Are you among the reported one-third of American adults not getting enough sleep? Even though the restorative properties of sleep on physical and mental can’t be emphasized enough, busy lifestyles and constant exposure to overstimulating TV, smartphone and tablet screens have led us down the road to sleep-deprivation. While we’re supposed to be powering down for 7-9 hours every night, the average American is clocking in only 6.8 hours of sleep, with 40% of us snoozing fewer than 6 hours nightly.
While sleep aids have become more prevalent over the last 30 years – the over-the-counter market alone generated a reported $416 million in 2017, an increase of almost double from 2011 – the reality is that OTC and prescription drugs can cause problems ranging from side effects like daytime drowsiness and constipation, to addiction and overdose. In this post, we break down everything you need to know if you’re thinking about trying cannabis to help you sleep better.
HOW CANNABIS AFFECTS SLEEP
Cannabis interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce a variety of effects ranging from stimulated appetite to euphoria to pain relief. Despite being known primarily for its psychoactive properties, the cannabinoid THC is also a sedative that can help users fall and stay asleep. Not only that, our other favorite cannabinoid CBD helps by addressing pain and anxiety, which can be huge barriers to a restful sleep. In addition to cannabis’ ability to nurture the optimal internal environment for getting great shut-eye, it can also shorten REM sleep and the dreams – or for some like PTSD sufferers, nightmares – that accompany it, enabling you to spend more time in a deep, productive sleep.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Despite expanding legalization and a wealth of evidence supporting the use of cannabis as a sleep aid, much of it is anecdotal and the scientific research that is available highlights one major finding: results vary. Everything from individual tolerance to mental state impacts weed’s ability to help you sleep better. Here are a few other things to keep in mind when exploring cannabis for sleep:
1: Like any sleep aid, cannabis is best for short-term use. Long-term users may experience increased tolerance and even dependence, and when taking a break from weed may encounter withdrawal symptoms including insomnia and irritability. While the good news is that these symptoms tend to disappear within a week or so, it’s important to be aware of such risks.
2: Too much THC can create anxiety and inhibit sleep. Even though THC makes you sleepy, too much of it could wind up keeping you awake at night – this is why seeking a strain high in THC isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Instead, look for a flower or product that also has CBD in it to help mitigate THC’s effects, or at least a CBD-only product to take for those nights when you’re a little too high.
3: Cannabis can’t do it alone. If you’re plagued by insomnia, integrating cannabis is just one piece of the puzzle – consider making additional lifestyle changes that will also enable you to sleep better. Eating healthy, exercising, and cutting back on screen time before going to bed are all within your control and can go a long way to help you rest at the end of the day.
BEST STRAINS FOR SLEEP
When looking for a good strain for sleep, an indica-dominant is your best bet because of how effective the strain is at relaxing the body. Some Purple Cadillac about an hour before I turn in works wonders for me, but other strains that are great for bedtime include…
Grandaddy Purple, a popular strain known for its chill body vibes and mental high, getting you to physically slow down while your mind savors its dreamy trippiness.
9 Pound Hammer is a cross between Jack the Ripper, GooBerry and Hells OG that delivers deep sleep with its pain relieving benefits. THC levels for this highly potent strain reportedly start as high as 18%, so keep the CBD nearby.
Tahoe OG Kush is a hybrid strain that delivers a bit of mental uplift with its heavy body high. Don’t let the sativa in this strain fool you – a hit of this and you won’t feel like doing much of anything except turning in for the night.
If smoking flower isn’t your thing, there are plenty of vape cartridges, tinctures and edibles available to also help you sleep better. When starting this journey, it’s always wise to consult with your doctor before taking cannabis.
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