Sleep is very important but part of your sleep cycle is more important than the rest. When you sleep, your brain has the opportunity to clean out itself and the body, getting rid of any unwanted toxins. Think of it as though every day you spend is a party, and every night your sleep cleans up the party for the next day. If you don't get enough sleep, things get messy.
Unfortunately, insomnia is pretty common, with 35% of the population experiencing insomnia at some point and 12% experiencing chronic insomnia. If you have trouble not only getting to sleep once you hit the hay, but staying asleep, you're not alone.
Let's touch upon the different stages of your sleep cycle. Medically, the sleep you get is divided into 4 stages referred to as N1, N2, N3, and N4. During these stages, your body works very hard to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and undergo REM cycles, and then to fall into your deep cycles at the end. It's the final stage of sleep that is most important because this is when your body works hardest to get rid of toxins, remove impurities, change hormone levels for regulating things like appetite, convert short-term storage into long-term memory, and so on.
How Sleeping Pills Work
If you get over-the-counter sleeping medication, it is likely to contain, almost exclusively, diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is the same main ingredient in common drugs like Benadryl. It calms your system down, suppressing it, which is why it's the main ingredient not only in allergy medications but in anti-anxiety medications and over-the-counter sleep aids.
For chronic conditions, things get a bit more complicated. Doctors have to evaluate which part of your sleep cycle is proving most complicated. Do you have trouble falling asleep, but once you're asleep everything is okay? Do you have no issue falling asleep, but you wake up regularly so you never get a good night's sleep, never getting all the way through the four stages? The area where you are having a problem will determine what prescription medication you are likely given. Unfortunately, like almost all prescription drugs on the market, it doesn't actually fix the problem and can in many cases exacerbate the issue. Drugs that are administered as sleeping aids for those with chronic insomnia who have trouble falling asleep will help them get to sleep immediately. Unfortunately, they stay in that N2 level of sleep, which means the body is getting something but it's not getting the deep REM cycles it needs to regulate hormones, clear toxins, and all that fun stuff. So while it does tackle the issue of not being able to fall asleep, it's not really great for you.
Why Marijuana is Better
This is just one of many reasons why marijuana use is growing in popularity as a treatment for insomnia. Cannabis is a very effective treatment for a wide range of sleeping disorders, be it the inability to fall asleep, the inability to stay asleep, or anything in between. What's more, marijuana doesn't change the way your body works the way prescriptions do, so it has little to no side effects.
Dr. Matt Roman stated that marijuana is effective in restoring your natural sleep cycle, something that regularly gets thrown out of whack with our busy lives and technology.
● The analgesic properties of marijuana can be particularly soothing for people with chronic pain.
● The anti-anxiety properties can calm a stressed mind or body so that sleep happens faster.
Just like different prescriptions are given for different sleeping disorders, different strains of marijuana can be more effective than others. If you want to use marijuana for insomnia, don't just go out and buy the first strain you see. Some strains are energizing while others are sedating. It all comes down to the balance of cannabinoids contained in the strain. Most Indica strains, for example, are better at sedating compared to sativa strains, so you should start off with an Indica strain that tackles the root cause of your insomnia.
THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that gives you a high but it also induces sleep, so if you have the option between CBD and THC, you want higher levels of THC.
The higher the level of THC, the lower your levels of REM sleep will be. Like most medications, you have to consider your situation and what it is you want to achieve. If you have trouble staying asleep because of nightmares or PTSD, higher levels of THC can suppress the amount of REM sleep you get, which can reduce the amount of dreams and help you stay asleep longer. In fact, the less time you spend dreaming, the more time you spend in that final deep sleep, the N4 state.
Still, your REM cycle serves an important purpose, the same as all the other cycles in your sleeping routine, and if you consume levels of THC which are too high, too regularly, it could impair sleep quality. So it all comes down to finding the right balance the same as with any other prescription. It will be most effective, like all medications, if you can use it sparingly for acute insomnia rather than rely upon it exclusively for months on end. When using it, pick the method you prefer for ingesting, maybe eating an edible before bed or smoking or vaping, and do so as you are winding down for the evening.
When using marijuana for insomnia, it's recommended that you speak with your doctor about your sleep cycles and figure out which strain is best for your situation. Long-term use of any medication is not encouraged, so try to have an end date in sight for rectifying the cause of your insomnia and getting your body back onto a regular sleep schedule. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it's not recommended that you use marijuana for insomnia. As you use it to treat your acute or chronic insomnia, in all situations, be sure to use it responsibly.