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How Does CBD Affect Sleep Apnea Patients?

July 8, 2021


Nearly 30 million American adults have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a chronic sleep condition that causes involuntary lapses in breathing during sleep. Because of its severity, OSA patients must see a sleep specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. The most common and most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, with the rising popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) therapy, some sleep apnea patients are turning to CBD for a little extra help.

What is CBD?

Before we dig into how CBD can affect sleep apnea patients, let’s discuss the difference between CBD and cannabis or marijuana. The word “cannabis” refers to all products derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, which contains about 540 chemical substances. Marijuana or “weed” is the part of, or products from, the plant that contain large amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the active ingredient in marijuana responsible for euphoria and feelings of being “high.”

CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants. Although it is found in marijuana, CBD does not contain THC and is not psychoactive. As a result, CBD can be successful in mitigating symptoms of anxiety, stress, epilepsy, and even loss of appetite due to cancer treatments, or HIV/AIDS. However, research on the benefits and side effects of CBD is still in the early stages and very limited.

CBD and Sleep Apnea

A recent study on the therapeutic potential for CBD as a treatment for insomnia has made sleep apnea patients curious about its effects. The study was on a drug called dronabinol, based on a synthetic version of THC. According to results from the study, dronabinol could be effective in decreasing sleep latency (the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep at night) but could also impair sleep quality long-term. As for sleep apnea, it seems that OSA patients should stick with more traditional treatments.

Dronabinol has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat OSA, and medical cannabis and synthetic extracts other than dronabinol have not been studied in patients with OSA. Furthermore, according to a 2018 position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), “medical cannabis and synthetic marijuana extracts should not be used for the treatment of OSA.”

The AASM also determined that OSA should be excluded from the list of chronic medical conditions for state medical cannabis programs. OSA patients should always discuss their treatment options with a licensed sleep specialist at an accredited sleep facility.

How We Can Help

Research on cannabis and sleep is still in its infancy, and until we have further evidence, CPAP therapy remains the most effective treatment for OSA. If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, contact us today to speak with a certified sleep specialist and learn how we can help you get a better night’s sleep.



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