Our third Sleep Series episode tackles the frustrating feat of falling back to sleep after a mid-night wake up. First, we unpack some of the reasons why this could be happening—think: too much scrolling before bed—and then we offer some natural remedies, like taking THC and CBD together to achieve The Entourage Effect. If you’ve already listened to the first and second Sleep Series episodes, you’re in the right place, and we hope you’ll tune in to our latest episode!
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast, discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Ujin Kim (00:05):
I went to my grandmother and gave her a full teaspoon of the Dream Honey. And literally for the first night in a week, she went to sleep. And all she could say to me was that she needed more. And she, in my entire life, knowing her has never asked me for anything.
Ellen Scanlon (00:27):
Welcome to How to Do the Pot. A podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon. You just heard Ujin Kim, a California based creative strategist, talking about how cannabis helped grandmother find sleep in the midst of some really challenging health issues. I hope you’ve been enjoying our Sleep 101 series, and learning everything you need to know about sleep and cannabis. So fluff your pillows and shimmy under those sheets, because today in part three, we are here for the long run, talking about how to make sleep last all night long.
Ellen Scanlon (01:15):
In part two of the series … check it out if you haven’t listened yet. We talked about how to fall asleep fast, and how smoking cannabis flower can be a really powerful tool to incorporate into your evening sleep routine. But the effects of smoking typically only last for one to three hours. So it’s not uncommon for your sleep remedy to wear off in the middle of the night. This can be really great if you’re worried about waking up drowsy after consuming cannabis. And if I’ve just put that thought in your mind, please, don’t worry. We will cover the morning after in our next and final episode of the Sleep 101 series.
Ellen Scanlon (01:55):
For today, we are going to talk about what to do if you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t get back to sleep. This can happen for so many reasons. For most people with sleep issues, THC acts as a sedative. But maybe you tried strain that makes you feel energized instead of sleepy, or maybe you woke up to use the bathroom. Or a new thing in my house, maybe you woke up because a toddler snuck into your bed. How can cannabis help you get back to sleep?
Ellen Scanlon (02:35):
Some non-cannabis related sleep tips first. In part two of this sleep series, we covered the circadian rhythm, which controls your wake-sleep cycle. I talked about the optic sensors in your eyes that can tell your body that it’s time to wake up. So for whatever reason, if you find yourself up in the middle of the night, try to avoid turning on bright lights. Nightlights are a great way to see without flooding the sensors in your eyes. And they help ensure that your body still knows that it’s time to sleep.
Ellen Scanlon (03:09):
If you pull out your phone, that bright screen acts as an instant, wake up call. It floods your optic sensors, and basically cues your body that it’s time to get up. This can make it really challenging to go back to sleep. So first … and I echo the many sleep experts out there. Silence your notifications, and put your phone down a half an hour before you want to go to sleep. Maybe put it on a table far from your bed, or even out of your bedroom. I know it’s tempting to start scrolling if you can’t sleep in the middle of the night, but this screen time makes it incredibly difficult to go back to sleep. And even worse, it can affect your circadian rhythm for nights in the future too. This one change can make a huge difference in how you sleep, and how you feel.
Ellen Scanlon (04:00):
As you start figuring out what works for your sleep cycle, take the time to consider what your sleep environment is like. And maybe there’s a way to make it more calming and restful for yourself and anyone that you share it with. Even though I might look a little silly, I swear that my sleep mask has vastly improved my sleep, and is actually one of my favorite things. I also keep a stash of little foam earplugs next to my bed because my husband sometimes snores. So it can be pretty low tech. And while a loud garbage truck can’t be fixed with cannabis, other sleep issues can be.
Ellen Scanlon (04:42):
So how does cannabis help you stay asleep all night? I asked Dr. June Chin, a New York based integrative cannabis physician, about what she recommends to her patients for sleep.
Dr. June Chin (04:55):
Gosh. So I think the top question that I get asked is, why and how cannabis works for sleep disruption. And the biggest thing is anxiety, stress, and chronic sleep is the trifecta. And it really relates to each other in a very deep and connected way. If you have anxiety during the day and stress during the day, your sleep is going to be disrupted. So a lot of my patients that come in, I say, well, what are you doing during the day? You don’t just have to wait for nighttime to use cannabis. If you use a CBD, a 20-to-one during the day, which helps ground you, which helps calm your nervous system, it might help you set the tone for better sleep at night. So you might not necessarily need to use something right at bedtime.
Dr. June Chin (05:41):
But if you need something to help fall asleep and stay asleep, then you might find cannabis useful taking it right after dinner. It’s the form factor that’s most important for onset of sleep versus staying asleep. So if you need something to fall asleep, you might use an inhaled version of cannabis. If you need help staying asleep, because you’re waking up at 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM at 4:00 AM, you might use an edible or a capsule, perhaps a tincture even.
Ellen Scanlon (06:11):
To really achieve better sleep with cannabis, think about it from a holistic standpoint. All the parts are connected. As Dr. Chin explained, using a combination of CBD and THC in the right ratio, can be really helpful for falling asleep and staying asleep. One study from the National Institutes of Health found that CBD can decrease cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and it typically peaks in the morning, but people who suffer from insomnia symptoms may also have high cortisol levels at night. CBD can help bring down those levels and allow you longer periods of restful sleep. For more on CBD, check out our Weed Words episode, and I’ll link to it in the show notes.
Ellen Scanlon (07:05):
We love podcasts. And we know that finding your favorites isn’t always easy, so we have started the How to Do the Pot Podcast Club. Periodically, we’ll share our favorite podcasts and interview the hosts of really great shows. Some about weed, some not. If you’d like to put a podcast on our radar, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can DM us @dothepot.
Ellen Scanlon (07:30):
Since we’ve been talking a lot about sleep and how important it is not to scroll on your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night, maybe instead, close your eyes and listen to a really creative audio fiction podcast, like Midnight Burger. Midnight Burger is a monthly audio drama about a diner at the end, and somehow the beginning, of the universe. Midnight Burger is no ordinary place. It’s a time traveling, dimension spanning diner, also outside of Phoenix.
Ellen Scanlon (08:06):
Midnight Burger lets listeners skip across the cosmos along with its staff. Gloria, a waitress, just looking for a job. A galactic drifter, a rogue theoretical physicist, a sentient old-timey radio, and some guy named Caspar. Midnight Burger has created an immersive world. And the imaginative narrative is probably unlike anything you’ve heard before. If you are open to experimenting with audio fiction, this is a great place to start. It’s funny, smart, and kind of mind bending. And I highly recommend it. Midnight Burger is available wherever you listen to podcasts.
Ellen Scanlon (08:46):
Ujin Kim used her extensive cannabis knowledge to help her ailing grandmother, with a cannabis regimen a lot like the one Dr. Chin recommended.
Ujin Kim (09:00):
So I was really in the market for a more natural solution. My grandmother was … she recently has been getting a lot of health complications. She’s over 85, and that just tends to happen at that age. However, she was going through a lot of liver failure, and had a surgery. After the surgery, she effectively couldn’t sleep for eight days straight. And in general, if your health is tiptop, you will not be a functioning human after three days of no sleep. And once you get to around 10 days, that’s when your body starts actually shutting down.
Ujin Kim (09:45):
And my grandma was definitely approaching that place. She couldn’t get a wink’s night of sleep. And I knew, as a cannabis user for the better part of the last decade, that my grandma would really benefit from cannabis. Especially in this really risky period where if she couldn’t figure out a natural way of getting into a REM sleep, she would never actually heal from her liver surgery. And so I was on high alert, literally hitting up all of the dispensaries that are my usual suspects. And I just got a couple of different products to cook for myself, and just really test out the products before I gave it to my grandmother.
Ellen Scanlon (10:29):
Sometimes when I interview women for the show, there is a moment when I’m so inspired, I get goosebumps and I start dreaming up a whole episode just to feature the story. This sleep series was inspired by this moment with Ujin.
Ujin Kim (10:47):
That next weekend, I went to my grandmother and gave her a full teaspoon of the Dream Honey. And literally for the first night in a week, she went to sleep. And all she could say to me was that she needed more. And she, in my entire life knowing her, has never asked me for anything, right? So she was a post-Korean War kid. She raised nine of her siblings herself. She raised four of her kids, as well as all of her grandkids. So she’s just an absolute warrior. But in this time when she just didn’t know how to heal her own body, it was such a cathartic, also healing experience for me, myself, to be able to give something to my grandmother that really helped her. And that also made my own mother a real believer.
Ujin Kim (11:39):
So when I went to college and I was starting my own cannabis journey, my mom discovered my bong. And she talks about that day being one of the worst days of her life. But then when she saw that cannabis could really help her own mom, in a period of time when my mom had absolutely no idea how to help her … my grandma was on a ton of opioids that the doctor prescribed to her. They were complicating her health in a lot of different ways. Partially, that is what led to her liver failure in the beginning, which is why I wanted to find a natural soul solution.
Ujin Kim (12:13):
And I knew that cannabis could help, but she wasn’t ever going to smoke anything. She’s never smoked anything in her life. An edible, in terms of a gummy, is also a great solution, but she also is high risk for diabetes. So I didn’t want to give her something hyped up on sugar. And so finding the honey, which is already a part of her own ritual … she usually loves drinking that in her morning tea. And then it was night and day. That first week, after she started using it every day for seven days, she was back in her regular sleeping schedule. And that’s what made me a real believer.
Ellen Scanlon (12:55):
This story is so moving to me because I think it really highlights the power that cannabis can have in improving quality of life for people of all ages.
Ellen Scanlon (13:10):
If you’ve been experimenting with cannabis and sleep throughout the Sleep 101 series, you may have had luck using edibles to get a full night of restful sleep, or trying flower to fall asleep fast. Incorporating CBD and THC is a great way to get all the sleep related benefits of the plant. When you consume THC and CBD together, they actually end up working in what’s often called the entourage effect. The entourage effect is when the whole plant and all its cannabinoids, the most famous of which are CBD and THC, come together to create a generally better and less extreme effect as a whole.
Ellen Scanlon (13:53):
For example, CBD can help curb some of the anxiety that may come from consuming higher levels of THC, and THC can feel less potent or overwhelming with the addition of CBD. The result of combining the two is a really beautiful and balanced feeling. And CBD isn’t the only thing that you can mix with your THC to achieve lasting restful sleep. Dr. Chin has some other recommendations that might help.
Dr. June Chin (14:23):
If you need help staying asleep because you’re waking up at 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM at 4:00 AM, could also be just your glucose metabolism. Sometimes I’ll have my patients have a couple of spoonfuls of almond butter before bed. And they find that the combination of that and the cannabis will help them stay asleep and not wake up in the middle of the night. But the almond butter is great because it’s not high in sugar. It’ll metabolize a little bit slowly. And it might help you regulate your glucose so that you’re not waking up at 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 AM.
Dr. June Chin (14:56):
Usually, I actually guide them on small dosing and I will actually have them combine it with one milligram or two milligrams of melatonin. So I might recommend a one-to-one, a CBD THC ratio of one-to-one first, and then adding a milligram of melatonin to it if it’s just not quite dialed in. So I might not necessarily increase the dosage of the cannabinoids, but I will combine it with something that’ll help amplify it like a Valerian Root, 650 milligrams of Valerian Root. And sometimes magnesium will also help patients with their sleeping, and I’ll ask them to combine it with the cannabis.
Ellen Scanlon (15:35):
Melatonin is the hormone that your brain produces when your circadian rhythm tells your body it’s time to sleep. When the lights go out and you start feeling drowsy, that’s because your body is producing melatonin. Some people swear by it, but it can also lead to lingering drowsiness. So always start with a low dose.
Ellen Scanlon (15:58):
Many of Dr Chin’s patients have found her recommendations to be incredibly helpful. And I also recommend talking to your medical provider before you add anything into your routine so you can ensure that your body responds well. If you have questions about talking to your doctor, we get advice from medical cannabis patients in episode 67. We also talk about drug interactions, and while data is still limited, we are paying very close attention to the latest research and hoping for more studies in the future. We will keep you posted.
Ellen Scanlon (16:35):
If you’re open to telling us about your sleep and weed experience, please DM us @dothepot on Instagram, or send us an email at hi … that’s H-I. @dothepot.com. And before you head off on your latest quest for finding lasting rest, here’s a quick high five to recap how to make sleep last all night long.
Ellen Scanlon (17:06):
Number one, if you do wake up, resist the urge to check your phone, and try a nightlight instead of turning on bright lights. Number two, if you wake up in the middle of the night, consider a CBD tincture or edible for a non-intoxicating sleep aid. Number three, if you share your sleep space with a partner, their sleep issues can have an effect on you too. Maybe share this episode with them, or share your newfound sleep and weed knowledge to help them find a solution to more restful sleep. Number four, almond butter melatonin, and Valerian Root are natural substances that may help soothe your stomach and metabolism, activate your circadian rhythm, and relieve anxiety. All of which can lead to more restful sleep. Number five, while THC and CBD are great on their own, they can be better together. Consider combining them for a better night’s sleep, and experience what’s common only called the entourage effect.
Ellen Scanlon (18:14):
Thank you for listening to part three of our Sleep 101 series. Stay tuned for our final episode, where we’ll talk about the morning after, how consuming cannabis for sleep affects you in the morning. Please reach out with any questions to hi … H-I. @dothepot.com or DM us @dothepot.
Ellen Scanlon (18:36):
Thanks to our writer, Melia Grasska, and our producers, Madi Fair, and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon. And stay tuned for more of How to Do the Pot.