full cycle in the night is 70-100 minutes with remaining cycles lasting 90-120 minutes each. The stages of sleep defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke are the following:
Stage 1 NREM sleep is definitely the changeover from wakefulness to get to sleep. Throughout this short period (lasting several minutes) of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, as well as your muscles relax with occasional twitches. Your mind waves begin to slow from their daytime wakefulness patterns.
Stage 2 NREM sleep is a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax even more. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. You would spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep when compared to other sleep stages.
Stage 3 NREM sleep is the period of deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) that you should feel refreshed each morning. It takes place in longer periods throughout the first half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing slow for their lowest levels while asleep. Your muscles are relaxed, your mind waves become even slower, it is difficult to waken in this cycle. This is when your body is stimulating development and growth, repairing muscle tissues, boosting the immune system, and building energy for the next day.
Stage 4 REM sleep initially occurs about 90 minutes after drifting off to sleep. The eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes nearer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heartrate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep (although dreams can also occur in non-REM sleep). Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting your dreams. This stage happens when you process everything you have learned your day before and consolidate memories. When you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep.
How you go to sleep, stay asleep, awaken, and remain awake is a component of an internal biological process regulated by our circadian rhythms and our endocannabinoid system. Circadian rhythms govern a diverse array of actions in your body, including hormone production, heartrate, metabolism, so when to attend sleep and get up.
It’s as though we have an inside biochemical timer or clock that keeps a record of our requirement for sleep, guides our bodies to get to sleep and after that influences the intensity of sleep. This biological mechanism is affected by external forces like travel, medication, food, drink, environment, stress and much more. Key question: Does the endocannabinoid system regulate our knowledge of circadian rhythms or vice versa?
Proof a powerful relationship in between the two is observed in the sleep-wake cycle fluctuations of anandamide and two-AG (the brain’s own marijuana-like molecules), together with the metabolic enzymes that produce and breakdown these endogenous cannabinoid compounds.
Anandamide exists in the brain at higher levels during the night and it also works jointly with the endogenous neurotransmitters oleamide and adenosine to create sleep. Conversely, 2AG is higher during the day, suggesting that it must be associated with promoting wakefulness.
The highly complex sleep-wake cycle is driven by a number of neurochemicals and molecular pathways.2 Both anandamide and 2AG activate CB1 cannabinoid receptors that are concentrated inside the central nervous system, including areas of your brain connected with regulating sleep.
CB1 receptors modulate neurotransmitter release in a manner that dials back excessive neuronal activity, thereby reducing anxiety, pain, and inflammation. CB1 receptor expression is thus a key aspect in modulating sleep homeostasis.
This is not the truth, however, with respect to the CB2, the cannabinoid receptor located primarily in immune cells, the peripheral neurological system, and metabolic tissue. Whereas CB1 receptor expression reflects cyclical circadian rhythms, no such fluctuations happen to be described for the CB2 receptor.
The task of studying and treating sleep disturbances is complicated because sleep disorders are symptomatic of numerous chronic illnesses. In many cases, poor sleep results in chronic illness, and chronic illness always involves an underlying imbalance or dysregulation from the endocannabinoid system. Although we have much to learn about the relationship involving the ECS and circadian rhythms, it’s clear that adequate quality sleep is a critical part of restoring and looking after one’s health.
Cannabinoids have been employed for centuries to market sleepiness and to help people stay asleep. Within the acclaimed medical reference Materia Medica, published within the 18th century, cannabis was listed as being a ‘narcotica’ and ‘anodyna’ (pain reliever). Its reintroduction to Western medicine by Sir William B. O’Shaughnessy in 1843 led to studies that underscored the remedial properties of “Indian hemp” for sleep disorders.
“Of all anaesthetics ever proposed, Indian hemp is definitely the one that produced a narcotism most closely resembling natural sleep without causing any extraordinary excitement from the vessels, or any particular suspension of secretions, or without anxiety about a dangerous reaction, and consecutive paralysis,” German researcher Bernard Fronmueller observed in 1860. Nine years later Fronmueller reported that in 1000 patients with sleep disturbance, Indian hemp produced cures in 53 percent, partial cure in 21.5 percent, and little if any effects in 25.5 percent.
Sleep-related problems continue to drive a large percentage of people to seek relief with cannabis. Poor sleep and sleep deficiency cause physiological changes within the body after just one night, resulting in slower reaction times, deceased cognitive performance, less energy, aggravated pain and vtkvnz inflammation, and in some cases overeating or cravings for top-fat, high-carbohydrate “comfort” foods. A 2014 study by Babson et al notes that approximately fifty percent of long term cannabis consumers (over 10 years) report using cannabis as a sleep aid. Among medical marijuana patients, 48 percent report using cannabis to aid with insomnia.