Street marijuana is not a sleep aid

As smart, highly independent people we tend to find our own answers for problems. Rather than asking for help, we tend go looking for it and sometimes in the wrong places. Some of my clients who have been struggling to sleep have resorted to smoking marijuana to help them enjoy a better night’s sleep. They are not using medicinal cannabis which is available on prescription.  


Their inability to sleep or insomnia has been triggered by a variety of situations; a long-term relationship break-up, need for increased stress management techniques or high anxiety due to changes related to COVID to name a few; and the solution they have settled on is a bong of marijuana. Only to find their life unravel more.


Cannabis is a plant that we commonly call marijuana, ganja in herbal form or hashish in resinous form. It’s use became prevalent in the 20th century when cannabis was used for religious, spiritual, medicinal and even recreational purposes. To date, the use of cannabis remains illegal throughout most parts of the world however it still available on the black market.


Since cannabis is a natural herb, people believe that it does not pose any risks to their health however research shows that using cannabis under the age of 15 can lead to long-term sleep problems in adulthood. It is for this reason and many others that cannabis has been made illegal in many countries.


Psychologically, cannabis is a recognized addictive drug. Cannabis addiction occurs when ones mental and physical state are significantly altered due to its consumption. Different users may experience different effects which is dependent on the dose, its potency, its chemical composition or its method of consumption. Clients often report initial feelings of euphoria and intense relaxation when they start smoking marijuana however that soon turns into forgetfulness, distorted perceptions, troubled concentration, increased heart rate, and paranoia.


While you might feel like you are sleeping, marijuana inhibits the REM sleep cycle and as a result you miss out on all of the benefits of that sleep cycle. One of the benefits includes the replenishment of serotonin and dopamine. So, it’s no surprise that cannabis use usually leads to depression and low self-esteem. Prolonged use is associated with other mental illnesses, from psychotic episodes to clinical schizophrenia.


If you have too much marijuana the night before a sleep, you’re likely to wake up with a headache and feeling dehydrated. You might also experience congestion, dry eyes, and grogginess. This can happen with having too much or consuming a lower grade marijuana that’s been grown with pesticides.


While cannabis may be a more natural solution for your body than a prescription medication, you do need to stop using marijuana to help you sleep before it impacts your sleep more. Clients often seek out help when they start to experience the horrible side-effects of prolonged use which includes night sweats, vivid disturbing dreams and paranoia. Not to mention a drain on their disposable income.


Trying to self-medicate with marijuana for a sleep problem or to avoid emotional or physical pain can set you up to develop an addiction and risk you losing more than just a good night’s sleep.


When clients come to me to help them with their sleep and marijuana use, their performance at work has suffered significantly as has their sleep. Self-employed professionals and small business owners report getting behind on admin and client facing work and they recognise the need for a circuit breaker to stop the downward spiral. Many may be struggling with shame and embarrassment or a lack of skills to address the triggering issue i.e. the break-up of a significant relationship or dealing with additional stress in a new role.   


It is possible to reduce your marijuana intake to zero and improve your sleep without prescription medication, it just takes time and consistent effort. It requires dealing with the triggering event as well as the unhealthy habits that have developed. I use a multi-pronged approach to healthy sleep which combines Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for insomnia, lifestyle adjustments, psychotherapy and addiction recovery techniques so clients can have confidence in their ability to sleep.  


If you are struggling to sleep for a couple of weeks, don’t wait and hope it will fix itself on its own. Nor should you leave talking to someone about it as a last resort. Chances are while you’re trying to figure out how to sleep well you may be doing more harm than good. Talk to a professional who can help you work out how to get your sleep back on track.

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