Cannabis has some science-backed therapeutic uses, but new research shows that helping people fall asleep may not be one of them. This is surprising because medicinal marijuana has been used as a sleep remedy for people living with chronic pain for a long time. (Medicinal marijuana is not yet approved for use in India though scientists have been arguing to legalise its use for pain management.)
The average adult needs at least seven hours of daily sleep. And while the use of medicinal marijuana to induce sleep may be under the microscope now, there are still a few things you can do to improve the duration and quality of your sleep.
If you find yourself tossing and turning on most nights, try some of these remedies:
1) Exercise regularly: The beauty of exercise, other than the fact that it is great for your body and makes you feel good, is that exercising is a great non-medical cure for a whole bunch of health issues. Most lifestyle guides will tell you to exercise more for good reason: it facilitates the release of melatonin in the body which helps you fall asleep.
2) Maintain a routine: Your body functions on its internal clock: it knows to be active when there’s sunlight outside and to power down when it gets dark. Having a fixed sleeping and waking time strengthens this clock and will help you sleep more comfortably and deeply.
3) Make your room comfortable: Your bedroom needs to be your refuge from the world. Fill it up with things that calm you down and downplay the many stresses in your life. At night it should be dark: make sure you have good curtains that don’t let light in. Further, fix a temperature that is comfortable for you because if you are too hot or too cold you will keep waking up. A mattress that you are used to and a blanket that provides the right amount of warmth is ideal.
4) Have set night-time rituals: Engage in activities that help you wind down – whether it is listening to relaxing music, taking a hot bath, or reading a good book. Avoid watching TV or being in front of your phone as these are more likely to keep you up as they keep the mind stimulated.
5) Use your bed only for sleep and sex: Your brain associates objects with actions. If it perceives your bed as a place of rest and comfort, it will be easier to sleep. Further, don’t stay in your bed too long if you are unable to sleep; this will just stress you out and be counterproductive. Read a book or listen to a podcast instead as this will take your mind off the worry and nudge you to sleep.
6) Restrict heavy meals before sleep: Your last big meal of the day should be at least three hours before you go to bed. Eating something heavy swings your body into action and suggests that you are not ready to sleep. If you are hungry, though, and can’t sleep, have a small snack to get you through till the morning.
7) Avoid alcohol and caffeine: This list also includes chocolate, since it has caffeine in it. Caffeine is a stimulant and will keep you up if you have it too close to bedtime. People believe, incorrectly, that a nightcap — an alcohol beverage — helps you fall asleep but in reality, the quality of sleep is poor.
8) Practise relaxation techniques: Meditation, listening to white noise or muscle relaxation techniques are known to calm the body down and help you sleep.
9) Don’t look at the clock: If you do wake up, resist the urge to look at the time. This will make you paranoid and fight to get those crucial hours of sleep. This is often counterproductive and will only dampen the quality of your sleep.
10) Adjust your position: Many of us complain about not finding the right position to sleep in or of backaches after sleeping. It might be wise to experiment with your sleeping position: you will find that some positions suit you better. Use pillows to balance out your weight against the mattress, if required.
More on the study
While cannabis has seen a surge of interest and acceptance lately in the West, several studies have begun to point out potential drawbacks with the drugs. It has been associated with poor development in adolescent brains which is concerning given that it is consumed recreationally by teens in many countries. Now, a new study has suggested that medical marijuana is not as effective as a sleep aid in people with chronic pain as previously thought.
Researchers looked at people over the age of 50 who had experienced chronic pain for at least a year. Of the 128 people in the study, roughly half took medical cannabis while the rest did not. On average, those on medical cannabis had been taking it for around four years. The study found that while medical cannabis users were less likely to wake up in the middle of the night, there was no significant difference in the time it took them to fall asleep or the frequency of early awakening. Further, the study found that those who had been taking cannabis longer had more difficulty falling asleep and were more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
According to the researchers, this suggests that medical cannabis loses its potency because users develop a tolerance to its sleep-inducing abilities. However, it should be noted that this was a small study that was not looking at causation and important confounding factors were not acknowledged. For example, those who use medical marijuana longer may have more serious underlying causes for their chronic pain which could be influencing the quality of their sleep.
Still, the fact remains that cannabis-assisted therapy is still fairly novel and there is a shortage of long-term studies that have examined its health effects. An increasing number of people are reporting sleep issues and are being given cannabis for it. This study adds some healthy scepticism to the effectiveness of the drug and will hopefully encourage further research into it.
Read our article on Home Remedies for Deep Sleep for more tips.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
Updated Date: Jan 21, 2020 18:04:32 IST