The approval of recreational marijuana in Colorado took some of the shine off the medical marijuana (MMJ) trade, but people still seek MMJ for a wide range of illnesses, such as nausea, headaches, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
But is it good for sleep apnea? The Minnesota Department of Health apparently thought so, recommending the treatment in November of last year. However, last month, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) said that this treatment is unproven and should not be used for sleep apnea.
Not Proven Effective or Safe
The AASM had a very simple, clear reason for its recommendation: MMJ has never been proven safe or effective for the treatment of sleep apnea.
Using marijuana can make people feel sleepy. This makes people think it’s a great treatment for sleep disorders. But it’s not so simple. Something that helps you fall asleep isn’t necessarily going to help you get better sleep. And it might actually make sleep apnea worse.
Consider the case of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can make you sleepy, but if you drink alcohol before bed, you’re likely to get worse sleep. And the relaxation of muscles in your throat can make snoring and sleep apnea worse.
Now, we know that marijuana has different physiological impacts on the body than alcohol. But no one has done the research to show that MMJ will actually lead to a reduction in sleep apnea or an improvement in symptoms. Preliminary research gives us doubts. Although dronabinol (a medical drug derived from marijuana) can reduce AHI (the clinical measure of sleep apnea), it may not be helpful. Research on mice shows that although the medication improves airway tone, it might interfere with REM sleep. So, whether you get better sleep or not is up for debate.
Choose Proven Treatments
One of the worst things about recommending MMJ for sleep apnea is that it might further delay people from getting proven sleep apnea treatments. There is already a considerable delay in this, as people don’t know they have sleep apnea for a long time, because their doctor doesn’t understand the condition or they ignore or dismiss symptoms. Adding further delay increases health harms.
Instead, people should seek out proven sleep apnea treatments. Your doctor will likely recommend CPAP, which is a very effective treatment, unless you don’t use it. For many people, oral appliance therapy is the best compromise. It’s highly effective, but comfortable and easy to use.
Would you like to learn about proven, effective sleep apnea treatment options in Denver? Please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.