Although sleep is vital for the health, its biological purpose is not fully understood. Oddly, the seemingly inactive state of sleep is really a dynamic and critical procedure that helps us store memories, build immunity, repair tissue, regulate metabolic process and blood pressure, control appetite and blood glucose, and process learning, in addition to a multitude of other physiological processes – all of which are regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institute of Health (NIH), new findings suggest “sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins inside your brain that develop when you are awake.”
Poor sleep is the number one reported medical complaint within the Unites States along with 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 with chronic illnesses are at higher 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 – have a 75-95 percent increased chance 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 quest for good night’s sleep may be hazardous to one’s health. Daniel F. Kripke, MD, sleep expert and co-founder of Research at Scripps Clinic Vitebri Family Sleep Center, discusses the risks of sleep helps with his paper “Hypnotic drug perils of mortality, infection, depression, and cancer: but lack of benefit.”
Dr. Kripke reviewed 40 studies conducted on prescription sleeping pills, that include hypnotic drugs including zolpidem (Ambien, Edlmar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), temazepam (Restoril), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), triazolam (Halcion), flurazepam (Dalmane and Dalmadorm), quazepam, and other barbiturates utilized for sleep. Of these 40 studies, thirty-nine found that intake of hypnotics is “associated with excess mortality” for the tune of the 4.6 times higher risk of death for hypnotic users.
Grim statistics: 10,000 deaths per year are directly brought on by and related to hypnotic drugs, based on medical examiner data. However, large epidemiological studies suggest the number of fatalities may actually be closer to 300,000-500,000 annually. The difference may be associated with underreported use of hypnotics during the time of 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 assigned to “2.1 times” as many new depression incidents when compared with randomized placebo recipients, and increases the chance 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 and other drugs.1
Given the issues with conventional soporifics, medical scientists happen to be exploring different ways to enhance sleep by targeting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). As the primary homeostatic regulator of human physiology, the ECS plays a major role within the sleep-wake cycle as well as other circadian processes.
Italian scientist Vicenzo DiMarzo summarized the broad regulatory function of the endocannabinoid system inside the phrase “Eat, sleep, relax, protect and forget.”
There are 2 kinds of sleep: non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), which has three stages, and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, that is their own stage of sleep. A full sleep cycle occurs 5 to 6 times per night. The very first full cycle in 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 definitely the changeover from wakefulness to get to sleep. 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 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 further. Your system temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. You may spend much more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.
Stage 3 NREM sleep will be the time of deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) that you should feel refreshed in the morning. It takes place in longer periods through the first one half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels during sleep. Your muscles are relaxed, your mind waves become even slower, it is sometimes complicated to waken in this cycle. This is when our bodies is stimulating development and growth, repairing muscles, boosting the defense mechanisms, and building energy for the following day.
Stage 4 REM sleep initially occurs about 90 minutes after sleeping. Your vision move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that observed in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, as well as your heartrate and blood pressure level increase to near waking levels. Most 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 what you learned your day before and consolidate memories. When you age, you sleep less of your time and effort in REM sleep.
How we go to sleep, stay asleep, awaken, and remain awake is part of an internal biological process regulated by our circadian rhythms and our endocannabinoid system. Circadian rhythms govern a wide selection of actions in your body, including hormone production, heartbeat, metabolism, so when to go to sleep and wake up.
It’s just as if we have now an internal biochemical timer or clock that keeps track of our need for sleep, guides the body to get to sleep and after that influences the power of sleep. This biological mechanism is impacted 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 the other way round?
Proof of a powerful relationship in between the two is observed inside the sleep-wake cycle fluctuations of anandamide and two-AG (the brain’s own marijuana-like molecules), combined with the metabolic enzymes that create and breakdown these endogenous cannabinoid compounds.
Anandamide is found within the brain at higher levels during the night and it also works together with the endogenous neurotransmitters oleamide and adenosine to produce sleep. Conversely, 2AG is higher during the day, suggesting that it must be involved in 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 which are concentrated within the central nervous system, including elements of the mind associated 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 factor in modulating sleep homeostasis.
This may not be the truth, however, with regards 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 already been described for the CB2 receptor.
The challenge of studying and treating sleep disturbances is complicated by the fact that sleep disorders are symptomatic of many chronic illnesses. Most of the time, poor sleep results in chronic illness, and chronic illness always involves an actual imbalance or dysregulation from the endocannabinoid system. Although we still have much to discover your relationship between the ECS and circadian rhythms, it’s clear that adequate quality sleep is a critical part of restoring and maintaining one’s health.
Cannabinoids happen to be used for centuries to market sleepiness and to help individuals stay asleep. Within the acclaimed medical reference Materia Medica, published inside the 18th century, cannabis was listed as 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 will be the the one that produced a narcotism most closely resembling the natural sleep without causing any extraordinary excitement in 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 individuals to seek relief with cannabis. Poor sleep and lack of sleep cause physiological changes within the body after only one night, resulting in slower reaction times, deceased cognitive performance, less energy, aggravated pain and vtkvnz inflammation, and even overeating or cravings for top-fat, high-carbohydrate “comfort” foods. A 2014 study by Babson et al notes that approximately 50 % of long term cannabis consumers (over a decade) report using cannabis being a sleep aid. Among medical marijuana patients, 48 percent report using cannabis to help with insomnia.