For some, cannabis legalization ushers in a new era of sleep aids

Sleep can be frustratingly elusive, particularly in these anxious times. While there are plenty of sleep aid on the market — from melatonin to Ambien — exhausted, anxious and stressed out locals are turning into cannabis CBD to catch some rest.

No one working in the CBD industry is legally allowed to make medical claims, but anecdotally, many locals say ingesting the chemical found in marijuana is all it takes to unclench enough to get some sleep.

For Gail Hepworth of Hepworth Ag Inc. in Milton (formerly known as Hempire State Growers), 20 mg of her own brand’s full spectrum CBD oil ($78) under her tongue nightly, plus a little more rubbed on her shoulders, does the trick. She falls asleep in about 15 minutes. “I sleep soundly,” she says.

Hepworth says sleeplessness is among her customers’ top three concerns, and most need to be educated on how the products work. “CBD works differently in your body than prescription drugs, which put you to sleep. This is not a put-you-to-sleep medicine. It works with your body so you can get a good rest,” she explains.

A half an hour or so north in High Falls, CBD also does the trick for Rick Weissman and Tricia Horst, co-founders of High Falls Hemp. “Sleep is the most often cited reason why people use CBD,” says Weissman, based on what he hears from customers. “Sleep and anxiety, they do tend to go hand and hand,” notes Horst.

Twenty minutes before bed, Horst takes their sleep tincture ($55), which contains 35 mg of cannabinoids — not just CBD but others like CBN, plus terpenes, chamomile, and lemon balm — while Weissman eats one of their CBD gummies.

“That is our respective preferences. We turn the TV on, hopefully one of us is conscious to turn the TV off,” he says. For them, sleep comes on fast, and, when one wakes up to turn the TV off (lately they have been watching “Seinfeld”), they can easily go back to sleep.

Hepworth used to have trouble falling back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. “Prior to taking CBD, I would start thinking. I have to go to the bathroom. I can’t get back to sleep. With CBD, it’s not a narcotic, it’s not making me zonked. I just go back to bed,” she says.

Down in Newburgh, Alexia Brown and Tiffany McPhail, partners in the brand new Leaf Love Café, also rely on CBD for sleep, but throw THC in the mix for a good measure. “I use cannabis or CBD gummies to wind down before bed. If I’m having trouble with anxiety, I will use it more heavily to sleep through the night,” says Brown, a self-described insomniac. She uses different strains based on her needs: sativa or a hybrid relaxes her, while indica helps her sleep longer.

Anxiety keeps McPhail from sleeping. “I can’t turn my brain off. I lay down and I think think think all night long.” She uses THC to make her tired and CBD to quell the endless thoughts.

Exploring dosages and products

Alexia Brown (left) and Tiffany McPhail launched Leaf Love Co. and create cannabis-friendly events and classes. “I use cannabis or CBD gummies to wind down before bed,” says Brown, a self-described insomniac.

Leaf Love Co.

For the average person interested in trying cannabis to get some sleep, there are four pathways: inhalation, sublingual (placing a substance like a tincture or tablet or oil under your tongue), topical, and ingestion. It can be hard to know where to start and how much to begin with.

“It’s different for different people and requires personal exploration,” says Hepworth. Their biggest seller is the sublingual, though their capsules also do well.

To start exploring, it’s useful to have a goal. When people wander into The Leaf in Beacon, they often think it’s a marijuana dispensary. It’s not — not yet anyway. The staff queries customers about their goals to find the right CBD product.

“We ask, ‘Do you want to get high or are you trying to accomplish something?'” says owner Grant McCabe. A third of the time people want help with sleep. They sell honey nighttime gummies ($34.99) as well as a full spectrum CBD tincture “formula 3” that contains THC under the legal limit ($59.99). “It’s not going to get you stoned. Sometimes a small amount works better.”

Dosing can be hard. “It isn’t standard medicine,” says McCabe, who adds that typically people trying to fall asleep take somewhere between 15 to 30 mg. “I know people who take five and people who take 100. You have to understand your body. You start small and work up to feel where your line is.”

Horst, who says she has never been a good sleeper, knows her line. If she takes her tincture before getting in bed, “I get so relaxed I’m ready to crawl up the stairs. After I take that, I am very rarely awake for even five minutes.”

Too much CBD might result in a dry mouth or make you feel tired in the morning. If either happens, users can dial back. McPhail adjusts her nightly amount and ratio of THC and CBD depending on how tired she feels.

“It took me a while to get that right balance for myself. Everybody is different,” she says. After her kids go to bed, she has a nighttime ritual. “I have my me time. I like to sit out on my porch swing. I use cannabis and different herbs. I roll my nighttime joint — maybe lavender and chamomile and CBD and THC.”

Hepworth has a neighbor with “terrible sleep problems” who prefers a low dose of 10 mg per evening. “You have to find that sweet spot,” she says. She suggests starting off with a product’s recommended dose and seeing how you feel.

For people who want help finding the dosage sweet spot or choosing between gummies, vape, or flower, help is available. At Newburgh’s Leaf Love Café, in addition to CBD products, hemp flower, and CBD coffees, tea, and light snacks, they’re setting up in-store consultations.

“We do intend to have a nurse on standby. People can make appointments and do consultations with her,” says McPhail.

Or ask anyone at The Leaf in Beacon for CBD advice. “If their goal is to get high, they need marijuana. If their goal is for sleep, anxiety, relaxation and they don’t want to get blasted, that’s us,” says McCabe. “The majority of the market is with us.”

All ages are welcome, don’t be shy. “Even in dispensaries, it’s not your younger crowd, it’s 35 plus. If you are under 30, you probably still have a friend that sells weed.”

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