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Sweet Dreams Are Made of What?

A former Ambien zombie embraces sleepy-time cannabis

My wife and I were flying a red-eye to Paris, on our way to Marseille for anniversary shenanigans.
Romance was in the air! I
wanted to arrive refreshed
in France, so I downed an
Ambien before the wheels
went up over JFK. Sure
enough, I conked out.
Only problem: I have no
recollection of landing in
Paris, exiting the airplane,
walking through Charles de
Gaulle airport to the new
gate, or boarding our flight
to the south of France. I
was an Ambien zombie.

I eventually threw that
groggy monkey off my
back, but I didn’t find
a better answer until I
moved to Colorado—aka
Canna-topia—two years
ago. I ran over to my local
dispensary and came out
with a bottle of THC-laden
(10mg) indica gummies.
You may know about
the reputation of indica
strains as soporifics, and
the mnemonic that goes
with it: Indica will send you
in da couch until the birds
call the following morning.
But with the genetic
recombinations that pass
for R&D in the cannabis
space, even that distinction
isn’t reliable. Nonetheless,
the gummies

helped, as did my indica
vape pen, and some
chocolate-covered blueberries
(5mg THC) I picked
up from a pot shaman in
Santa Barbara, CA.

As I blundered from one
sleep experiment to the
next, I began yearning for
advice from actual medical
personnel, rather than the bro-ed out bud tenders
who earnestly tried to help,
based on who-knows-what
background. So
thank goodness for Dustin
Sulak, D.O., who practices
medicine in Falmouth, ME.
He also operates a website
called to
consult with out-of-state
sufferers from chronic
pain, anxiety, PTSD and, of
course, insomnia.

Dr. Sulak has a conventional
medical degree from
the Arizona College of Osteopathic
Medicine, which
he has supplemented with
a two-decade-long study
of integrative medicine.
He can pull the levers of
conventional cures, or
propose mind-body-soul
healing methods out of the
“alternative” toolkit. One
go-to: a stinking green
herb that is introducing
new therapeutic options
for so many people. Including
sleepy old me.

“Do you have a problem
falling asleep, or
staying asleep?” he asks,
his phone-side manner
instantly calming me down.
I pour out my symptoms:
I fall asleep quickly, but
nearly every night I awaken
in the wee hours with my
mind racing a million miles
an hour and my legs trying
to keep up. I suffer from
exercise-induced restless-
leg syndrome, as well.

Dr. Sulak is right there for me. “I recommend an oral dose of THC for people who wake up in the night,” he says. “It has a
delayed onset—45 minutes
or an hour—but it will last most of the night.”

THC is not a hypnotic,
he notes, so it won’t knock
me straight out, like many
sleeping pills. But THC
preparations work three
ways to gentle you into
oblivion: 1) they lessen
pain and anxiety, 2) they
induce a state called “catalepsy,”
so that your body
is comfortable in a still
position (jitterbug-legs
me says “amen!”), and
3) they impair short-term
memory, to keep you from
ruminating about that stupid
thing your boss said.

For those who have
trouble with sleep onset
(i.e, they can’t fall asleep),
he recommends vaporized
cannabis flower, instead
of a vape pen pre-loaded
with cannabis oil. Says
Dr. Sulak: “That allows
users to take advantage of
specific cannabis varieties
known to promote sleep
or to address the specific
symptoms—pain, anxiety,
etc.—that are preventing
them from falling asleep.”

Dosing is an issue, too:
“It seems counterintuitive,
but people who
have trouble with THC and
sleep are often taking too
much of it,” he says. That’s
why he starts people out
with just 2mg THC, and
has them adjust upward
by a milligram every other
night until they reach a
sweet (dreams) spot.

“It’s really not fair for
people to rely on the
dispensary personnel to
practice medicine,” Dr.
Sulak says. And he’s right:
having an actual physician
offer cannabis-related advice
made me sleep easier.
Or maybe it was the THC.
Either way, I’m a believer.