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A Holistic Approach to Easing Insomnia

byMichael Warford5 minutes

In order to have the energy and focus to tackle the day, you need to get enough sleep the night before. Unfortunately, statistics show that one third of Canadian adults aren’t getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep they need. The average Canadian today gets an hour less of sleep per night than they did in 2005.

Clearly, we need more sleep. But with so many distractions from work, family and social media, it can be hard to feel relaxed and calm at night. That may be why one study found that more than 40% of Canadians present at least one symptom of insomnia—though few ever get treatment for it.

While some may resort to medication to help them fall asleep, pharmacological solutions often come with dangerous side effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of holistic approaches you can try first that can help you overcome your insomnia and leave you feeling well-rested each morning. Here are just a few of them.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene to Fight Insomnia

You’ve probably heard that sleep hygiene is key to getting a good night’s rest, but you may not know what sleep hygiene actually means. Sleep hygiene refers to a variety of practices that promote better sleep. The good news is that these practices are often tiny changes that, once you make a habit of them, can lead to a big difference in both the quantity and quality of your sleep.

Remember that while sleep hygiene may not improve your sleep right away, if you keep it up over the long term it will make a difference in your life for the better.

Some sleep hygiene practices you should try to add to your daily schedule include:

  • Keeping a regular bedtime routine: Go to bed at the same time every night and try to do something relaxing beforehand, like taking a shower or reading a book. Doing the same routine every night will send a signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
  • Eliminate screens from bed: Keep TVs, laptops, smartphones and tablets as far away from your bed as possible. The bright lights of these devices make it hard for the mind to shut off while social media, movies, and TV shows can be both addictive and overly stimulating.
  • Reduce stimulants before bed: Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. Be careful with alcohol, too—while it may help you get to sleep faster, too much of it tends to negatively affect your quality of sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom clean and calm: A messy bedroom or a bed with dirty sheets is going to make it hard for you to relax. You want your entire bedroom environment to be as calming as possible. This means keeping the temperature at a comfortable 60–64 degrees F (16–18 degrees C), eliminating distracting noises and using heavy curtains to keep out ambient light.

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Wind Down With Cannabis to Fall Asleep & Stay Asleep

Cannabis has long been used as a sleep aid, and now science is finally revealing why it’s so useful for overcoming insomnia. As you may have already experienced yourself, the compound in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), helps you feel relaxed. Not only that, but research shows that THC can cut down on the REM stage of sleep. This is good news if you’re waking up in the middle of the night from bad dreams or if your insomnia is linked to PTSD.

Non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) has also been shown to relieve anxiety and depression, both of which are major causes of insomnia.

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The trick to taking cannabis to help with sleep is to fine-tune how much marijuana you consume. Too much cannabis can actually have the opposite effect and leave you feeling anxious and unable to sleep.

If you take cannabis frequently, then you should have a good idea of what your tolerance level is like. If you’re new to cannabis start off slow, preferably with an indica strain, as indicas impart sedative properties for most, so they’re generally the first place people look for a sleep aid.

Also, be aware of the kind of insomnia you’re dealing with and tailor your marijuana approach to it. For example, if you have trouble falling asleep, go for a fast-acting cannabis consumption method like vaping or smoking.

If you can fall asleep fine but wake up in the middle of the night, eat a cannabis edible about an hour before bedtime. Marijuana that you have to digest provides longer-lasting effects, so can help you sleep through the night.

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Stay Healthy for Better Sleep

Better sleep habits don’t just happen in bed. Your overall health and activity levels also have a huge impact on your ability to fall asleep and on the quality of that sleep. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to increase sleep quality—and the relationship between sleep and exercise is circular. One study, for example, found that more exercise leads to better sleep, which in turn makes it easier to exercise.

But it’s not just the amount of exercise you get that can affect your sleep. What you eat may also prevent you from getting some quality shuteye. You should definitely avoid fatty, fried, rich and heavy foods close to bedtime, because they can cause heartburn or indigestion. Anything with citrus and carbonated drinks can also interfere with restful sleep.

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Insomnia is frustrating to deal with, especially after spending hours in bed looking up at the ceiling waiting for sleep to come. While in severe cases a pharmaceutical solution may be appropriate, you may want to try a holistic approach first—one that includes cannabis. Making these relatively small changes in your life may end up having a significant positive impact on your sleep and your well-being.

Photo credit: Victoria Heath