Sleep disturbance

Sleep loss is a common issue, with the majority of cases being resolved naturally within a month or little over. However, more severe and longer-lasting insomnia may have a range of negative impacts including the slowing of mental processing and depression. This may occur as a result of medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, PTSD and schizophrenia. However, medical cannabis can help both in the inducement of sleep and the establishment of more beneficial circadian rhythms. CBD may be initially prescribed for such purposes.

Learn more about symptoms

Symptom definition

Sleep loss, or sleep deprivation, is a common condition where sufferers are unable to get the required amount of sleep (ranging from 7 to 9 hours for adults). While most sleep problems are corrected naturally within a month, more extended periods of bad sleep may severely impact a person’s quality of life, causing extreme tiredness and making routine tasks more of a challenge. 

Insomnia is a common condition among patients who regularly experience sleep problems. It can last for months or years and may either be the primary problem or associated with other medical conditions/medications.

The symptoms of sleep deprivation might include:

  • Slowed mental processing
  • Reduced attention span
  • Apparent memory loss
  • Increased tolerance of danger and risk
  • Shortage of energy
  • Changes in mood (stress and anger are common)

Loss of sleep is also associated with such serious medical conditions as:

Standard Treatment

Those suffering from sleep deprivation are advised to visit their local GP for an assessment. There will be an initial focus on sleep hygiene in most instances, addressing such factors as sleeping hours and level of bedroom lighting. 

Changing sleep habits and successful resolution of issues associated with insomnia, stress, and medical conditions may be sufficient to restore restful sleep in many instances. If such measures don’t have the intended impact then cognitive behavioural therapy, sleeping pills or both may be recommended for improved relaxation and sleep.

How medical cannabis could help

There is abundant anecdotal survey evidence for the soporific effect of cannabis, with sufferers of a range of conditions reporting that it assists in promoting sleep. Indeed, somnolence is a commonly listed adverse event in clinical trials involving medical cannabis. For most patients, indica medical cannabis strains have a more sedative effect than sativa strains which are instead typically more uplifting. Indica strains are therefore likely to be more suitable for promoting sleep.

Several studies have shown that medical cannabis can improve sleep in patients suffering with chronic pain. There is also emerging evidence supporting the use of medical cannabis in the management of insomnia. A recent randomised-controlled trial demonstrated that nightly sublingual

administration of a 20:1 extract was well-tolerated and improved insomnia symptoms and sleep quality in individuals with chronic insomnia compared to placebo. It is likely that medical cannabis may therefore improve sleep via direct soporific and anxiolytic effects as well as indirectly via lessening other symptoms such as pain (which in turn facilitates sleep).

Although most of the evidence supporting the use of medical cannabis for improving sleep is with either balanced THC:CBD or high-THC preparations, the ‘start low, go slow’ approach to titrating THC should be employed as at high doses THC can have anxiogenic effects and cause sleep disturbances.

FAQs about Medical Cannabis

FAQs about Medical Cannabis FAQs about Medical Cannabis
Is medical cannabis legal in the UK?

Yes. Cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) have been legal since the 1st of November 2018, when they moved from a Schedule 1 product to a Schedule 2 product. This reflects their potential for medical use.

Who is allowed to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK?

Cannabis-based medicinal products, also known as CBMPs, can be prescribed by private consultants, when appropriate, within their specialty area when there is unmet clinical need.

In the UK cannabis medicines are accessed primarily via private clinics. However, any specialist physician can prescribe cannabis medicines. GROW® is here to provide education and support to any specialists looking to prescribe or just to find out more.

Is medical cannabis available on the NHS?

There are 3 licensed medicines which contain cannabinoids – Epidiolex for some forms of epilepsy, Sativex for multiple sclerosis (MS), and Nabilone for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). However, only a handful of prescriptions have been issued in the NHS to date.

Most cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) are instead unlicensed, and they must be written on a private prescription, typically issued by private clinics specialising in medical cannabis treatment.

What cannabis medicines are available?

Cannabis medicines come in multiple forms; flowers, often referred to as herbal cannabis (to be vaporised, rather than smoked), oils (taken under the tongue) and capsules. Cannabis medicines come in high-THC, high-CBD and balanced varieties.

Smoking medical cannabis is illegal. Medical cannabis can instead be taken in different forms depending on the desired speed of onset and duration of action, which is discussed between the patient and their doctor.

Which clinic should I use?

It’s important to find a clinic that works for you. Most importantly you need to find a Doctor that specialises in your condition. For example, patients with pain will need to see pain specialist, while those with a mental health condition must see a psychiatrist.

Which pharmacies can I use?

It’s important for patients to know they can use any pharmacy that supplies the appropriate medicines in the UK.

Some clinics have a preferred pharmacy but will be able to send prescriptions to others if needed. If patients have any questions about available medicines, they can contact IPS Pharma.

What should I do before my consultation?

To speed up the process, patients should bring a copy of their medical records. These are then forwarded to the clinic in advance of the first consultation.

Is medical cannabis the same as over-the-counter CBD?

No. Cannabis-based medicinal products (CBMPs) are only prescribed by GMC-registered specialist doctors. As they are medicinal, CBMPs are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA); which ensures the safety, quality, and effectiveness of medicines in the UK.

Over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products can be purchased without a prescription in pharmacies, health food shops, or online. These may come in forms such as oil tinctures, capsules, or vapes. They are not medicinal products as they are regulated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a food supplement, with a 0.3% limit on THC.

What if I don’t get a prescription?

Patients are free to seek a second opinion from another clinic. Patients should ensure the clinic has communicated their reasons for deciding not to prescribe. It may be that they feel you should try other medicines before trying cannabis medicines, or that they need to see more information about your medical history before they are happy to prescribe.

How can I learn more about medical cannabis?

For patient enquiries - [email protected]

For doctor enquiries - [email protected]

For all other enquiries – [email protected]

Healthcare professionals can also sign up to our Doctor Portal.

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