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This study is changing the way we think about cannabis and sleep

This study is changing the way we think about cannabis and sleep

There’s a good chance that if you figured out a way to get paid to eat edibles and go to bed, just the thought of this new gig could improve how you sleep. 

Well, you’re in luck. A new study is offering to do just that, as a way of determining how edibles can help them get a better night’s rest – and how products could be optimized with sleep in mind.

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This isn’t the sleep test you may picture from TV or movies, where a person in a hospital gown lies asleep in a room with their body covered in sensors, while closed circuit cameras record every move for a team of analysts sitting on the other side of the glass. 

Instead, participants will record their own sleep at home on their smartphone – after consuming edible cannabis products that are intended for sleep.

The study was developed by People Science, a tech-enabled science company that is focused on connecting “health minded people, research scientists, and healthcare providers in an effort to unlock the potential of alternative medicines,” according to People Science. 

The group states that not enough is known about alternative medicines like cannabis, psychedelics, probiotics, and other plant-based medicines, and by fostering greater knowledge of these medicines, they can help people optimize their own personal path to wellness. The data will also help doctors and researchers boost their knowledge, and assist in the creation of better alternative health products, according to People Science. 

After signing up online, the potential participant is sent an email from People Science, including a survey. It includes a number of questions including age, if they have a smartphone, if you’re willing to purchase cannabis to take part in the study, and if you have a diagnosed sleep condition, alcoholism, mental health conditions like schizophrenia, or heart conditions, among other questions. The questions will help determine whether the interested individual will qualify for the study. For example, certain uncommon sleep conditions and mental health diagnoses with psychoses will disqualify some applicants. 

How do you sleep on cannabis?

People Science co-founder and co-CEO Dr. Belinda Tan told The Cannigma that her team will “observe how they [participants] engage in sleep while they’re taking a cannabis product.”

Tan said there is no control population in the study and no placebos will be given. But that doesn’t mean it will be a free-for-all. The participants will be able to select from three separate cannabis edibles from specific brands, all of which have varying levels of THC and CBD. Two of the test products are gummies and the third is a mint, and all three are currently available to consumers in California. 

Tan said that the participants are given a consumer guide on how to dose, on how cannabis affects sleep, and guidance on how to start low and increase their dose with time. The test will look at how the participants respond to the various products, and how changes in the cannabinoid makeup of those products affects sleep. 

Tan said that in addition to the survey, participants will also monitor their sleep with a smartphone app, and send the data to People Science for analysis. 

She added that all participants will be compensated by way of a discount on cannabis products, and an additional $50 Amazon gift card for completing all the study activities. 

“One of the tools to try to tackle sleep and wellness”

What does People Science see as the role of cannabis in wellness? Tan said “I don’t know that I’d call it essential, I think it’s one of the tools for consumers to use to try to tackle sleep and wellness issues. I don’t want to go out there and say everyone who has sleep problems should be taking cannabis, I think scientifically that probably wouldn’t pan out to be the case across the board. But I do think that it’s a powerful medicine and from the perspective of People Science, these medicines that have been around for millenia have been proven to help human beings and should be studied.”

Tan also said that a lot of the information on cannabis and sleep is confusing for consumers, who she says often read headlines “based on limited data, that THC is bad for your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. And there’s still a lot to know. Sleep scientists acknowledge that our sleep quality involves a lot more than maximizing REM sleep.”

She added that “we’re really just scratching the surface in this study,” and that another of their goals is to encourage consumers to engage with research and take part in it, and tinker with what works and doesn’t work for them, when it comes to cannabis. She described this as a way that consumers can give feedback to themselves and start “to think of health and wellness on a data-driven level.” 

She also expressed her hope that the study and ones like it will encourage people to keep track of their health and medicine regimens, and what works and doesn’t work for them. 

“It’s bringing them on this scientific journey to be more involved in their health.”

Cannabis and sleep – more complicated than you may think

Countless people across the world struggle with sleep and try all types of solutions ranging from sleeping pills to melatonin to more traditional remedies like warm herbal tea. Cannabis is also a commonly-used remedy for people who have difficulty falling asleep. 

Cannabis can help make it easier not only to fall asleep, but also to alleviate some of the health conditions that make falling asleep much harder, such as chronic pain or anxiety. 

At the same time, research has shown that higher-THC strains can diminish REM sleep, the phase of sleep where most dreaming occurs. This could potentially mean that while cannabis can help people fall asleep, the actual quality of that sleep may be lower. This side effect can potentially help some cannabis users, especially those who are suffering from PTSD-related nightmares that make it difficult to sleep.

A study published in June found that female cannabis users may actually experience these sleep problems more intensely than male users. The researchers posited that this may be because women are more sensitive to the effects of cannabis. 

For many consumers — especially those who have insomnia — the consideration may simply come down to whether or not poor or dream-less sleep is better than little or no sleep at all. 

Regardless, much like the People Science study indicated, it is advisable that cannabis consumers closely monitor their own use and how they feel after specific products or doses, and adjust accordingly.

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