Welcome to our series all about sleep and cannabis! On today’s show, we hear from a panel of experts as they dive into the science behind sleep stages, the impact of dreams on rest, and the potential of THC and CBD-infused edibles as natural sleep aids. Discover how cannabis can help you reclaim your sleep cycle so you can experience your best rest. And stay tuned for the remainder of the series where we’ll discuss falling asleep, staying asleep, and avoiding weed hangovers.
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Sandra Guynes (00:05):
While we are asleep, our body is doing numerous things from rebuilding ourselves, restoring our muscles, to just getting a break. Don’t you need a break from yourself sometimes? Your body needs a break from you too. Give it a break.
Ellen Scanlon (00:24):
Welcome to How To Do The Pot, a podcast helping you feel confident about cannabis. I’m Ellen Scanlon.
You just heard from Sandra Guynes, a California based nurse and one of our favorite medical experts. I am so excited that today we are starting a series all about cannabis and sleep. I get so many questions about this topic, and I always start by asking each person one question, “Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?” Because cannabis is different from a prescription or over-the-counter sleep medicine. The same product might not work depending on your sleep issue. That is a little hint that cannabis and sleep is actually pretty complicated, but do not fear. We have done our very best to make these sleep episodes practical and clear, and I have learned so much that I can’t wait to share with you. So pull out your silkiest sheets, give your pillow a couple sprays of your most soothing essential oil, and let’s dive into Sleep 101, part one.
In order to understand how to achieve really great sleep, you have to first know what makes for really great sleep. Sleep is a cycle that is divided into two parts; REM and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep comes first and it has three separate stages. The first stage is when you’re just getting sleepy, your eyes are closed, but it’s easy to wake you up. And if you do jolt awake, you might not feel like you were sleeping at all. This is a stage of sleep where you might wake up with a feeling like you’re falling. This stage lasts for about five to 10 minutes after you first close your eyes. The second stage in non-REM sleep is when your body starts preparing for a really deep sleep. You lightly start to drift off. Your heart rate slows and your body temperature drops. Your eye movement comes to a standstill and your body gets ready to hunker in for the night.
The third stage of non-REM sleep is when you get in into a deep sleep. Your brain produces very slow waves. It becomes really hard to wake you up, and if you are woken up, you might feel groggy or disoriented. This is a very important stage where your body can build muscle, strengthen your immune system, and even repair or regenerate tissue. A lot of really great rest happens in this third stage, and this is also when your body knows it’s time to take things to the next level. You are ready for REM sleep. You may have heard about REM sleep before and as a refresher, here’s what’s important. REM sleep helps your brain process and consolidate new information, and it aids in building your long-term memory. You know when you have to make a decision and you want to sleep on it to gain clarity? Your brain actually does do this, and it happens during a REM sleep cycle.
There have also been studies that show how REM sleep can extend life expectancies, improve your immune system function, and help your body grow new healthy cells, just like in the non-REM sleep stage before it. REM sleep has even been shown to make pain feel less painful. Think of how your mom always told you, “You just need a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel better.” This is what she was talking about. So what is REM? REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. When you’re experiencing REM sleep, your eyes actually dart back and forth under your eyelids. Your brainwaves are amplified and become really active, even comparable to your brain activity when you’re awake. But the other muscles in your body experience a state of paralysis where you’re almost frozen, which scientists believe to be an evolutionary response to dreaming because this is a sleep stage where dreams exist.
The world of dreams is very complex. Scientists, philosophers, psychiatrists and dream analysts around the world have all tried to make sense of them. And while some of us love to dream, others don’t. And when we talk about the quality of your sleep, we can’t have a sleep episode without talking about the most famous sleeping pill out there, Ambien. To find out more, I talked with Dr. June Chin, a New York-based integrative cannabis physician, about the effects of sleep aids.
Dr. June Chin (05:20):
So a lot of patients will find that they’ve been on Ambien for a long time or they’ve been on Benzos to help them relax to fall asleep. So Benzos are like Xanax and Klonopin and it actually gives you counterfeit sleep. So there’s actually a study that Ambien only gives you amnesia sleep. You actually forget that you had a crappy night’s sleep.
Ellen Scanlon (05:42):
If you’re considering cannabis for sleep, you may have heard that it can inhibit dreams. So does weed produce the same amnesia sleep as prescriptions? And is it possible to achieve a restful sleep with a sleep aid, even a natural one like cannabis? Dr. Chin explains.
Dr. June Chin (06:02):
THC will decrease the amount of time that it takes for you to fall asleep. But just like alcohol, it does block REM sleep. So a lot of patients that will use THC regularly might find that it’s not truly, truly restorative. They do find that it’s still better than nothing, but too much THC might block REM sleep. So they might feel in the morning that they just didn’t quite feel refreshed. But CBD interestingly enough, reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, but it doesn’t disrupt REM sleep. So combining both THC and CBD and the right dosage and ratio can be very effective in helping chronic sleep sufferers.
Ellen Scanlon (06:42):
In our next episode in the Sleep 101 series, we’ll continue to explore how to fall asleep fast. But for now, let’s dig into what is happening in our bodies when we consume weed for sleep. Dr. Chin breaks it down.
Dr. June Chin (06:56):
Anxiety, stress, chronic sleep deprivation, all inhibit GABA. And GABA is a naturally occurring brain chemical that tells our neurons to slow down or stop firing. It also helps induce sleep, relax muscles and calm down. So basically GABA tells our body to chill out. Well, cannabis modulates GABA and the endocannabinoid system. So it really helps return the body to more normal functions. And careful cannabis dosing can help curb racing thoughts that might cause disrupted sleep. It also might curb panic awakenings during the night. So sometimes patients will find that cannabis helps them feel a lot more grounded. It decreases the nervous system, it turns the volume down on that fight or flight response.
Ellen Scanlon (07:41):
Dr. Chin mentioned how cannabis and the endocannabinoid system interact to help us sleep. If you have questions about the endocannabinoid system, also known as the ECS, we have more information on our website, dothepot.com, and we’ll talk more about it in a minute. For another medical perspective on sleep, I talked to Sandra Guynes, the kush nurse. Here’s her take.
Sandra Guynes (08:05):
Rest is one of the most essential functions of the endocannabinoid system and it allows us to reset. Like while we are asleep, our body is doing numerous things from rebuilding our cells, restoring our muscles, to just getting a break.
Ellen Scanlon (08:21):
Are you drinking wine to help you fall asleep and finding it actually hurts your sleep or causes you to wake up? What if I told you that in 38 states you can have Happi, a THC infused, sleep inducing sparkling seltzer, shipped right to your house. Happi is a women-run company that is helping to solve for a truly restful night of sleep. All you have to do is pop open a can of Happi’s Nightcap, enjoy its yummy Turkish apple tea flavor and wait about 15 to 20 minutes before you fall into a very peaceful sleep. I know that not sleeping can be such a serious problem, and don’t we all have enough serious stuff going on? Laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals, which also help you sleep better. So today, let’s share a laugh with Happi.
I have searched far and wide for the silliest jokes I can find about sleep. Why did the pillow go to the doctor? Because it was feeling down. Thanks for sharing a laugh with Happi. For better sleep tonight, go to happihourdrink.com. An order a four pack of Happi’s Nightcap, a THC infused seltzer. Happi is offering 20% off for How To Do The Pot listeners. That’s happihourdrink.com and use the code, “do the pot” for 20% off. I’ll link to it in the show notes and remember, it’s Happi with an I at the end.
Okay. Hearing how important sleep is doesn’t necessarily give you the practical tips that we love to share about how to get better sleep. But now that you know what happens when you’re sleeping, you can think about building a routine or finding a sleep aid that can help you in a safe way that feels right for you. Arianna Newton, the Montana based Chief Operating Officer of Weedtube, a cannabis platform free of censorship, shares how dreams affect her sleep.
Arianna Newton (10:56):
I’ve always suffered from insomnia and dark dreaming, really just kind of that imbalance of not being able to fall into my REM sleep and enjoy my REM sleep. Like, it was never productive. It was like you’re going to get attacked with all of your traumas of your past in your dream world.
Ellen Scanlon (11:15):
If you’re someone like Arianna who dreads your dreams or if you just want to fall asleep quickly, but can’t because as soon as your head hits the pillow, your mind starts racing. Cannabis edibles might be a good product for you. The brands will vary based on where you live, but I always encourage you to look for women-run brands, then look for packaging that talks about nighttime, bedtime, or sleep. Often these edibles have terpenes, which you can think about like essential oils in the plant, that help you relax and fall asleep. So many women who try edibles for sleep, love them. And if you’re trying a new brand for the first time, maybe cut that edible in half so you have a maximum of five milligrams of THC. Look for edibles that also contains CBD, and try a one-to-one or a three-to-one ratio of CBD to THC.
The TH HC will help you fall asleep quickly and the CBD will help you stay asleep all night long. Our recommendation is always to start slow and pay really close attention to how it makes you feel. Maybe even jot a note down in your phone. It will really help determine the right dose for you. At the beginning of the episode, I mentioned that cannabis and sleep is complicated. This is the part where we try to take some pretty complex science and break it down into what you need to know to have better sleep tonight. And we’ll start with the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS. This is a system in our bodies like the nervous or cardiovascular system, but the ECS is responsible for balancing all the other systems. THC binds via your endocannabinoid system to what is called the cannabinoid one receptor in your brain and sends signals throughout your body that make you feel sleepy and help you sleep more deeply, which is great if you want to fall asleep fast.
But we just heard from Dr. Chin about how THC can interfere with our REM cycle and lead to a less restful sleep. Stick with me here as we think back to the three sleep stages. Remember that third stage of non-REM sleep where your immune system is still healing, tissues are repairing, and you build muscle. You can still achieve this type of sleep, even if it’s THC that is getting you there. You can sleep and sleep well. And then there’s CBD, which doesn’t necessarily make you sleepy, but it can help calm your mind and relax your body. If you’re the kind of person who starts going over your to-do list as soon as you shut your eyes, CBD helps you relax while still helping you to achieve a solid REM cycle, which means you can still dream. And by consuming a small amount of both THC and CBD, maybe in an edible form, you’ll get both effects. You can fall asleep fast and not disrupt your dreams or your REM cycle.
Remember, with edibles, it can take up to two hours to feel their full effects and they can last for six to eight hours, which is perfect for a good night’s sleep. Try eating your edible one to two hours before you’re ready for bed. Put on your favorite show, read a book, or have a relaxing bath. And by the time you finished your nightly routine, you’ll start to feel the edible just as your head hits the pillow. And a quick note here, I really encourage you to be open and willing to experiment with cannabis for sleep. It might take a minute for you to find what works best for you, but I promise it will be worth the effort. And sleep experts have told me that with any sleep product, about 30% of people may not have the expected effects. So for example, a CBD gel cap helps me stay asleep all night, but CBD doesn’t improve sleep for about 30% of people. Hopefully there will be many studies in the future that can help us understand why.
And now for today’s high five, a recap on sleep, edibles and dreams. Number one, THC. Remember, THC can help you fall asleep fast. Number two, REM cycle. THC can disrupt your REM cycle and inhibit the dream stage of sleep, which is okay for some people but not for others. Number three, don’t worry. If THC does help you fall asleep, you can still achieve a restful restorative sleep during that third deep sleep stage of non-REM sleep. Number four, CBD. CBD can relax your body and mind and it will help you sleep through the night. But its effects aren’t as fast as THC. I often recommend people start with CBD for sleep because it’s legal in all 50 states.
Always look for full spectrum CBD products and buy from women-run brands. Number five, what to try. Nighttime edibles with either THC or CBD are a very popular option to help you get to sleep. They take one to two hours to feel, so please don’t take another.
Thank you for listening to the first episode in our Sleep 101 series. Stay tuned for our next episode where we’ll cover how to fall asleep fast. And please reach out with any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s email@example.com or DM us at Do the Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com, and that’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter. And for sneak peeks behind the scenes, you can follow us on socials.
If you like How To Do The Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the show. 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.