Dealing with marijuana-caused insomnia

Q:  I recently quit daily use of marijuana because I felt addicted, but now I cannot sleep!  Prior to this I had no sleep trouble at all.  About how long can I expect this insomnia to last, and what can I do in the meantime?

A:  First, congrats on quitting.  At the risk of stating the obvious, addictions are unhealthy.

Based on the information you provided, insomnia caused by something else other than the cessation of daily cannabis cannot be ruled out.  But presuming you have an otherwise clean bill of health, we can speculate your sleep is now being disturbed possibly due to the new and unusual stress — at least for you — of living substance-free.

Short-term sleeping trouble, also known as acute insomnia, is common.  Even normal sleepers will typically experience this more than once in their lives.  Acute insomnia generally lasts under a month, and is typically caused by some stressful event.  A romantic breakup, loss of a job, money problems, these are very common sleep-disruptors.  The resultant stress from quitting daily marijuana use could also qualify.

Acute insomnia generally diminishes on its own as we either solve the stressful situation, or adapt to it in some way.  In your case, we suspect it might take you a week or two to become more fully adjusted to life without a daily marijuana high, but we so no reason why a normal person cannot adapt and restore healthy sleep.

So what can you do to help yourself in the short term?  First, and this important, stop beating yourself up with the mistaken idea that you “can’t sleep”.  That is simply untrue.  In reality, at some point the biologic pressure to sleep cannot be resisted.   The fact is you can’t not sleep.  The key is managing the process for optimal results.

Some basic sleep hygiene lifestyle practices might be particularly helpful for you at this point.  These typically include keeping a consistent sleep schedule, getting daily exercise, exposing yourself to bright light first thing in the morning, and avoiding caffeine (in any form) after about mid-day.

Basically, do everything you can to tire yourself out both physically and mentally every day, and you will tend sleep better at night.

If your sleep does not improve after about a month, then a checkup is in order with your primary care physician.  You want to either treat or rule out an underlying medical or psychiatric basis.  If you have no medical problems interfering with sleep, your doctor may recommend a CBT-based sleep training program.  Such cognitive-behavioral methods are completely drug-free and will help you address the nonmedical root causes for what’s keeping you up.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep, stress

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