A Good Night’s Sleep? The Truth about Using Marijuana and Alcohol as Sleep Aids
One in three people are said to suffer from occasional Hiv/Aids insomnia, and anyone who has experienced a more serious form of this sleep disorder will know just how frustrating and debilitating it can be. While some insomniacs turn to sleeping pills to assure them of a good night’s sleep, in the long run this is neither effective nor advisable, medically speaking. Many others rely on self-medication to help them drop off, with alcohol and marijuana commonly cited as effective sleep aids.
A Nightcap or Three
“I’ve relied on a nightcap — or three — to send me to sleep for years,” says Nick, a computer engineer who’s struggled with insomnia since he was a teenager. “I know people say you shouldn’t drink before bed, but for me it was the only thing that worked. My insomnia peaked during my last year of college, and I was prescribed sleeping pills by my doctor, but they had terrible side effects — I started suffering from extreme mood swings and they left a nasty, metallic taste in my mouth the next day.”
A Deficiency of Dreams
Being prepared to compromise a degree of health for some restful sleep is not uncommon among insomniacs, as freelance writer Leah can attest. A regular marijuana smoker for over nine years, Leah has noticed negative cognitive effects as a result of the drug, but insists it’s all worth it. It is specifically the ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that affects REM sleep, and it’s common for regular marijuana users to witness a flooding of extreme dreams as soon as they stop smoking.“By smoking weed, you suppress the REM sleep, and with that you also suppress a lot of important functions of that REM sleep. One of those functions is reliving the things you have experienced and coming to terms with them, as it were.
Science’s Greatest Unsolved Mystery
“I suffered from chronic insomnia way before I started smoking pot. I do wish I didn’t have to rely on it though, because while it means I can guarantee a long, deep sleep, it does affect me negatively in some ways. I’m usually quite groggy in the mornings — although, far less groggy than I would be if I hadn’t slept at all! But I have started to notice the effect on my memory, which is quite alarming considering that I’m not even 30 yet. But realistically, what else can I do if I want to sleep and refuse heavy medication? There’s no cure for insomnia; I can’t afford to go to a sleep clinic and even if I could, I don’t have the time for it.