By Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS Correspondent
If you experience some form of insomnia – trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting back to sleep – you’re not alone.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that as many as 70 million Americans struggle with some form of insomnia or sleep disorder, and for many it’s chronic. Sleep is essential for maintaining our mental and physical health, which is why many use some form of sleep aid to ensure they get their rest. However, many common sleep medications come with side effects, which is why there has been a rise in the use of cannabis products.
Many in the medical marijuana community call cannabis an effective natural treatment for many sleep disorders, with little to no side effects. The herb works because it contains different natural compounds, two of which are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
THC is primarily responsible for the “high” feeling, but in small percentages can make CBD more effective. THC has also been proven to reduce REM sleep and has shown excellent results with patients struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. CBD is often used to alleviate symptoms of both mental and physical ailments.
First things first
Many doctors will first recommend environmental modifications, like ensuring your bedroom is dark and quiet, avoid eating a large meal before bed, exercising regularly, and avoiding caffeine. They might also suggest a warm bath or relaxing teas.
If you’re still struggling with sleep and think cannabis may help, begin by finding a retail shop with a state medical endorsement, which means some budtenders are certified to assist you with health-related questions. They also keep a record of your condition to help identify which products were effective, or ineffective, and guide you towards solutions.
When it comes to finding cannabis products for sleep inducement, or other health-related issues, working with a knowledgeable medical provider and medical-certified budtender is essential. Be sure to be forthcoming with any sensitivities, cannabis use, and sleep patterns. A sleep journal can also help you track which treatment work best.
Frequent user or first time?
If you are a daily cannabis user, you may find many high-CBD, low-THC sleep products ineffective. Because your body is already accustomed to marijuana, you’ll want a product with a higher 1:1 ratio (CBD to THC). You will also want to consider the types of strains (more on that later).
If you are not a regular cannabis user, talk to a medically-endorsed budtender about your day-to-day schedule, and how your insomnia affects you. If you don’t want to feel “high,” ask to start with something that has a very low THC percentage (less than 5mg) or no THC (pure CBD).
Whether you partake regular or infrequently, start with a small dose, document the effects and then determine if you need to increase or decrease (or try something new entirely) for your next attempt.
If you decide to go the pure CBD route, purchase from a licensed shop with CBD products made by reputable processors using little to no chemicals or dilutors. Though plenty of places have started selling CBD products, licensed 502 shops are required to maintain the highest standards, and carry reputable products.
Finding the right method
Two of the more effective sleep aids are tinctures or capsules.
Tinctures are concentrated liquid extracts of cannabis. They are fast-acting and you can choose water-based or oil-based. Water-based tinctures are more popular, but also more expensive because they act the fastest and have no aftertaste, so you can simply put a drop under your tongue. Oil-based tinctures tend to have more of an herb taste, so you might consider adding it to a soothing cup of hot tea before bed.
In general, capsules are slightly more expensive and take longer to take effect, but last longer. Capsules have a wider range of options for CBD to THC ratios and can include other sleep-inducing herbs or oils. They are also more discreet and the dose more dependable, meaning consistent results.
Other possibilities for cannabis sleep relief can include smoking or vaping certain strains, consuming edibles, or dosing with FECO, which usually comes in a syringe.
If smoking or vaping, consider an indica flower for sleeping; indica cannabis plants are generally to have strong relaxing effects, unlike its energetic cousin, sativa. Some CBD products with higher THC ratio will not indicate if the THC comes from a sativa or indica strain, so if you are sensitive to sativa, consider a CBD product without THC.
Edibles may take the longest to work and, depending on body type and ingredients, can have inconsistent results. If you do try edibles, start with something small and low-dose, like a small candy or mint.
You can also try topicals, all with varying degrees of CBD to THC ratios. These can be particularly helpful if insomnia is accompanied by occasional aches and pains. CBD nasal sprays are said to have great results for sleep inducement (particularly for those who also struggle with snoring), and they’re also fast acting. You can also find CBD bath bombs to drop into that relaxing bath your doctor may have recommended.
Finally, transdermal patches are available in a variety of isolated cannabinoids, which are released into the bloodstream for a long-lasting effect. They are especially beneficial for someone seeking pain relief as well.
Kate A. Miner has a degree in visual anthropology, and has worked in marketing and advertising for many years. She writes, takes photos and teaches yoga.