Let’s take a moment to appreciate sleep and all that it gives us. I, like a lot of children, hated going to bed as a kid. Much to my parent’s dismay, I would wake up at the crack of dawn on the weekend and barge into their room, kicking open their door like they owed me money. Then I turned 13 and everything changed. Suddenly, I couldn’t sleep enough. There were literally not enough hours in the day for all the sleep I needed to get done. Naps, which were previously a punishment dolled out by my parents when I was acting unruly, were now something I craved. I would sit and daydream in class about being at home and napping. I would sleep in on weekends until 1PM, stay up late and then go back to bed, ensuring my required 12 hours of sleep. This was before insomnia…
Now, was that an unhealthy amount of sleep? Almost certainly. Should I have seen a doctor? Probably! Would I go back and do my teenage years again, without sleeping through so much of it? Absolutely not. I would down to go back and actually pay attention in French class though, because I may as well have not been there.
While many of us probably slept an inordinate chunk of our teenage years away, nobody can deny the importance of sleep. It affects literally almost every aspect of your life, and not getting enough sleep can be damaging in ways you would not always anticipate.
According to a research study conducted by the Université Laval, 40% of the general population in Canada suffers from sleep disorders. These sleep problems range from difficulty falling asleep, inability to stay asleep, and waking up earlier than planned. Of the survey’s 2,000 participants, 20% of them admitted that they were not satisfied with the quality as well as the quantity of sleep they were getting. That said, the majority of the participants did not seek medical help for their sleep problems.
Insomnia is often caused by stress, mental health issues, chronic health problems, environmental factors, medication side effects, however, sometimes there is no clear reason why someone is affected by insomnia. Sometimes you just can’t sleep and when you’re staring at your clock at 3:30 AM, wide-awake, it can be incredibly frustrating, which in turn only makes it worse.
How Important Is Sleep?
Difficulty sleeping may seem like a small thing to many people. After all, we can still function with only a few hours of sleep. Everyone knows that person in their life that boasts about their ability to get by with only a few hours of sleep a night. Fashion designer and film director Tom Ford only gets three hours of sleep a night but has found incredible success in both fashion and film.
That said, not everybody who is deprived of sleep is living their best life. Left untreated, insomnia contributes to the development of chronic health problems. It can even worsen existing medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. It can also affect mood and mental health on both a long and short term basis. I’m not going to name any names, but there is a certain orange person living in Washington, D.C., known for making irrational decisions and speaking incoherently and they brag about only sleeping four hours a night, so… Yes … Sleep is good.
Prescription insomnia drugs may be able to help you sleep better, but these also have some side effects to be wary of. Even if you do not become physically addicted, you can grow dependent on them over time. Nowadays, an increasing number of people are using cannabis for their sleep problems. Not only does cannabis help people with falling asleep, but it is arguably a safer alternative treatment for insomnia. It should be noted that you can become dependant on cannabis, even when using it for sleep, the same way you can grow dependant on many things in the world. That should not disqualify it as a viable method however, as long as it’s not negatively affecting other aspects of your life.
How Can Cannabis Help You Sleep?
To better understand how cannabis helps with sleep problems, you have to understand how the sleep cycle works.
Each night, we go through about four to five sleep cycles, with each cycle having four sleep stages that typically last an hour to a couple of hours.
- The first stage is the lightest of all the sleep stages. It’s when you’re just nodding off to sleep. Your mind and body relax, and your breathing slows down.
- The second stage is simply a continuation of the first stage. However, what sets this stage apart from the first is that your brain activity also starts to slow down to prep you for the third stage.
- The third stage is known as the deep non-REM sleep. This is when your mind and body are fully relaxed, giving them time to heal and recover from the daily stresses. It is in this stage that you are most difficult to awaken.
- The fourth stage is the REM sleep. This is when dreams occur, be they pleasant dreams or nightmares. Compared to the third stage, it’s easier to wake up during this stage since the brain is a bit active. After the REM sleep, you go back to the first sleep stage.
Cannabis has an effect on our sleep cycle. According to a study, it interferes with the REM sleep, making it shorter than usual. This shortened REM sleep allows you to stay longer in the third stage, the deep sleep stage and the most important of all stages. This cannabis’ effect on REM sleep is also why users typically don’t have dreams, a benefit that will help patients dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In addition to its effects on REM sleep, cannabis also has other ways to improve the quality and quantity of sleep:
The most obvious being the sedating effects of the cannabinoids and terpenes. Strains that are high in THC are the most likely to keep you out of REM sleep, which for those struggling with PTSD, is a huge benefit. However, high THC strains may be too intense for some as they go to sleep. In this case, a higher CBD strain should help.
Cannabis reduces pain and inflammation. This allows you to focus on sleeping, not on the pain that’s keeping you up at night, benefitting people with arthritis, back pain, chronic pain, and even nerve pain.
It also relaxes muscles which can benefit people from all walks of life. Muscle cramps, restless legs syndrome, and muscle spasms contribute to poor sleep quality and quantity. With cannabis relaxing the muscles, you should be able to sleep longer and better.
Finally, it eases stress, depression, and anxiety. Mental health issues prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep. Instead of focusing on falling asleep, we tend to focus on what stresses us. Cannabis is a powerful anxiolytic and antidepressant. With cannabis stabilizing your mood and emotions and allowing you to feel more at peace, you’re able to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
What are the Things to be Aware of When Using Cannabis for Sleep?
While cannabis can help you enjoy better sleep, there are some things though that you also need to know:
Easy Does It
Don’t get too high right before bed. I used to think that to get the benefits of using cannabis for sleep; smoking had to be the last thing I did before my head hit the pillow. I would sit there in bed in my pajamas with my bong clutched in my hands like Ebeneezer Scrooge and his candle holder and proceed to smoke a massive bowl. I’d then turn off the lights, lie there, my heart racing, and instead of sleeping I’d obsess about one of the many times I embarrassed myself in my life, and then wonder why in the world I was not falling asleep. It sounds like common sense but smoking weed gets you high.
If you want to lie in bed, super high with nothing to do but sit in your thoughts, be my guest. Otherwise, do it a bit before bedtime. When the initial high wears off and you start to feel sleepy; that’s the time!
Tolerance to THC
The more you use cannabis for sleep, the higher your tolerance will get. Your body becomes slightly desensitized to cannabis over time, so you will need higher doses to be able to enjoy the same effects. To avoid this, you can take tolerance breaks or just try and moderate your consumption.
If you’re not comfortable smoking or vaping cannabis for sleep, then there are many cannabis-derived products that you can try like oils, tinctures, capsules, and even edibles. Some have higher levels of each cannabinoid respectively or varying and equal ratios. However, for sleep problems, you may want to try a product that has some CBN in it. CBN or cannabinol is another cannabinoid known for its potent sedative properties. A laboratory test even stated that 2.5mg of CBN is comparable to 5mg of diazepam. There are some that dispute this claim, however, and say that it is actually a combination of THC and CBN that creates a sedative effect. Overtime THC converts to CBN. This is why when people smoke old cannabis they often feel more sleepy than anything. Some people, therefore, seek out older cannabis as it will more sedative and less energetic.
Quality of Sleep
There are some who argue that cannabis can actually give you a worse quality of sleep, than without, as you are prevented from entering the REM phase. As mentioned, for those seeking relief from PTSD, this is actually something that they look for in cannabis. Really, you have to ask yourself if the benefits outweigh the negatives. For many, the ability to fall asleep comfortably and stay asleep is far more important than if they reach REM, because if you are not able to fall asleep in the first place, then you will miss not only REM but the other important stages as well.
Cannabis Products We Recommend for Insomnia
If you want to try cannabis for sleep, then here are a few products that we recommend. For those who smoke and vape cannabis, you may want to try these products:
The name says it all. Perfect for relaxing and putting yourself to sleep. It doesn’t hurt that it also tastes incredible.
Black Label Kush
This potent kush will put your mind and body at ease while keeping your spirits off as you drift into a pleasant sleep.
FeelCBD’s Sleep Disposable Pen
Spearmint, Eucalyptus and Chamomile work together with CBD for the perfect bedtime vape.
These strains are Indica-dominant, high in THC, and rich in sedating and relaxing terpenes. With that said, if you can’t tolerate the effects of THC or want to avoid its psychoactive effects, then it would be best to try high-CBD, low-THC strains like:
As relaxing as Charlotte in the children’s novel by the same name but nowhere near as depressing as the end.
For those who are not a fan of smoking or vaping cannabis, then you can try these edible products:
FeelCBD’s Sleep Drops
This tincture contains full-spectrum CBD with spearmint as well as ylang-ylang. These ingredients are known to relieve stress and promote relaxation while being THC free.
Twisted Extracts ZZZ Bombs
The delicious and easy to dose edibles are a go-to for many people seeking relief from insomnia.
Sleep is a vital part of our life. It gives our mind and body time to rest and heal from daily stresses and/or diseases and injuries. Without a good night’s rest, we become more prone to illnesses. Sleep deprivation also increases our risk of developing chronic health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Cannabis, when used correctly, has the ability to improve many aspects of our sleep and can be incredibly beneficial in combating insomnia. It can allow us to sleep longer, and, at the same time, also eases our pain, stress, and muscle spasms or cramps. If you want to try cannabis for sleep but don’t’ want to smoke or vape it, then you can always try cannabis oil, tincture, and capsules.