Sleep problems are the uninvited companion of the aging, and a growing number of Baby Boomers and older adults are trading their over-the-counter sleep aids for cannabis. According to Brightfield Group analyst Bethany Gomez, 31% of older adults (age 45+) who use cannabis are using it to address insomnia-related issues, making it the fourth-most common medical condition this demographic treats with cannabis. Among those who carry a state-issued medical card, that figure jumps to 39%.
Gomez also notes that, among those who report treating their sleep issues with cannabis products, 63% use cannabis and 42% specifically use hemp-derived CBD for this purpose, while only 31% use prescription sleep aids like Ambien. One-fourth of these insomnia patients have completely replaced other sleep medications with cannabis.
I belong to that cohort of Baby Boomers who longingly recall when eight hours of uninterrupted sleep was the norm rather than the Holy Grail. During a recent stay in Northern California, I decided to check out the different types of sleep aids available in this mecca of cannabis medicine.
Take it personally
It is important to emphasize that, with any cannabis-based medicine, finding a proper delivery method and dose is highly individual. What works for me may not work for you. I describe the following products to illustrate their differing modes of delivery, without having fully tested each oneâ€™s potential to reach the â€śsweet spotâ€ť for my own sleep issues. But for fatigued Baby Boomers wary of the cumulative damage from OTC sleep aids, such an exploration can be a worthwhile undertaking.
Â Baby Boomers like me do best with low doses of THC, and the dosist â€śsleepâ€ť pen is designed to deliver the company’s specially developed sleep formulation, with 88% cannabinoids (8:1 THC to CBD) in measured doses of 2.25Â mg, for a total of about 2Â mg. THC per inhalation – by all accounts a low dose. Inhale long enough and the pen will vibrate, indicating that you have receivedÂ exactly one dose, and the pen has shut off.
According to the company, Jane Fonda has explained why she is a dosist fan: â€śMy father told me that as you get older you donâ€™t need as much sleep I think he was wrong. I sleep 9 hours every night. Itâ€™s called dosist. It contains 200 puffs, you canâ€™t smell it and it works!â€ť
Â Yet I found that even 2 mg of THC stimulated my brain and made it hard to fall sleep. Still, I have friends who battle over their dosist pen at bedtime, so such a considerately-designed and thought-out product is certainly worth a try.
Â The firstÂ heartfelt endorsement of Valhallaâ€™s CBD-rich cannabis gummies I heard came from Lynn â€“ a 70-year-old customer I interviewed during my visit to The Apothecarium Dispensary in San Francisco. She swears by these tropical-flavored sweets which have resolved her decades-long sleep difficulties. Because of their long duration, edibles like gummies are considered to be particularly suited for maintaining restful sleep.
Valhallaâ€™s tasty Tropical Twist gummies contain 10 mg CBD and 5 THC. Half a gummy eased me pleasantly into sleep. Some days later, a friend offered me her favorite cannabis sleep aid – aÂ Kiva Sparkling Pear gummy, with 6 mg CBD and 2 THC. We each ate one – she slept just fine and my head was spinning on the pillow. Go figure. Next time Iâ€™ll cut it in halfâ€¦.
Â Synergy Wellness is the relatively unusual California company that specializes in cannabis strains that are actually high in CBD. I spoke about sleep issues with the companyâ€™s founder and head, Leonard Leinow, who is also the author of CBD: A Patientâ€™s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis â€“ Healing Without the High.Â Synergy offers â€śIndie Moonâ€ť an indica tincture for sleep, with 3:1 THC to CBD. But Leinow, like me, finds that THC â€“ even indica strains, which are considered to be relaxing – activates his monkey mind when he’d rather be sleeping, as is the case with 25% of people, he explains.
For his insomnia, he uses their AC:DC tincture, with 24:1 CBD to THC, extracted from â€śpremium extra-strong hemp.â€ť I took home a bottle and fell in love.
Â Transdermal Patches
Maryâ€™s Medicinals produces transdermal patches with 6 different cannabinoid profiles, including one with CBN, a cannabinoid reputed to induce sleep. The patch I tried came from the companyâ€™s mainstream hemp-based cousin, Maryâ€™s Nutritionals, and had 10 mg of CBD and no THC. Both of Maryâ€™s companies offer what they describe as a variety of approachable cannabis medicine delivery methods that are effective and discreet for older adults who prefer not to smoke or vape.
There is something very satisfying about peeling off the protective film on a patch and applying it to your wrist. Reflexively, I cut my patch in half, and even with only 5 mg of CBD, enjoyed a good nightâ€™s sleep. Maybe I was just tired and relaxed. But Iâ€™m definitely saving the other half of the patch for a stormier night.
Â Are they sustainableâ€¦
Since cannabis sleep aids, like most cannabis products, tend to be pricey, you may want to consider whether a product isÂ sustainable over the long run, since sleep difficulties will likely challenge many of us to the end of our days. So at the end of the day, IÂ suggest finding what works for you, factor in the value of a good nightâ€™s sleep, and then do the math.