For many of us, it’s been years since we’ve gotten regular, restful sleep. A lack of sleep can affect every element of your physical and mental health. Cannabis has been successfully used to treat a range of sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep disruption, and sleep apnea.
Insomnia is often due to stress, and it affects twice as many women as men. The use of cannabis to treat sleep disorders (by working with receptors in the brain’s hypothalamus) has also been closely associated with it’s ability to reduce pain and discomfort, and therefore allow relaxation and sleep. To this end, cannabis is sometimes preferred to sleeping pills with their single-drug, single-target approach.
Successful treatment of sleep disorders with cannabis is, as most things, dose dependent and affected by the THC/CBD ratio. Studies show THC can increase deep sleep, which plays a vital role in our body’s restoration process, as well as our mind’s ability to store memories. THC can also restore respiratory stability by modulating serotonin signalling, therefore helping with sleep apnea as well. Because THC can increase deep sleep, it may in turn reduce the time spent in REM (the final stage of your sleep cycle). Because the REM cycle is when we dream, you may note a lack of dreams or less vivid dreams.
Within our Education Center in Calgary, we have several personal stories about cannabis and insomnia. Jill, for instance, has been using cannabis to overcome chronic sleep issues. Her favourite strains for insomnia: Afghani, Kosher Kush and Pink Kush for quicker sleep onset; and Bakerstreet Oil by Tweed (Hindu Kush) for those looking to stay asleep, (Ingestible oil’s effects can last up to 8 hours – see Cannabis Oil blog). Jill says she has the best sleep combining dried flower and oil. She uses a vaporizer with dried flower 2 hours before bed to calm the brain, then just before turning the lights out, she ingests the Bakerstreet oil. As the dried cannabis wears of, the oil ramps up and extends her sleep time for the entire night.
This one to two hour timeframe of vaping before bed is supported by many, who say the residual sedative properties of cannabis occur some 90 minutes after dosing, as the plants initial stimulation gives way to sleepiness from the metabolites.
Others at the Education Center are fans of vaping ‘Bedtime’ from Hydropothecary (who produce specific ‘Time of Day’ strains). Hart says this strain is “as advertised for me. Knocks me out. Makes me feel heavy and ready for sleep.”
Kait says. “I have made many lifestyle changes in the past to try to get a full night’s sleep, like getting exercise during the day and eating right, cutting down on sugar and alcohol. I also take a Magnesium supplement, chamomile tea and a hot lavender infused bath before bed. I make sure there are no electric lights creeping through no matter how small they may be, but the real kicker and only thing that has truly made a difference to my sleep is vaping an indica one hour before bed. I find too much THC makes my heartbeat unnaturally fast so I opt for a mid-THC level. It still has a sedative effect on me as long as its indica dominant. Purple cannabis varieties like purple Kush and granddaddy purple are typically high in the terpenes myrcene and linalool, which are effective for sleep disorders.” (see Introduction to Terpenes blog)
By all accounts, as a general rule, THC and indica helps us sleep. As always, the preferred level of THC is bio-individual. Some people prefer high THC for sleep, others may find that too psychoactive. If you are finding you prefer a lower THC level in your medicine, and you’ve already decreased the dose, you can blend dried flower strains. Try mixing a balanced blend (with CBD), with the strain you may have found too high in THC. The CBD will temper any possible unwanted effects of the THC (such as mild anxiety, increased heart rate or cerebral activity).
Keeping a sleep journal is an excellent tool to help you on your path to perfecting your unique dosage for a full night of restful sleep. Keep in mind that no strain or product affects everyone the same. Timing and size of dose are critical to a successful outcome. And, as always, start “low and slow” (see titration tips in our ‘So You’ve Picked a Licensed Producer’ blog).
Once you’ve found your correct dose, you’ll be happy to know that long-term studies of up to four years have shown no tolerance buildup when using cannabis as a sleep aid.
We support you in your quest for the sometimes elusive ‘solid 8’, and welcome any questions or experiences you may have. Remember, our Education Center at 5809 MacLeod Trail SE, hosts weekly Wednesday evening discussions and Q & A’s from 6:30-7:30 pm. You can also log onto our website at that time, and LISTEN LIVE at www.naturalhealthservices.ca/events