Good sleep is critical to our health and wellness, and yet so many of us fail to get the crucial rest that we really need.
Whether it’s the result of our busy schedules, the ever-increasing stress and anxiety of daily life, or a serious underlying condition, millions of adults will experience some form of insomnia at some point in their lives.
Without sleep, we face decreased levels of energy, constant fatigue, lowered ability to fight off sickness, inability to concentrate, and many more problems.
Traditional medication is not always the best option. So far, the sleeping drugs that are out there are incapable of reproducing a normal sleep pattern. What’s worse is that the more they’re used, the less effective they become.
Most sleep specialists will likely tell you that the best way to deal with your insomnia is not a drug that will put you to sleep, but a change in the underlying causes of the sleeping disorder that will allow you to sleep better.
And that is how cannabis can help.
Insomnia is More than a Restless Night
Let’s take a moment to define what we’re talking about when we say: insomnia.
We’re not just talking about one or two nights of tossing and turning in your bed. We are talking about a sleeping disorder that is characterized by difficulties falling asleep, waking too early, always feeling tired when you wake up, and waking up throughout the night (and having a lot of trouble getting back to sleep). These symptoms can last for a couple weeks or a few months.
There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary.
Primary insomnia means that your sleep disorder isn’t related to any other health problems. You simply have trouble sleeping because you can’t sleep. Secondary insomnia means that there is probably a link between your difficulty sleeping and other health conditions, such as pain, substance abuse, asthma, depression, or a range of other conditions.
There is also a difference between acute and chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia usually lasts a short period of time. The problem becomes chronic when you have had insomnia at least three nights a week for three months or more.
The causes of acute insomnia can also come and go, which means it’s likely related to illnesses, emotional issues, environmental factors, and other similar situations.
Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is usually caused by depression and anxiety or chronic stress.
Note that these are conditions that people often treat with cannabis.
Treating Insomnia with Cannabis
Your first and best option for treating insomnia is to make any lifestyle changes that can help you find better sleep. This could be anything from setting and keeping a regular sleep schedule to exercising more or eating better foods.
If you find that these changes aren’t helping, and you want to avoid over-the-counter or prescription sleep medications (due to their potential side effects), there are some people who are using cannabis products to get their much-needed rest.
The cannabinoid that has the most direct impact on your ability to get to sleep is THC. CBD can actually have the very opposite effect you’re looking for, so make sure the strain you use has a high THC content.
How Cannabis Affects Sleep Patterns
It’s important to remember that there are currently no medications available (and that includes marijuana) that can perfectly imitate a natural sleep pattern. While some studies certainly suggest that different strains can have a beneficial impact on your ability to get to sleep, it’s still not the same as a natural sleep pattern
Marijuana increases the NREM slow wave sleep while decreasing the amount of time spend in REM sleep. For some, this may mean that they get a deeper, more restful sleep. And if the cause of your insomnia is a result of PTSD-induced nightmares, this can certainly be a benefit.
REM sleep is, of course, a critical part of a natural sleep pattern that is tied to your cognitive abilities and immune responses. So, just like any other sleep medication, if you continue to require it to fall asleep every night, you might need to focus more on treating the underlying cause of the insomnia.
Using Cannabis to Target the Source of Your Insomnia
It is always going to be more productive and valuable to treat the source of the insomnia rather than just hoping some type of medication will be able to replicate a natural sleep pattern.
Different strains of cannabis are known to positively affect anxiety, depression, and stress. Finding relief from these conditions can greatly impact your ability to find some sleep each night.
Cannabis is also a regular choice when chronic pain is at the source of your insomnia. When you can reliably reduce your pain symptoms, you’ll be more able to reduce your inability to sleep.
If you believe you are dealing with insomnia, always consult a professional health care provider.
Long-time use of any sleep aid is not generally recommended, and if you regularly require aid, then make sure you see a sleep specialist who can advise you further.
If you do decide to use cannabis as a sleep aid or to reduce the onset of insomnia, be smart and start with small doses. Everyone’s body reacts to the THC and CBD differently, and you may not need as much as others to get a healthy night’s sleep. At the same time, too high of a dose may have the opposite effect you were going for.
Pay attention to how you feel going to sleep, how often you wake up, and how you feel waking up in the morning. You can then adjust your dose accordingly.
Cannabis may be a good option for you if you can properly address the causes of your insomnia and treat them properly. Find out more about this alternative.