Often when I first engage with clients wishing to quit using cannabis products they raise the topic of how to achieve a proper nights rest without smoking their regular pre-bedtime ‘joint’. In many cases there is evidence to suggest that the grim feeling arising from sleep deprivation acts as the catalyst for relapse. So the question for those wishing to smooth the passage through to becoming free of a dependence on marijuana is: What can be done to get that great night’s sleep that seems so elusive?
Why Can’t I Sleep! – Anyone who has been through a period in their life when they have suffered from insomnia will vouch as to the affect it has on a person’s overall well-being. It is easy to imagine therefore the increased impact that fitful sleep patterns have on those also suffering from the myriad of other consequences arising when breaking away from a dependence on cannabis. In my practice as a Cannabis Cessation Specialist the first step is to understand in each individual case to what ratio the issues are physical versus psychological.
As an example ‘Bob’, in his capacity as a restaurant Owner, has for many years spent his evenings consuming large volumes of coffee and then returning home and smoking marijuana for 2 hours prior to sleep. Bob’s attempt to quit smoking without adjusting his evening caffeine intake leaves him with a largely physical reason for his insomnia.
In another case ‘Tony’ has become accustomed to using cannabis in the evenings as a way of expelling the huge stress he feels whilst performing his job as a Stockbroker. When he does not smoke in the evening his anxiety levels raise to such a height that dispelling active thoughts related to work becomes impossible, as does then sleep.
What can I do? – Whatever the primary reason for your sleep issues the starting point has to be an honest appraisal of exactly what your routine is. It is important to detail every aspect of your typical evening activity. So begin by assessing your personal situation and remember to include; your mood patterns; food intake; exercise; alcohol consumption; any brain energizing intensive computer gaming; the typical period of time between going to bed and going to sleep; reading habits; TV time. Then try and apply the following useful rules:
- No caffeine after 6.00pm. This means all drinks containing caffeine and vast quantities of sugar. So beware not just coffee and many types of tea, but also avoid most fizzy drinks and hot chocolate products too. Remember lots of ‘off the shelf’ painkillers are packed full of caffeine so read the label carefully or avoid altogether.
- Get ‘ready’ for bed. A routine of falling asleep in front of the T.V. then waking in the early hours and trudging upstairs to bed will not give you the quality unbroken sleep period that you need to feel fresh and energized in the morning. So set a time (no later than 11.30 is a good general rule), brush your teeth, climb into your chosen sleep clothes and hit the bedroom.
- Clear your mind and relax into sleep. 15 minutes reading whilst in bed is acceptable, as is listening to some mood music. Personalized hypnotic suggestion recordings can also be a valuable aid to sleep (avoid the off the shelf mass market products – only those produced specifically for you are of any value). Computers and televisions are a definite no in the bedroom. Mobile phones need to be left in another room (no excuses on this one – if you need to use the alarm function on your cell phone then go buy yourself an alarm clock. As for sleeping with it under your pillow – forget it!)
- Don’t swap dope for booze! Yes two bottles of red wine may seem to be a great way to doze off but you are simply exchanging one bad situation with another. Go with a green tea instead and you’ll enjoy the relaxing feeling that comes from a component called Theanine. Of course, keep fluid intake in moderation as having to wake three times in the night to visit the bathroom will do nothing for your sense of vitality in the morning.
- Avoid nicotine. I always recommend that clients quit all smoking when they are withdrawing from cannabis use. Late night nicotine acquired through tobacco smoking will sabotage any effort that is made to gain restful sleep. If you are using nicotine ‘patches’ as part of your tobacco smoking cessation (there are better methods for the majority of people) then these must be removed in the early evening – trying to sleep with nicotine pouring into your body is hopeless, and the bizarre dreams that patch users report offer no assistance to those seeking sleep.
- Correct your melatonin levels. If you have not been fuelling your body with healthy foods and providing the correct vitamins and nutrients for melatonin to be naturally produced, then there may well be a case for giving your levels a ‘boost’. Make no mistake you need this hormone to sleep. When it is dark (a dark bedroom is a ‘must have’ for a restful night) melatonin begins to work its magic inside your brain and allows you to get to sleep quicker and maintain deep sleep longer. Take as a supplement around one hour before you wish to sleep. You’ll feel far more refresh when you awake. I recommend my clients always buy a synthetic melatonin product not one that is labelled as natural. ‘Natural’ melatonin supplements are produced from extracts of the pineal gland of animals (mostly sheep) and should be avoided.
- Add exercise to your life. Even it is just a brisk walk for twenty minutes the addition of daily exercise will give structure to your internal body clock. The fitter you are the better your sleep will be. The only exception to the ‘exercise is good’ rule is late evening high heart rate activity. If the only time you can get to work out is in the evening then allow a minimum 3 hours between exercise and sleep, or you’ll be trying to rest whilst your body is still in a charged state. Of course there are forms of exercise which are ideally suited to creating a more relaxed mind and body such as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi – all are highly recommended by those clients of mine who have adopted them as part of their overall commitment to personal well-being.