While some people smoke weed to kick back and relax after a long day, others use it for its therapeutic benefits, especially as a sleep aid. Due to its calming properties, weed helps individuals fall asleep faster and have a deep sleep without waking up in the middle of the night.
However, suddenly stopping cannabis use can undo all the sleep benefits and cause different sleep issues. Sometimes, cannabis users decide to take a tolerance break, which requires quitting cannabis for a certain period of time, or they just want to quit altogether. And when individuals who’ve been relying on weed as a sleep aid try to reduce their weed consumption, this can cause various sleep disturbances.
Therefore, in this article, we’ll talk about why you can’t sleep without weed and how you can help your body regain balance after quitting or reducing cannabis.
How Cannabis Affects Sleep Quality
Many people use cannabis as a sleep aid because it helps them to fall asleep (faster) and stay asleep. This effect is due to the main cannabinoids, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), which interact with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
THC has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and decrease REM sleep, the phase of sleep where you dream. This means that you’ll have fewer dreams, which also means fewer nightmares and more deep sleep. This effect of THC is one of the main reasons why THC-containing medical marijuana is prescribed to people who suffer from PTSD.
CBD in itself has calming properties and in lower doses, it seems to promote alertness, while in higher doses it causes sleepiness, according to a 2019 study.
Why You Can’t Sleep Without Weed After Reducing It or Quitting Altogether
Experiencing sleep disruption after quitting or reducing marijuana use is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms, especially if you were a frequent user. Your sleep quality can change overnight, and if poor sleep was a problem before smoking marijuana, it’ll probably be a problem afterward.
When consuming weed regularly as a sleep aid, your body becomes reliant on it, and sees it as a sign that it’s time for sleep. However, now, in its absence, your body needs to build a new routine and regain balance, and this takes time and patience.
What Other Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Are Expected?
After quitting cannabis (or reducing it), heavier cannabis users are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms than occasional users. However, compared to other substances, like alcohol and heavy drugs, marijuana withdrawal symptoms are pretty mild in intensity, plus not everyone gets them.
If you haven’t been a frequent user, you might experience some irritability or headaches for a couple of days, and that’ll be it. For heavy users, the withdrawal symptoms may last for about two weeks to a month, more or less, with the peak being three to six days after quitting (before it starts to subside).
Besides irritability, headaches, and sleep problems, other common symptoms are cravings, mood swings, appetite changes, digestion issues, and nausea after eating. And since THC reduces REM sleep, quitting cannabis also leads to experiencing vivid dreams.
How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Weed
To achieve better sleep after quitting smoking marijuana or reducing its intake, you need to help your body transition from one phase to the other. Below, we share some tips that you might find useful.
Avoid Taking Naps During the Day
This is an obvious one, but if you can help it, skip the naps. Of course, when you have insomnia you never know when you’ll get sleepy, but it’s better to save it for when you actually go to bed at night. Otherwise, you risk disrupting your sleep schedule even further and entering a vicious cycle that’ll be harder to break.
Reduce Caffeine Intake or Don’t Ingest Caffeine After 4 PM
Caffeine can make you jittery and anxious which is not what you’re looking for when you’re trying to restore your sleep patterns. If you can’t give up caffeine completely, then either reduce it or stop consuming it at least after 4 PM. Another good idea is to replace the coffee with green tea because it contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid with calming properties, so it’ll make you less jittery and more relaxed.
Take Melatonin Supplements
Melatonin is the hormone that makes you sleepy. It’s released at night by the pineal gland and it plays a major role in the natural sleep-wake cycle. When you suffer from sleep disruption, taking melatonin supplements can gently get you back on track. Melatonin is usually well tolerated by most people and doesn’t seem to cause side effects, though it can react with some medications.
Have a Cup of Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is famous for its calming properties, so drinking a cup before bedtime can help to relax you. Chamomile has been used for years as a natural sleep aid because it contains an antioxidant that’s known for its calming effects (and is found in abundance in chamomile).
Fix Your Natural Sleep-Wake Cycle
Fixing your natural sleep-wake cycle includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. And this is the hardest part. However, it’ll be worth it. During this period, it’ll be helpful to train your body to learn how to function on its own and when it’s time to release melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. It’ll be difficult at first, but in time it’ll get better.
Develop a Nighttime Routine
Humans are creatures of habit even when we hate routines. Developing your own little rituals before you go to bed can prepare the brain and the body for a good night’s sleep because it gradually sends signals that you’re ready to relax after a long day. Your nighttime routine doesn’t have to be elaborate, it can only include drinking a cup of tea or reading a few pages of your favorite book, whatever works for you.
Exercising is one of the best things you can do when you’re struggling with bad sleep quality, and it’s not just because it can make you tired enough to sleep. Exercising releases feel-good hormones that can help your brain regain balance and slowly restore your natural circadian rhythm. This could be anything from light jogging to yoga to weight-lifting, as long as it gets your body moving and makes you feel better.
Alcohol is a bad idea when you suffer from sleep disorders, so you’d better avoid it. It may make you sleepy, but you won’t stay asleep for long enough to feel rested (and not to mention the dehydration and the headache from the hangover). Even if you don’t drink enough to get a hangover, alcohol is still a no-go.
Put Your Phone and Laptop Away Before Bed
Putting your laptop and phone away for at least 30 minutes before going to bed is a great practice in general, not only when you have weed-related sleep issues. The blue light that these devices emit can disrupt your natural sleep cycle, and not to mention that they’re a major source of stimulus, which is the last thing you need. Instead, go about the old-fashioned way and do something else that doesn’t emit blue light.
Give It Time
In the end, give it time. Your body is going through changes and it’s trying to readjust, so the best you can do is to ease the way and be patient. If you’ve been a cannabis user for some years it can take a little longer, but this is different for everyone. Just find what works and what feels good for you and stick to that. Soon you’ll start noticing the difference and your sleep problems will slowly diminish.
Experiencing sleep issues after reducing or quitting weed is a very common withdrawal symptom of your body getting used to a new routine. It can be unpleasant and frustrating, but the best thing you can do during this period is to help your body the best way you can to go through this process smoothly.