Making Sleep a Priority
Too many of us take sleep for granted. It’s often the first thing to go when we are crunched for time and some people even see getting by on little sleep as a badge of honor.
There are a few keys to sleep success which are collectively referred to as “sleep hygiene”:
Consistent sleep-wake schedule
No screens (TV, phone, tablet, e-reader) an hour before bed
No caffeine after midafternoon
No alcohol within 3 hours of going to sleep
Be active during the day
Keep bedroom quiet, as dark as comfortable and temperature cool ~68
Just think, 10,000 years ago our hunter-gatherer ancestors probably went to sleep in their cool, dark cave not long after the sun went down and awoke when the sun came up. They were active all day, hunting, gathering, walking and playing with no screens, caffeine or alcohol to throw off their rhythm. That is how we humans were wired then and that is how we are wired now. Our body’s circadian rhythm is essentially a 24-hour internal clock that coincides with the sun’s schedule of day and night. Many of our modern advancements (electricity, tech gadgets, handy bottles of wine, cars and public transportation, city life, etc.) disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and we are left with sleepless nights.
Insomnia is generally defined as poor quality and quantity of sleep. It includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep all night or waking up way too early and not falling back to sleep. Many reach for sleeping pills as a quick fix, but they don’t work for everyone and they can come with unwanted side effects, so why not try a more natural approach first. Cannabis offers a natural solution that helps many people regain control of their sleep. Sleep issues are among the top three reasons people seek cannabis therapy. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis has long been used as a sleep aid. Cannabinol (CBN) is another cannabinoid found in small amounts which also can help promote sleep.
How to use cannabis for sleep depends on what the particular sleep issue may be. A person who has trouble falling asleep, may benefit from a small amount (2.5-5 mg) of orally ingested THC, an hour before bedtime. Doses are different for each person, so some may need more or less. Starting with a low dose and slowly increasing until an effective dose is found can take days or weeks. Some cannabis tinctures may be labeled “indica” or “sativa” to identify the strain variety. Indicas tend to be sedating and better for sleep, while sativa varieties may make the mind more active and should be avoided if sleep is the goal.
Another approach for someone who can’t fall asleep because their mind won’t quiet down or they have anxious thoughts constantly running through their head keeping them awake is to take cannabidiniol or CBD. Taking CBD during the day can help calm the anxious thoughts and make falling asleep more attainable come nighttime.
When the issue is waking up in the middle of the night and staying up for hours or not falling back to sleep at all, then a different approach may be necessary. In this instance, a vaporized product formulated for sleep (like the “sleep” vape pen by dosist) would have a much quicker onset and the dose can be determined by the person fairly easily if they wait 10 - 30 minutes between inhalations to see if they start getting sleepy. Someone new to inhalation of cannabis may find the coughing and mild, brief throat irritation off putting, but when weighed against the alternative of missing out on precious sleep, the choice becomes much easier. Inhalation has the benefit of quicker onset (5 – 10 minutes) and shorter duration (2 – 4 hours) so you don’t wake up feeling groggy, as some report with an edible taken in the middle of the night.
The goal is to work at improving one’s sleep hygiene which alone may lead to better, more restful sleep; but if not, cannabis can provide hope that a good night’s sleep is still within reach. As with any treatment, use only as needed. Sweet dreams…
Sue Feldmeth, RN
Sue Feldmeth provides educational presentations to groups who want to learn more about the use of medical cannabis as well as one on one consultations and guidance for those who want to use cannabis to treat their particular condition. She is located in Pasadena, California and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The information is intended to be educational and is not a prescription or guarantee of health outcome.