Medical Cannabis for Sleep Disorders

This page contains some of the medical cannabis research studies that have been carried out into the use of medical cannabis for sleeping disorders including sleep apnea.

Proof of concept trial of dronabinol in obstructive sleep apnea.

Department of Medicine of the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.

Study objective

Animal data suggest that Δ(9)-TetraHydroCannabinol (Δ(9)THC) stabilizes autonomic output during sleep, reduces spontaneous sleep-disordered breathing, and blocks serotonin-induced exacerbation of sleep apnea. On this basis, we examined the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of dronabinol (Δ(9)THC), an exogenous Cannabinoid type 1 and type 2 (CB1 and CB2) receptor agonist in patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Design and setting

Proof of concept; single-center dose-escalation study of dronabinol.


Seventeen adults with a baseline Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) ≥15/h. Baseline polysomnography (PSG) was performed after a 7-day washout of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure treatment.


Dronabinol was administered after baseline PSG, starting at 2.5mg once daily. The dose was increased weekly, as tolerated, to 5mg and finally to 10 mg once daily.

Measurements and results

Repeat PSG assessments were performed on nights 7, 14, and 21 of dronabinol treatment. Change in AHI (ΔAHI, mean±SD) was significant from baseline to night 21 (-14.1±17.5; p=0.007). No degradation of sleep architecture or serious adverse events was noted.


Dronabinol treatment is safe and well-tolerated in OSA patients at doses of 2.5-10mg daily and significantly reduces AHI in the short-term. These findings should be confirmed in a larger study in order to identify sub-populations with OSA that may benefit from cannabimimetic pharmacologic therapy.

Therapeutic Cannabis Vs Medical Marijuana

Is there a difference between medical cannabis and medical marijuana? No, not really. The general population tends to refer to cannabis as marijuana, but those involved in the research and medical use of it tend to refer to it as cannabis because that’s its scientific name and because marijuana is associated with the recreational use. (It’s also sometimes referred to as medicinal hemp oil.)