Ask any doctor and they’ll tell you that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for good mental and physical health. But for those with sleep apnea, getting a good night’s sleep is nearly impossible.
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects more than 12 million Americans, and that in and of itself can lead to a myriad of health problems, such as heart disease.
Typically, individuals with obstructive sleep apnea have relied on the help of CPAP machines to manually provide constant and steady air pressure to improve sleep quality and clear the airways of obstructions. However, a new cannabis-based treatment, administered in pill form, might be the new solution for sleep apnea sufferers seeking relief.
For Lisa Smith, quality sleep has always been evasive. In 2014, she was diagnosed with sleep apnea after her daughter overheard while she was asleep.
“She says, ‘You sound like somebody is in that room starting motorcycles…’ She said, ‘You snore real loud and sometimes you’re not coming back,'” Smith said in an interview with ABC 11 in Raleigh-Durham.
Individuals with sleep apnea experience constant disruptions in their sleeping schedule — in an average night, a sufferer can experience as many as 60 apneas per hour. These disruptions are potentially dangerous, as they can stop a person’s breathing in their sleep.
Doctors prescribed Smith with a CPAP machine to help her get a good night’s rest. And though the machine works for Smith, it’s a tedious and often uncomfortable process.
“I get these marks and I’ve got to wait all day and try to pump my face back up because I got the marks all over my face,” she said.
But with the prospect of the new cannabis-derived treatment, Smith may no longer have to worry about burdensome marks and discomfort.
Known as dronabinol, the medication is a synthetic form of cannabis that, if approved, would be taken once at night time.
“It is a medication that we think acts on nerve cells in the brain that activate the muscles in the upper airway,”said Dr. Roneil Malkani, a specialist in sleep medicine at Northwestern Medicine.
The medicine would help to keep the airways open, allowing for the restful sleep Smith longs for.
“If it will put me to sleep, I’ll do it,” she said.
So far, it has been used to help cancer patients with weight gain and feelings of nausea.