Sleep apnea is a medical disorder characterized by frequent interruptions in breathing of up to ten seconds or more during sleep. The condition is associated with numerous physiological disorders, including fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack and stroke. Though sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed, it is estimated that approximately four percent of men and two percent of women ages 30 to 60 years old suffer from the disease.
One preclinical study is cited in the scientific literature investigating the role of cannabinoids on sleep-related apnea. Writing in the June 2002 issue of the journal of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, researchers at the University of Illinois (at Chicago) Department of Medicine reported “potent suppression” of sleep-related apnea in rats administered either exogenous or endogenous cannabinoids. Investigators reported that doses of delta-9-THC and the endocannabinoid oleamide each stabilized respiration during sleep, and blocked serotonin-induced exacerbation of sleep apnea in a statistically significant manner. No follow up investigations have taken place assessing the use of cannabinoids to treat this indication. However, several recent preclinical and clinical trials have reported on the use of THC, natural cannabis extracts, and endocannabinoids to induce sleep and/or improve sleep quality.