As any sleep-deprived spouse will tell you, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a problem. Just how serious a problem is revealed by the clear relationship between OSA and life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. More than just simple snoring, OSA is characterized by pauses in breathing of 10 seconds or more. The condition is alarmingly common, with an estimated 20% of adult males exhibiting symptoms.

Typical treatments for sleep apnea include oral appliances, surgery and nightly use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Recipients of these treatments often complain of discomfort, annoyance and cost.

Encouragingly, studies are pointing to a probable connection between the body’s endocannabinoid system and its role in regulating the airway during sleep. This has led to experiments with cannabis-based compounds in the treatment of snoring and OSA. Most of these have been animal studies, but a 2013 project on a small number of OSA sufferers showed a positive result between administration of a cannabis derivative (Dronabinol) and a significant reduction in symptoms.

The hope is that cannabis-based medicine will eventually provide a simple, convenient and effective treatment for OSA.

Medical Cannabis and Sleep Apnea: Research

For those who’d like to know more, we present this sample of related studies:
Functional Role for Cannabinoids in Respiratory Stability During Sleep
Anandamide Enhances Extracellular Levels of Adenosine and Induces Sleep: An In Vivo Microdialysis Study
Proof of concept trial of dronabinol in obstructive sleep apnea