Cannabinoids and the Science of Sleep
Biohacking Insomnia with Cannabis
By Anthony Ricciuto
Time for Sleep America
There is nothing like a good night’s sleep where you are all cozy and cuddled up in your blanket waiting for Mr. Sandman to pay you a visit. But this isn’t the case for 70 million Americans that suffer from insomnia. Insomnia is a lucrative business when it comes to Big Pharma. By the end of 2020, there will be more than $2 billion generated from sleep medications alone. According to Fortune magazine, the lack of sleep is costing America $411 billion annually in lost productivity. So what to do America? The answer is Cannabis!
Sleep is Critical For Health!
Why is Sleep so Important?
For those of you who have ever suffered from insomnia, you can answer that one pretty quick. Without it, everything from your work output, to your decision making, and even your sex drive takes a beating. Without adequate rest, your body increases cortisol, a well-known stress hormone. This leads to elevated levels of inflammation in the body, decreased immune function, and increased blood pressure. Sleep deprivation will also increase your rate of insulin resistance (a marker for Diabetes), lower Testosterone levels, and cause cardiovascular disease. As a Strength and Conditioning coach and Nutrition consultant to many of the world’s best athletes, making sure their sleep is on point is critical for their success. Your training program is only as successful as your methods of recovery, and optimal sleep is the pinnacle. This is why cannabis in its different forms is a crucial element in my client’s supplementation protocol.
The Dangers of Sleeping Pills!
Let’s take a quick look at why I am not a fan of sleeping pills. First off they are highly addictive and hard to wean off. When you do, you can expect a nice dose of rebound insomnia. In a 2012 study published in the BMJ Open journal, those who took sleeping pills showed a likelier chance to die from Cancer. Another study showed that even using only 18 tablets in a single year caused a threefold increase in the risk of death. Sounds good so far, doesn’t it?
Ambien, which close to 40 million Americans are currently dependant on has some very interesting side effects. Numerous users suffer from memory loss, sleepwalking, erratic behavior changes, hallucinations, sleep eating, visual distortions, and even taking the car out for a nice long drive in the country all while fully asleep. One gentleman during his sleepwalking episode took out his gun and shot through his front door thinking someone was breaking into his house. The best part is he doesn’t remember any of it.
Thinking about Taking Ambien?
Cannabis and the Sleep Cycle
Now you are probably wondering how cannabis affects our sleep cycle? There are five main stages of sleep that occur when you lay your head down to rest. During each phase different physiological reactions occur in your body. Let’s review them and discover some insight into their importance.
This is the phase where you transition from jumping around like a kid jacked up on Mountain Dew to a light sleep phase. Here the majority of us move around and change positions like we are reenacting a solo version of the Kama Sutra trying to get cozy. If you have ever twitched and woke up like someone poked you with a hot iron, you were in Stage1sleep. This phase only lasts about ten minutes. Cannabis has been shown to help you fall asleep faster allowing you to progress into Stage 2 with ease. This is a game-changer for those that toss and turn when retiring for the night.
During Stage 2 sleep you will find brain wave frequency surges. Due to this increase in brain activity, some people may start dreaming. This stage is critical for optimal motor skill development. You can still be easily woken during this stage. It lasts about 30 minutes before you travel to Stage 3 sleep.
Stage 3 and 4
Here you enter deep sleep like you have been hit in the back of the head with a Louisville Slugger by Mark McGuire. Your body is totally relaxed. Sort of the way you see a lion after being hit with a tranquiler dart during an episode of Animal Planet. Your blood pressure and heart rate dramatically decrease along with your body’s core temperature. Just thinking about this stage of sleep makes me want to get under a blanket and get all nestled up like a little tiny baby…Ok, I got a little carried away there please forgive me.
Sleep like a Cute Little Baby!
Now what makes this stage very important especially to athletes is that this is where Human Growth Hormone and Testosterone are pulsing through your veins. On top of this wonderful treat, your body now starts the healing and regenerative processes to help you recover from your daily work, stress, and exercise routine. This stage usually lasts about 40 minutes. Cannabis has been shown to increase these stages of sleep making it ideal for tissue repair and physical recovery. I believe one of the major reasons why Rick Simpson Oil is so beneficial for Cancer, is due to allowing the patient to stay in stage 4 sleep for extended periods. Thus allowing the body to maximize this restorative state and heal.
This stage is known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During this phase, your brain is actually awake even though the rest of your body is asleep. For the majority of us, the muscles of the body are paralyzed during this time. But if you are one that seems to skip this important process, then sleepwalking will be in your cards.
Hence the name REM, your eyeballs gyrate around while closed, and dreaming has reached its apex. You will go through approximately 4 cycles of REM during a good night’s rest. One phase can last between 10 and 30 minutes each getting progressively longer in duration. This is where your brain’s nerve cells regenerate. Cannabis has been shown to reduce REM leading to why some people don’t dream when medicating. Since more time is spent in Stage 4 sleep, it allows for less time in the REM state. Time reductions in this stage are being studied for long-term effects.
The THC-CBD-CBN- Terpene Connection for Insomnia
We all know that THC causes sedation and has pain-relieving properties making it ideal for getting to sleep. CBD helps reduce chronic pain and inflammation allowing people who suffer to stay asleep. The cannabinoid CBN (Cannabinol) was shown in a study in the British Journal of Pharmacology when mixed with THC, to provide sedation better than either alone. CBN is basically the result of oxidized THC. Researchers also found that when CBN is combined with CBD it provided potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
When it comes to terpenes Myrcene is the hands-down champion. You will notice the best heavy hitter Indica’s are high in this terpene. Terpinolene is also beneficial by acting on the central nervous system (CNS) creating a relaxed state. Caryophyllene is very interesting since it’s the only terpene that binds directly to cannabinoid receptors. It is excellent for joint inflammation, anxiety, and increasing sleep quality. Choosing strains that fall predominantly with the above criteria can help you discover the perfect bud for you.
Myrcene is One of My Favorite Terpenes!
My Favorite Top 5 Strains for a Good Night’s Rest
Now I am sure you have your favorite strain when it comes to knocking yourself out. I just wanted to chime in on what I have personally found to be the most effective for my athletes.
#5 Afghan Kush/Afghani
This classic tried and true strains from the Hindu Kush mountain range are one of the best for shut-eye. These Indica dominant strains are what most Afghani hash is made from. Thanks to White Label Seed Company for making this available to the masses. They are fantastic for pain relief and will most definitely put an end to your sleepless nights.
Afghan Kush is a Classic Strain for Insomnia!
#4 Death Bubba
Now who here likes some BC Bud? Yea that’s right my fellow Canucks from the Great White North is in the house. Created by Matteo Suleyman by mixing Bubba Kush and Death Star, it was destined to be a superstar. Known to be a heavy hitter among Indica lovers, Death Bubba will help you drift off into never-never land in no time at all.
Death Bubba is as Frosty as a December Snowfall!
#3 9-Pound Hammer
This strain truly lives up to its name. After a few hits, you will feel like Thor smashed you with his Stormbreaker. Thanks to Jinx Proof Genetics for creating this wonderful strain. It not only tastes amazing but gets the job done when ruminating on your daily projects keeps you up at night.
Let the Hammer Drop to Sleep Like a Baby!
#2 Deep Sleep
I couldn’t think of a better name for this amazing bud. It was created by Progressive Options and is a mix of Pre-98 Bubba Kush and Larry OG. This powerful Indica melts away pain while relaxing you into a “deep sleep” just like the name promises. Its fruity taste and sedating nature will have you coming back for more.
Deep Sleep to Get Some Deep Sleep!
This strain was created by Thaddeus Conrad of Med-Man Brand by mixing Maple Ridge Kush #2 with Unknown Biker Kush. Originally created for migraines and brain injuries, making it ideal for Boxers, MMA fighters, and Football players. With my A-List roster of professional fighters in my camp, you can see why it’s a must-have strain. Just a few pulls and you will understand why it has won numerous awards. This powerful Indica will sedate you quickly, leading to a very deep comatose state of rest. This makes it unbeatable for brain healing and CNS recovery.
Conkushion is 5 Star Medicine for Insomnia
What about Edibles, Tinctures, and Oils?
I am a big fan of edibles for insomnia due to the prolonged effects. Some will find that vaping cannabis will only last a few hours, then they wake up during the night. With edibles, this isn’t a concern due to it lasting 8-12 hours on average. The main issue is dialing in the right dose which may take some time before you get it bang on. When it comes to Indica gummies or chocolates 10mg seems to be a good starting spot. A high potency 1:1 THC-CBD oil works amazingly giving you the best of both worlds. Another method that is ideal for insomnia is THC Lean. My athletes found the Extra Strength Cannatonic Syrup coming in at 2000mg per bottle by Cream of the Crop to be amazing. They will accurately measure out 25- 100mg depending on tolerance levels. What I like about THC Lean is that it kicks in much faster than oils and lasts just as long. It really is Cannabis on Steroids!
Say Goodbye to Insomnia!
Biohacking Cannabis for Uber Sleep
Now we all know that a good Indica can definitely help you get to sleep much better than any sleeping pill out there. But how can we biohack the green goodness to take your sleep over the top? I have found by implementing the following tips and tricks, you can multiply the effects greatly. This unique synergy between cannabis and other modalities will make your insomnia a thing of the past. Here a few biohacks I have noticed to really make a difference.
Having a set sleeping ritual is a must. Make sure you have a decent mattress and pillow that gives you the support and comfort your body needs to relax. Next, blackout your room. It should be completely dark when its time to sleep. Make sure sunlight, LED lights, phones, etc are non-existent in your sleeping den. Using an eye cover can also help. If you are a light sleeper use earplugs to dampen distracting noise. A hot shower before bed can also get you into a parasympathetic state setting the tone for restful sleep.
Block Blue Light for Better Sleep
Eliminating blue light is critical for proper sleep. In an age of smartphones, Ipads, and computer screens we are immersed in blue light. The problem is that blue light inhibits melatonin production. It will cause a decrement in your sleep quantity and quality, all the while throwing your circadian rhythm into a whirlwind. Blue light blocking glasses can make sure your melatonin cycle isn’t compromised. One app called F.LUX can dim and block blue light from your computer and other electronic gadgets. Throw these glasses on about two hours before you decide to medicate and get ready for dreamland.
Blue Blocking Glass Can Really Help!
There are also many dietary factors to consider for optimal sleep. Limit your caffeine consumption and cut it after 2 pm. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. You shouldn’t lie in bed like a beached whale as it will disrupt your sleep. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t go to bed starving as low blood sugar can cause you to wake. This is why those on a keto diet may suffer from insomnia more than those who consume carbohydrates. Drink the majority of your water early in the day so you don’t need multiple bathroom visits that will disturb your sleep.
Here are some natural supplements that provide a potent synergy with cannabis. Magnesium is an important mineral that most are deficient in. It can help you relax and is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in your body. Take 600mg of Magnesium Citrate or Bisglycinate an hour before bed for best results. Several of my athletes have noticed that when combining Magnesium with Cannabis it has allowed them to dream. This is something for researchers to delve into further. Melatonin is another beneficial supplement that pairs well with cannabis. One protocol that works wonders is to take 1mg of Melatonin and 1000mg of Vitamin C every hour at sunset until you sleep. It is fantastic for adrenal fatigue and CNS burnout. While Vitamin C won’t help you fall asleep it does help cellular repair, reduce cortisol, and replenish adrenal function. These are all critical for enhanced mental and physical recovery during sleep.
Melatonin and Cannabis for the Win!
So here you have it. Cannabis is without a doubt one of the best sleep aids on the planet given to us by mother nature. By incorporating scientific and nutritional biohacks along with our favorite strain, we can conquer insomnia once and for all. Don’t pollute yourself with toxic sleeping pills when there are much more potent and safer options. If you suffer from sleeping issues, incorporate my techniques, and modalities. I am sure you will be pleasantly pleased with the results the next time you lay down to sleep.
About the Author
Anthony Ricciuto is a Sports Nutritionist and Strength and Conditioning Coach that has been in the industry for over 25 years. He is a Three-Time World Teenage Powerlifting Champion and Record Holder. Having consulted with more than 100 World and National Champions, the results are real. His clientele includes numerous IFBB Pro athletes, World Champion Powerlifters, Olympic competitors, Jiu-Jitsu World Champions, Professional Boxers, WWE Superstars, World’s Strongest Man Champions, and numerous Models and Actors. He has had over 500 articles published in a multitude of international print publications during this time. He is the Head Coach for Team Dynamic Performance where he continues creating champions.