I'd be remiss if I didn't start this review with the story of how I first came to love cannabis. Back in 2010, when California law permitted the use of weed for medical purposes only, I was a newly minted adult struggling with anxiety and insomnia. I tried breathing exercises, aromatherapy, over-the-counter sleep aids, and prescription-level pharmaceuticals only to find that each option fit squarely on one extreme of a wild spectrum. Everything I tried was either useless or way too effective, leaving me feeling drowsy and muddled the next day. I didn't expect much when my older brother gifted me my very first White Widow plant, but it grew quite literally like a weed and a few months later, my mom and I were using the harvested buds to make infused gingersnaps.
It's not hyperbolic to say those gingersnaps changed my life. I still remember the first night I tried one and drifted off to the most restful night of sleep I'd had in months. I woke up feeling calm and recharged. It was like I'd experienced a small miracle.
Ten years later, the legalization of adult-use cannabis in California and other states has resulted in an explosion of weed products specifically designed for sleep. Compared to the products we have at our disposal today, my homegrown weed and homemade edibles look primitive, but they exposed me to the effectiveness of cannabis as a sleep aid.
Few brands are as primed to deliver a quality weed sleep aid as Papa & Barkley, a trusted leader in the space of cannabis wellness products. I've been a longtime fan of Papa & Barkley's high-CBD Releaf Balm, so I was excited to try the brand's new line of sleep-specific products. The lineup includes a CBN-forward suite of edibles, capsules, and a tincture — all of which have a 2:4:1 ratio of CBD:THC:CBN. I put three of these products to the test to see if they could compete with my legendary weedy gingersnaps.
Papa & Barkley Sleep Dark Chocolate with Pomegranate
Potency: 4 mg THC, 2 mg CBD, 1 mg CBN per wedge
Flavor: I can't say that I totally picked up on the pomegranate in this chocolate bar, but it's delicious nonetheless. The smooth texture and subtle flavors remind me of Garden Society's artisanal weed chocolates. Flavor-wise, Papa & Barkley's sleep chocolate is on par with other high-end weed chocolates, in that you can't pick up any noticeable grassy flavors. If anything, any herbal hints add to the complexity of the chocolate.
My only criticism is that it's difficult to break off a triangular piece because the chocolate bar is relatively thick and small. This might pose no problem to consumers with higher tolerances and smaller margins for error when it comes to dosing. But for someone like myself, who's sensitive to one-milligram differences of THC, precision is everything.
Effectiveness: Despite having some reservations about the dosing situation, I found this chocolate to be delightful. The high set in very slowly and by the time I was ready for bed, I'd almost forgotten I'd eaten anything weed-infused. That's one of the big reasons I love using edibles for sleep. Sometimes, when you time it just right, you can trick yourself into thinking you're a naturally talented sleeper, which is great for my circadian rhythm and self-esteem. My only wish is that Papa & Barkley would make individually wrapped sleep chocolates so I can leave one on my pillow and pretend like I'm in a fancy hotel that only wants the best for me.
Papa & Barkley Sleep Blackberry Elderberry Gummies
Potency: 4 mg THC, 2 mg CBD, 1 mg CBN per gummy
Flavor: I'll be totally honest, I'm not a fan of sugar-dusted gummies. Gummies are already sweet, so why bother tossing them in even more sugar? I'll let it slide this time because the flavor of these sleep gummies is perfectly tart and punchy. The ideal balance of sweet and sour flavors, however, always leaves me wishing I had a companion bag of unmedicated gummies to snack on without fear of my mind melting. Until that happens, we just can't have it all.
Effectiveness: Staying aboard the honesty train, my trip did not go quite as intended. Knowing that my tolerance is ultra-low these days, I ate half of a nickel-sized gummy to be on the safe side. I ate it 30 minutes before bed — as the package instructions suggested — and got really excited when my body started to get heavy, sinking into a cushiony cloud state right as I was about to drift into sleep. My high took a turn, however, when dry mouth set in and my mind got a little too active for comfort. I was in that limbo state that sometimes happens when you eat edibles before bed: my body was perfectly locked in for rest while my mind was sprinting on a hamster wheel. It was less than ideal.
Determined to get that body high back and temper my restless mind, I tried these gummies again on another night, this time taking half of a gummy a couple of hours before bed. This little tweak made all the difference. By giving myself more of a runway, I was able to ease into the gear shift from sober to stoned and go to bed without the slightest hint of paranoia. I highly recommend this approach for anyone who, like me, has more of a problem with getting to sleep than staying asleep.
Papa & Barkley Sleep Tincture
Potency: 4 mg THC, 2 mg CBD, 1 mg CBN per serving
Flavor: Compared to other Papa & Barkley tinctures, which tend to be intensely herbal, this tincture was light and supremely palatable. Tinctures can be deceptively simple. With so few ingredients, it seems like every brand should get it right, and yet so many brands get it so wrong. I, for one, would much prefer a deep green, weedy tincture over an artificially flavored, perfumey one. Papa & Barkley's Sleep tincture is neither of those things, instead striking a fine balance between potently weedy and refined. I rarely get excited about tinctures, but this one hits all the right notes for me.
Effectiveness: I took half the recommended dose — 0.25 milliliters — about an hour and a half before bed. I appreciate that this sleep tincture isn't too concentrated because it allowed me to portion out the right dose for me without worrying that a single drop more would set me off course. Within an hour of dropping the tincture under my tongue, I was feeling noticeably more relaxed. Within another half hour, I wasn't drowsy but compelled to turn off the lights. Normally, I worry about not being able to turn off my brain and taking upwards of an hour to actually slip into sleep, but I was able to doze off without any hiccups.
This product might not be as fun to take as a chocolate or a gummy, but the simple effectiveness of this sleep tincture made it my favorite of the bunch. It got me thinking that if I'm going to replace my beloved gingersnaps with something superior, it would be this.
If you're new to cannabis edibles or are, like me, hyper-sensitive to THC these days, you might need to exercise caution with these products. I'd recommend cannabis newcomers start with the Papa & Barkley Sleep Tincture because it allows for the most flexibility and precision with dosing. I imagine consumers with a moderate THC tolerance will find the full lineup to be high-quality and enjoyable. Still, there's bound to be some experimentation involved for anyone honing their bedtime rituals.
I found that taking these products a couple of hours before bed gave me the time I needed to sort through any paranoid gear shifts and let my mind tucker itself out. Timing it this way allowed me to settle into my body and mind and drift into sleep without any surprise dry mouth or anxious thoughts derailing my descent. If staying asleep is more your issue, I would recommend trying the opposite approach and taking a dose when you're just about ready to fall asleep. This way, you have a better chance of those cannabinoids being hard at work when you're most likely to spring out of bed prematurely. Ultimately, though, my advice would be to treat the Papa & Barkley Sleep Suite like any other new edible you're testing out. Take it low and slow — and sleep in if you can.
Featured image courtesy of Papa & Barkley