Can’t Sleep? – Advanced Techniques to Deal with Insomnia
Many people use cannabis to help them fall asleep. For some, it becomes the only way they can drift into the netherworld. For the longest time, I suffered from this condition as well, laying awake staring at the roof, counting the minutes go by. Cannabis helped me tremendously during the hardest parts of my insomnia ridden years, but it was not the only thing that helped me eventually get to a point where I could pass out without the need of any substance.
In today’s article we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the best strategies that worked for me, starting with cannabis.
What are the main reasons for Insomnia?
Firstly, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why people suffer from insomnia. According to the Sleep Foundation, “Common causes of insomnia include stress, an irregular sleep schedule, poor sleeping habits, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, physical illnesses and pain, medications, neurological problems, and specific sleep disorders. For many people, a combination of these factors can initiate and exacerbate insomnia.”
Nonetheless, it’s theorized that insomnia is a direct result of “hyperarousal”. What this essentially means is that the sympathetic nervous system is on full alert. Hyperarousal is often associated with PTSD. Essentially, your mind is stuck in the “fight/flight/fear/fold” state which doesn’t allow you to enter into the rest/digest state which is caused by the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
However, this is a rather simplistic view because in my case, I didn’t suffer from “hyperarousal” in the same sense a PTSD sufferer would. Rather, my mind simply wouldn’t shut down. I would think about the most random things like, “How do they make sausages” and desperately try to find the answer any way that I could. Of course, this is highly subjective, but at the very least this should give us some groundwork to deal with insomnia.
Now – onto how to beat it!
Cannabis for Insomnia
Cannabis has long been my medicine of choice for a wide range of conditions. However, when it came to insomnia, smoking weed didn’t do the trick. Rather, I found that edibles helped me get to sleep most effectively. Typically, when I smoked weed (during my insomnia years) I would find myself thinking about random things until the early hours of the morning. Conversely, edibles were able to knock me out cold – I’d sleep the entire evening. Different strains for insomnia could effect others users differently, too.
The major problem with edibles was dosage. Over time, my tolerance to the edibles increased, which meant I had to take larger doses. The issue with this is finding the sweet spot. Take too little, and I’d be laying awake at nights, take too much and I’d feel slightly groggy in the mornings. The grogginess was minimal, but it was there. Not to mention the several mornings I awoke with cotton mouth. Many people opt in for CBD since you can’t really experience the grogginess of too much THC and because it is a natural neurocontroller and helps bring the body back to homeostasis.
New studies have said vaping raw cannabis flower is the best intake method for treating insomnia, but I personally did not try that.
Whether tincture, or edible – cannabis is definitely a tool that can help you get to sleep. However, I always first try to solve the problem without any external intervention and interestingly enough – when I tried these other tactics in combination with cannabis – I finally started seeing the results I desired.
Do some exercise!
Probably one of the best things you can do for your health in general is to be active. This doesn’t mean just going for walks every now and then (which is also good for your health) but rather a regimen of exercise you can do daily. Whether you go for a bike ride, jog, go to the gym, etc – all of these activities help to reduce stress, increase bodily functions like blood pressure, blood circulation, improved cardiovascular activities, etc.
I started with Boxing, which helped me reduce stress significantly. After the first few sessions I could feel how it became easier to fall asleep, but it wasn’t the final nail in the coffin.
Yoga was by far one of the best things I discovered to help me fight insomnia. It was not as intense on the cardiovascular system as boxing, but it did release tension from my body like no other exercise. It took me all but two sessions to completely fall in love with Yoga and I recommend that everyone takes it up, even if you do other exercises. Yoga’s benefits are endless, from improved flexibility to a significant reduction in stress. Yoga is just as much “mind” as it is “body” and often times insomnia is a direct result of something being “off” within these two spheres.
My mind was full of random thoughts, hovering right underneath the surface. It wasn’t until I started meditating more regularly that I could purge myself of these thoughts. If I fail to meditate, these thoughts would visit me at night time – however, 10 – 20 mins of meditation allowed me to clear the mental “cache” which produced a silence in my mind that helped me fall asleep faster. If I’m not thinking about stupid things – going to sleep becomes infinitely easier.
This is probably the activity that had the greatest effect on my insomnia. Once I understood that the breath is a key tool to help shift from sympathetic to parasympathetic states – I learned how to shut off my mind by changing the way I’m breathing. Mix this with binaural beats and you’ve got yourself a match made in heaven.
If you’re interested in trying this, I can recommend the 4-7-8 method of breathing. Essentially, you’ll inhale for 4-seconds, hold your breath for 7-seconds, and exhale for 8-seconds. You do this on repeat for about 10 minutes and by the end of the timeframe, you’d either be asleep or very close to it.
If you’d like more breathwork activities to help you reach different states – you can check out this Youtube Channel for more. The channel has plenty of different techniques for you to explore.
Wake up early!
Another trick that worked like a charm was to “become a morning person”. Many times insomniacs identify as “night owls”, but if you take the painful task of forcing yourself to wake up super early – your body eventually switches. Granted, it may take a week of feeling terrible, being tired throughout the day – but if you’re an insomniac you’d be used to that by now.
Once I started taking care of my mental and physical health, my insomnia started waning. I still use cannabis at the end of the day to create a separation from my work, but if I don’t smoke cannabis – it doesn’t matter anymore.
I can always breathe myself to sleep if I need to.