3 Tips for More Restful Sleep: Unplug yourself, Substance use consideration and Use your nose.
Quality sleep is vital for our physical, mental and emotional health. Yet as the short winter days and the press of the holidays approach, it can be hard to get regular, deeply restful sleep. These simple 3 tips for more restful sleep can help you make the most of your valuable shut-eye time:
1. Unplug yourself.
Our bodies rely on light levels to sync our biological clocks to the solar day. Dim natural light signals our bodies to begin producing more melatonin, a hormone that helps us relax and enter sleep. Artificial light can interrupt that release of melatonin, delaying sleep. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that blue light, of the type emitted by electronic devices, actually increases alertness at night. If you find it relaxing to read in the two to three hours before falling asleep, put down the Kindle or iPad and reach for a paper-and-ink book.
2. Consider your substance use.
Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can all negatively impact sleep quality by disrupting REM sleep—a sleep phase during which our brains are active, the regions of the brain used in learning are active, and dreams occur. While we do not fully understand the purpose of REM sleep, rats deprived of REM sleep survive only 5 weeks on average, compared to the normal rat lifespan of 2-3 years. And a 2013 study indicated that caffeine can be a sleep disruptor even when it is consumed up to 6 hours before bedtime. If you are used to using these substances near bedtime and find it hard to break the habit, begin by reducing your intake one drink or smoke per day.
3. Use your nose.
Scent can be a powerful tool to create a relaxing environment conducive to sleep. Essential oils can be daubed on pulse points before bed, mixed with water and spritzed on the sheets, or placed in a diffuser. Lavender contains a molecule called linalool, which is scientifically proven to aid in relaxation. (Those who prefer a less-floral scent may want to try cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) oil instead.) International Cannagraphic has a helpful article about terpenes found in plants–including cannabis.
In addition to terpenes, many molecules found in cannabis may have beneficial effects for sleep. One of these is cannabinol or CBN, which is molecularly similar to THC but is much less psychoactive. As dried cannabis flowers are exposed to air, the acid form of THC in the resin glands actually degrades and turns into CBN. (For a great explanation of this process, check out this article.) If you are looking for a cannabis therapy to aid in sleep, you may find that using some older product that has been exposed to the air is helpful.
For a helpful tool to assess the current quality of your sleep, download this free sleep diary provided by the National Sleep Foundation!
Interested in learning more about different molecules found in cannabis?