Marijuana as Treatment for Sleep Apnea? California is one step closer

Last year we wrote a post on—that’s right—marijuana as a potential treatment for sleep apnea. Since then, midterm elections have brought a new wave of legalization to the West Coast: Alaska and Oregon both decriminalized recreational use of the drug. So we thought it was worthwhile to take a second look at whether pot, scientifically or politically, could become a valid treatment for sleep apnea.

The Science behind Smoking

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder that occurs when the back of the throat relaxes during sleep, blocking off the airway. This causes gasping, choking, and oxygen deprivation to the brain, preventing the subject from ever reaching a deep sleep and resulting in serious long-term health consequences.

Several studies have supported the hypothesis that cannabis can alleviate the symptoms of this sleep disorder. A study conducted in 2002 by researchers at the University of Illinois found that THC and oleanide, both types of medical marijuana, improved breathing patterns in rats with the condition in all stages of sleep. In fact, apnea episodes decreased by 42 to 58 percent. The higher the dosage of the drugs, it was discovered, the greater the improvement.

In 2013, the head researcher from the 2002 examination, Doctor David Carley, oversaw another study that was the first to investigate the connection between marijuana and sleep apnea in people. After administering a THC-containing pill to test subjects for three weeks just before bedtime, he observed a 32% decrease in apnea events in humans.

Dr. Carley has been granted $5 million from the National Institute of Health to further investigate the findings, and he hopes to develop a commercially available pill.

But on the other hand, several studies such as this one have linked pot use to decreased sleep quality. Experts maintain that pot is not a valid solution to issues like stress or insomnia. This throws some doubt on the utility of pot to aid in sound sleep.

How does this potential treatment compare to CPAP therapy?

In comparison to existing remedies, the benefits of marijuana are modest. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy, which involves pumping pressurized air through the airway to keep it open, has a nearly 100% success rate and can completely alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. Plus, it is legal, accessible, and even covered by insurance.

However, one of the disadvantages of CPAP machines is lack of compliance on the part of patients. Hypothetically, patients might find it easier to pop a pill than wear a mask. But this route still has to be tested and developed.

The Situation in the States

Right now, four states—Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon—have legalized recreational marijuana. 19 more, plus the District of Colombia, permit medical marijuana.

Where does that leave California? The Golden State was in fact the first to embrace medical marijuana. We’re surrounded by states that have legalized the drug. But in 2010 Californians struck down by a large margin a measure to open it to non-medical use.

That doesn’t mean that eventual legalization is out of the question. In the 2012 midterms, voters agreed to reclassify drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, which indicates at least some disillusionment with strict drug sentencing. And it’s very likely that legalizing cannabis could be back on the ballot in 2016 thanks to the work of organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project.

So where does that leave us?

Pot as a sleep apnea treatment—in both political and scientific terms—is still in very preliminary stages. Much research still has to be done to determine its effectiveness in curing apneas. Increased legalization across the United States could open the door for more in-depth studies of marijuana’s effects. But until then, the best option for treating the sleep disorder is still a CPAP machine, or, in a serious case, surgery.

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Photo Credit: Chuck Coker


  1. Bob Michael Reply

    thanks for helping, It is very useful for the medical purpose, there was a person living next to my home, he has some mental issues. But he treated well after use of medical bud for couple of years, now he is ok, thanks for posting.

  2. JAMES Reply

    Medical marijuana is also vary beneficial for many health problem like anxiety, depression, body pain and many more. thanks for sharing it really help a lot.

  3. Bob Michael Reply

    Awesome post! Keep up the great work!

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    Your website is really cool and this is a great inspiring article.

  5. Dwayne Smith Reply

    Marijuana really helps in overcoming sleep disorders. Thank you for explaining this so briliantly.

  6. Jenelia Reply

    Marijuana has selected as the most recommended product to keep by your bedside for a restful night. Great stuff out there!

  7. Steve Austin Reply

    More studies should be done to prove benefits of medicinal marijuana so that more people could be aware and enjoy its health benefits.

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  9. amrit Reply

    We find your content incredibly remarkable and unique. Do you think this post is helpful?

  10. Jacob William Reply

    Marijuana really helps in alleviating the symptoms of this sleep disorder. Several studies have also proven the medicinal benefits of marijuana in treating the issues like stress or insomnia. Thanks a lot for sharing this post.

  11. Smith Shelf Reply

    I always prefer marijuana to overcome insomnia. Really it’s helped me a lot!

  12. Brad Hogg Reply

    Thanks for the information, this really helped a lot. Marijuana do have so many benefits and there has been a lot of research done to prove its health benefits.

  13. Elite Reply

    Earlier I also suffered from insomnia, then I started using high THC ratio weed strains to get rid of my insomnia. Marijuana is an effective sleep aid as its increases the amount of time you stay in deep sleep, which may be beneficial for those with insomnia.

  14. Dagga Reply

    I hope you guys get it legalized soon, it’s the only medicine I use for my insomnia. I live in Canada of course. I use heavy Indica’s, knocks me right out.

  15. Mark Boucher Reply

    The potential use of marijuana as a treatment for sleep apnea in California is an intriguing development. While further research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and safety, exploring alternative options is crucial for those suffering from sleep disorders. This step brings hope for improved sleep health and quality of life for affected individuals.

  16. Michael Bud Reply

    I have used Marijuana to help my insomnia for years. Luckily in Vancouver, being able to find a reputable source is far from a issue.

  17. Demin Martin Reply

    This is a promising step forward in sleep apnea treatment. California’s exploration of marijuana as a potential remedy for sleep apnea could bring relief to many. It’s an exciting development, and I’m eager to see where further research and clinical studies lead in this area.

  18. David OZ Reply

    Fascinating read! Exploring marijuana’s potential for treating sleep apnea in California is a promising step. It’s crucial to continue researching and understanding the therapeutic benefits while ensuring responsible usage. A breakthrough in sleep apnea treatment could be on the horizon!

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