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Therapy with medical cannabis for sleep disorders

Patients with (chronic) sleep problems may benefit from cannabis-based therapy. How effective and safe medical cannabis is for chronic sleep problems was recently investigated in an Australian study.

A team of researchers led by Jennifer Walsh from the University of Western Australia, Centre for Sleep Science conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The study investigated the efficacy of a cannabinoid extract in patients who experienced sleep problems for at least 3 months. In the study, patients were divided into two groups: one group received medical cannabis just before bedtime and the other group received a placebo (oral intake), with no difference in appearance, taste, or odor between the two preparations. Neither the patients nor the research team knew which group the patients belonged to (double-blind study design). The assignment of which preparation a patient received was also randomized (randomized study design). This procedure corresponds to clinical-scientific standards.

Chronic sleep problems were significantly improved without severe side effects.

No evidence of severe side effects was found. The use of medical cannabis was able to significantly improve chronic sleep problems. In addition, cannabis patients reported better sleep quality and felt more significantly recovered compared to the control group.

The significant improvement in sleep duration and quality based on subjective assessments by the patients themselves, could also be confirmed by objective measurement methods such as actigraphy.

In terms of use, the maximum effect was seen 4-6 hours after ingestion of medical cannabis. The data also indicate that for patients with problems falling asleep, therapy 2-4 hours before bedtime is most effective, while patients with sleep-through problems benefited most from a dose approximately 1 hour before falling asleep.



Walsh JH, Maddison KJ, Rankin T, Murray K, McArdle N, Ree MJ, Hillman DR, Eastwood PR. Treating insomnia symptoms with medicinal cannabis: a randomized, crossover trial of the efficacy of a cannabinoid medicine compared with placebo. Sleep 2021:zsab149.

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