The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

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Cannabinoids as novel sleep aids

Monday, September 13, 2021

Update August 2022: We're looking for volunteers to take part in exciting new research studies on cannabis-related medications, including the CAN-Rest and CUPID studies. See a list of all studies.

Anastasia Suraev wants to better understand how cannabinoids can help people with insomnia and sleep disorders. In this video she describes her PhD research, which will generate new important data that will inform further research, policy and clinical practice.

Thirty percent of the Australian population experience insomnia or poor-quality sleep, which can cause problems in their day-to-day life.

There are several doctor-prescribed treatments and supplements that can help. However, some treatments have serious side effects and should not be used long term.

With a rise in popularity of natural medicines, the sleep-promoting effects of cannabis are gaining interest.

Cannabis contains hundreds of compounds known as cannabinoids.

The two best-characterized cannabinoids are

  • cannabidiol, which is not intoxicating and has anti-anxiety effects, and
  • tetrahydrocannabinol, which has sedating properties.

Our research will test the effects of these cannabinoids on sleep and daytime function in people with insomnia. The medication will consist of a controlled ratio of cannabinoids ingested as an oil for slower absorption and longer-lasting effects.

Using state-of-the-art brain imaging technology, we will answer two important questions:

  1. Do cannabinoids improve sleep in poor sleepers?
  2. Are there any next day residual effects on memory, thinking skills, and alertness?

We hope our research will help find new safe and effective treatments to give a good night's rest to those who need it.

Recruitment for this trial has closed, but if you are interested in participating in a future trial of cannabinoids for chronic insomnia, please email

Congratulations to Anastasia for winning the Visualise Your Thesis competition with this video. The competition challenges graduate researchers to showcase their research topic in an engaging visual presentation lasting just one minute.

About Anastasia

Anastasia Suraev is a PhD student in our Sleep and Circadian Research Group, and is a Research Associate with the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney. Anastasia's research investigates the clinical applications of cannabinoid-based therapies, with a focus on epilepsy and sleep disorders. Find out more about Anastasia.

Anastasia's research is being supervised by Dr Camilla Hoyos, Professor Iain McGregor, Professor Ron Grunstein and Associate Professor Nathaniel Marshall.

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