Is bedtime the new toke time?

The answer to that question is more complicated than you think

By Erik Tanner

2019-10-16

Sleep is a luxury that typically worsens as we age.

Big Pharma has a plethora of powerful drugs for you to get hooked on. So weed has become a natural remedy for many to a beautiful night’s sleep.

But will taking some form of cannabis help? That’s the popular belief. The answer to the question, however, is more complicated than previously believed.

Sometimes the issue with cannabis is not falling asleep, but rather staying asleep.

Also, new findings suggest that the effectiveness of cannabis for sleep may differ among those suffering from anxiety versus those using the plant to treat depression.

“The success of cannabis as a sleep aid is highly individual,” says University of Michigan Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Deirdre Conroy.

We know that CBD, the non-intoxicating part of marijuana, and THC, the part that gets you high, affect sleep differently. But because studies are few and focused mostly on high THC strains, it’s hard to know exactly what CBDs are doing. As a result, the medical research to date on sleep and cannabis remains mostly anecdotal.

A few people we talked to all had different things to say on what works for them.

Rob, who lives in midtown Toronto and is in the music business, says it typically takes “a couple of joints” to induce sleep.

Jerry, who lives in Vancouver, says he takes 10 milligrams of THC before bed. “I might have a puff on top of that, too.”

Dianne says Blonde Hash works best for her.

Carol, meanwhile, takes a combination of Indica and THC gummy bears to help her sleep.

“But like any edible, it takes at least an hour sometimes longer to be effective,” she says. “So you’d have to know earlier rather than later if you’re going to have trouble sleeping.”

Still, she says cannabis beats the prescription pills she used to use for sleep.

“I liked that it only takes about 20 minutes to kick in and then you’re off to slumberland. But what I didn’t like is waking up groggy and with wobbly legs.”

Conroy notes that the effectiveness of cannabis as a sleep aid can differ between chronic users and those who puff occasionally. She says daily users are more likely to experience insomnia than occasional users.

Interestingly, the effectiveness of cannabis for sleep may also differ depending on whether you’re using the plant to treat depression or anxiety.

“If you have depression, cannabis may help you sleep – but if you don’t cannabis may hurt,” she says.

For those using cannabis to deal with PTSD and pain, there’s a similar point of diminishing returns. The effectiveness, says Conroy, “might wane with chronic use over time.”

Pot with high levels of CBD will stop you from dreaming, which can help sleep if you suffer from PTSD-related nightmares, says pharmacologist Julie Holland.

But if you’re having trouble sleeping, Holland suggests trying different combinations.

If CBD weed isn’t doing the trick, then try THC pot or a combo of the two. Like some prescription drugs, nightly use of marijuana can produce a tolerance that requires ever-higher doses.

You can also play with strains. Indica is said to have a heavy sleepy or dopey effect. Sativa is said to have a more cerebral effect. But again, that’s not necessarily true for everyone.

Paring your pot with a relaxing herbal tea, like chamomile, may help improve the quality of your sleep.

I sometimes make a simple and quick edible treat. A teaspoon of herb mixed with a tablespoon of peanut butter (cooked it on a small frying pan until just before it starts to burn) usually does the trick.

I recommend taking something like this an hour or two before going to bed. I’ve learned from personal experience – if you imbibe edibles right when you crawl into bed, you’re likely to wake up stoned.

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