Sleep is vital for the maintenance of both our physical and mental health, yet it has become the most difficult task to achieve for a lot of adults. Almost half the adult population of the United States of America experience symptoms of a sleep disorder and another 10 per cent of the population deals with the case of chronic insomnia. Thus if finding sleep is becoming more difficult you’re not sailing that boat alone. With such an alarming number of people experiencing sleep disorders, there has been an increase in the search for a cure, and this has drawn attention to the cannabis treatment option.
Individuals in the medical marijuana community have referred to cannabis as one effective treatment for several sleep disorders that has little or no side effect. Dr Matt Roman who is a medical marijuana physician said: “Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle.”
Whether what you have is a sleep disorder or you are finding it difficult to sleep after a stressful day, you could find cannabis helpful. The analgesic properties of marijuana might provide some relief for people with chronic pain, while its anti-anxiety properties can be soothing for a stressed-out mind and body.
The science of sleep via the use of cannabis
For starters, here is a background on the science behind the effectiveness of marijuana. This plant works the way it does because if contains a variety of cannabinoids, two of will you will come across most often:
There is the cannabinoid that doesn’t cause you to feel high because it is non-psychoactive. This one is called the cannabidiol (CBD), and it has a lot of benefits.
The high feeling people get from the consumption of marijuana, or its products is caused by the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is a psychoactive cannabinoid. Asides getting you high, THC helps to induce sleep which is why you would want to go for a strain that has more THC content than CBD.
According to a study carried out in 2008, ingesting strains of marijuana that have higher levels of THC will typically reduce the amount of REM sleep a person gets. What reducing REM sleep means is that your dreams become reduced and that would be good news for people who have nightmares due to PTSD.
What this theory means is that the less time you spend dreaming, the more time you spend in a deep state of sleep. The most restful and restorative part of a person’s sleep is believed to be the deep sleep state. Still, REM is vital for immune functioning and cognitive health. Also, marijuana with higher levels of THC could help to improve the quality of your sleep life. However, this isn’t valid across all board. A couple of studies have shown that regular use of marijuana can actually impair your natural sleep cycle.
Things to consider before you try marijuana
Any kind of smoking at all is considered a serious health risk and must be approached with caution. Also, medicinal use of marijuana remains illegal in many parts of the world.
Discuss with your doctor about your sleep cycle so that he or she can come up with other treatment options. The reason you must consult your doctor first is that an Interrupted REM may have some long-term health consequences because the bulk of our immune function repair happens when we are in a deep sleep.
Please note that we do not recommend the long-term use of any kind of sleep aid and if you must use marijuana, use it responsibly.
As with every other form of smoking, marijuana will also increase your risk of COPD. Also note that if you have asthma or any other kind of respiratory condition, smoking can be hazardous to your lungs. For pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, the use of marijuana is not recommended.
Something else you must be aware of is that long-term use of marijuana has been discovered to have significant changes in the amount of grey matter in a person’s brain. The use of marijuana is also not recommended for teenagers as it appears to have a lasting and more profound effect on the brain.
There is still a need for more research on the use of marijuana for medical purposes including the risk of COPD.
Sativa vs indica vs hybrid
If you have consulted your doctor and he or she has approved the use of marijuana for the treatment of your insomnia, the step you have to take is choosing a strain.
Choosing a marijuana strain is like choosing a tea blend, you can decide to go for black tea, straight white, or a hybrid. There are three very common types of strain that you’ll come across:
- Sativa: From a general perspective, Sativa strains make people feel energised, happy, and excited.
- Indica: The indica strain is considered relaxing and soothing.
- Hybrids: A combination of both Sativa and indica, hybrids are the blends that are usually left up to the dispensary or manufacturer.
You can easily talk to someone at a dispensary to recommend a good strain for you are better still help you find what you want. It is recommended that you go for a strain with below 20 per cent THC content. If you get a strain with a higher content of THC, you might find it difficult to dose. Also, excess THC might cause you to feel sleepy and groggy by the next morning.
Different marijuana strains will come with varying amounts of cannabinoids in them, but indica strain is recommended when it comes to inducing sleep.
Tips on how to ingest marijuana for a good night’s rest
Majority of people ingest marijuana by smoking, and they get the benefits they desire. However, if you do not want to smoke because you hate the signature smell of marijuana or you simply want to protect your lungs, you can try using THC-rich tinctures that are dropped under the tongue or use a vaping device. The both of them are very common methods of using marijuana to induce sleep.
Next is the question of how much marijuana you should use. You might have to do a few experiments to find out how much marijuana is right for you, so it is not advisable that you try it at on a working day or week. If you are vaping are smoking, please begin with a few puffs then you can gradually increase.
Never underestimate the power of a few puffs as little goes a long way. Do not forget that as earlier mentioned, overdoing it may lead to grogginess. If you feel the need to re-dose sometime in the middle of the night, it is fine, but it isn’t advisable to do so if you find yourself awake within four hours of the time you are expected to be up. Pay attention to the feeling you get after you smoke. The feeling of highness usually ranges from an enhanced sensation such as cottonmouth to a slight euphoric feeling and a somewhat slowed sense of time.
Timing your intake of cannabis for bedtime
Timing is of utmost importance when it comes to using marijuana for sleep purpose. Because of how vital timing is, edibles are not usually the best option because they can be unreliable about the amount of time it’ll take for them to kick in. In some cases, it could take an hour for edible cannabis to kick in and some other times it takes longer.
The effect of edible cannabis can also last longer than when it is smoked or inhaled. What this means is that you can still become groggy in the morning because of the way our liver and guts process cannabis. The duration of the action of cannabis can last as long as 8 to 12 hours when it is eaten.
While we all have different physiology, it is better for you to ingest marijuana about an hour before bedtime. The reason why an hour before bedtime is preferable is because the cannabis will work for as long as three to four hours helping you to fall into deep sleep.
Before you sleep, keep this in mind
All sleep aids do not work for everyone in the same way and marijuana is no different. People who have had a heart attack in recent times or are dealing with poor cardiovascular health should avoid the use of cannabis because of the risk of myocardial infarction.
Also, while cannabis can be used to reduce anxiety, it has been discovered that high-THC strains can make them more paranoid or anxious. If you fall into this category of people, you should let your dispensary know when you want to choose a strain, or better yet you can experiment with different strains. You just might find a particular strain that will induce sleep without causing your anxiety to heighten.
Several other types of research on cannabis are ongoing as the herb has been discovered to have many other medical effects which may be as effective as normal medications and have fewer side effects.
Where research on sleep disorders associated with alcohol consumption is widely available, there is a need for more research on the effect of marijuana on health and sleep.