Although sleep is essential for our health, its biological purpose is not fully understood. Oddly, the seemingly inactive state of sleep is truly a dynamic and critical process that helps us store memories, build immunity, repair tissue, regulate metabolic process and blood pressure level, control appetite and blood sugar, and process learning, in addition to a multitude of other physiological processes – all of which are regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
In accordance with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the National Institute of Health (NIH), new findings suggest “sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins inside your brain that build-up while you are awake.”
Poor sleep is the top 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.
Individuals with chronic illnesses have reached greater risk for insomnia, which exacerbates their discomfort. Comorbid medical disorders – including problems that cause hypoxemia (abnormally low blood oxygen levels) and dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing), gastroesophageal reflux disease, pain, and neurodegenerative diseases – have 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 marketplace for such products will experience in regards to a 4.5 percent growth rate between now and 2021.
The quest for good night’s sleep can 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 dangers of sleep assists in 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 found that usage of hypnotics is “associated with excess mortality” towards the tune of a 4.6 times greater risk of death for hypnotic users.
Grim statistics: 10,000 deaths annually are directly caused by and related to hypnotic drugs, based upon medical examiner data. However, large epidemiological studies suggest the quantity of fatalities might actually be even closer to 300,000-500,000 each year. The difference can be attributed to underreported usage of hypnotics during death and the fact that prescription hypnotics are rarely listed as the main cause of death.
Dr. Kripke concludes that even limited usage 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 much new depression incidents in comparison to randomized placebo recipients, and increases the potential risk of suicide. Furthermore, the use of opioids along with hypnotics – two known dose-dependent respiratory suppressants – can be extremely dangerous, especially when mixed with alcohol along with other drugs.1
Because of the issues with conventional soporifics, medical scientists have been exploring different ways to improve sleep by targeting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). As 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 inside the phrase “Eat, sleep, relax, protect and then forget.”
The two main types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), which includes three stages, and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, that is their own stage of sleep. A full sleep cycle occurs five to six times per night. The first full cycle from the night is 70-100 minutes with remaining cycles lasting 90-120 minutes each. The stages of sleep based on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke are the following:
Stage 1 NREM sleep is the changeover from wakefulness to rest. In this short period (lasting several minutes) of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax with occasional twitches. The human brain waves commence to slow using their daytime wakefulness patterns.
Stage 2 NREM sleep is a period of light sleep before you decide to enter deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax further. The body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. You spend even more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep when compared to other sleep stages.
Stage 3 NREM sleep is the time of deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) that you should feel refreshed each morning. It takes place in longer periods during the first half of the night time. Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels while asleep. Your muscle mass are relaxed, your brain waves become even slower, it is sometimes complicated to waken during this cycle. This is where our bodies is stimulating development and growth, repairing muscle tissue, boosting the defense mechanisms, and building energy for the following day.
Stage 4 REM sleep initially occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes nearer to that observed in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, along with your heartbeat and blood pressure levels increase to near waking levels. The majority of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep (although dreams can also happen in non-REM sleep). Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. This stage occurs when you process everything you learned the morning before and consolidate memories. When you age, you sleep a smaller amount of your time in REM sleep.
The way we go to sleep, stay asleep, get up, and remain awake is an element of the internal biological process regulated by our circadian rhythms and our endocannabinoid system. Circadian rhythms govern a diverse variety of actions within the body, including hormone production, heartbeat, metabolism, and once to attend sleep and awaken.
It’s just as if we now have an internal biochemical timer or clock that keeps a record of our requirement for sleep, guides our bodies to rest and after that influences the concentration of sleep. This biological mechanism is affected by external forces like travel, medication, food, drink, environment, stress and a lot more. Key question: Does the endocannabinoid system regulate our knowledge of circadian rhythms or the other way round?
Proof of 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 break down these endogenous cannabinoid compounds.
Anandamide is found in the brain at higher levels at night plus it works jointly with the endogenous neurotransmitters oleamide and adenosine to produce sleep. Conversely, 2AG is higher during the day, suggesting that it must be involved with promoting wakefulness.
The highly complex sleep-wake cycle is driven by a variety of neurochemicals and molecular pathways.2 Both anandamide and 2AG activate CB1 cannabinoid receptors that are concentrated inside the 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 an important factor in modulating sleep homeostasis.
This is not the case, 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 have been described for that CB2 receptor.
The task of studying and treating sleep disturbances is complicated by the fact that sleep disorders are symptomatic of many chronic illnesses. In many cases, poor sleep leads to chronic illness, and chronic illness always involves a fundamental imbalance or dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system. Although we continue to have much to learn about the connection in between the ECS and circadian rhythms, it’s clear that adequate quality sleep is actually a critical component of restoring and looking after one’s health.
Cannabinoids have already been utilized for centuries to promote sleepiness and to assist stay asleep. In the acclaimed medical reference Materia Medica, published within the 18th century, cannabis was listed being a ‘narcotica’ and ‘anodyna’ (pain reliever). Its reintroduction to Western medicine by Sir William B. O’Shaughnessy in 1843 resulted in studies that underscored the remedial properties of “Indian hemp” for sleep disorders.
“Of all anaesthetics ever proposed, Indian hemp is definitely the one which 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 carry on and drive a large percentage of men and women to seek relief with cannabis. Poor sleep and lack of sleep cause physiological changes in the body after just one single night, leading to slower reaction times, deceased cognitive performance, less energy, aggravated pain and vtkvnz inflammation, and in many cases overeating or cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate “comfort” foods. A 2014 study by Babson et al notes that approximately fifty percent of long-term cannabis consumers (over ten years) report using cannabis as being a sleep aid. Among medical marijuana patients, 48 percent report using cannabis to help with insomnia.