How Cannabis Can Help with Sleep

How Cannabis Can Help with Sleep
February 05, 2021

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for our overall well-being and quality of life. It’s what helps us to recharge and reenergize our bodies so we can fuel our cognitive, behavioral, and physical functions.

Unfortunately, many people will experience some type of sleep deprivation during their life—whether it’s just a temporary problem or an ongoing issue. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation states that 10-30% of adults live with chronic insomnia; while 50 to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from a variety of sleep disorders.

In the past decade or so there has been increasing interest in the use of cannabis as a potential sleep aid. A number of studies of cannabis include those specifically focused on determining just how cannabinoids like THC and CBD can affect sleep, along with their efficacy in alleviating (or possibly curing) the various symptoms of sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, shift work disorder, etc.

Power of the Plant—the Science Behind Cannabis and Sleep

The cannabis plant possesses over 100 cannabinoids that interact with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system is responsible for maintaining the homeostatic balance in our body that regulates functions such as pain, stress, appetite, and sleep. 

Research studies conducted regarding our ECS indicate that two prominent cannabinoids, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidoil (CBD), have the ability to produce sedative and relaxing effects in the human body. Therefore, when an imbalance occurs in our Endocannabinoid System the presence of THC and CBD can be instrumental in restoring balance by reducing pain and stress—two issues that prevent most people from getting a good night’s sleep.

The unique anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, neuroprotective, muscle relaxant, and antioxidant properties of these two powerful cannabinoids (THC & CBD) can have a positive impact on sleep; helping those who suffer from sleep disorders and chronic pain—and even those who do not. 

Although cannabis research is still in its infancy, it seems that this powerful plant, along with each of these unique cannabinoids offer potential solutions to a variety of sleep-related issues. These include, but are not limited to shortening the time it takes to fall asleep and decreasing the time spent in our REM (dream) cycle.

CBD or THC -Which Is Better For Helping You Sleep?

Cannabidoil (CBD) is a non-psychoactive (does not make you feel ‘high’) cannabinoid that offers a number of health benefits, including promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety & depression, and relieving inflammation & pain.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a psychoactive (gives you the ‘high’ feeling) cannabinoid that also offers a number of health benefits, including inducing sleep, alleviating muscle spasticity, reducing anxiety, and providing pain relief.

THC and Sleep

In various doses, THC has been found to naturally induce sleep because of its psychoactive properties and sedative effects. Strains with high THC have the ability to alter the time we spend in our various stages of sleep.

A 2008 study shows that consuming THC cannot only shorten the time it takes a person to fall asleep, it can also reduce the time spent in our REM cycle; while increasing the proportion of time spent in our deepest level of sleep known as stage 4 or slow-wave sleep. 

This is especially beneficial for people who are prone to nightmares, night terrors or suffer from PTSD episodes because it can lessen the time in the dream cycle and provide a deeper more restful sleep. There is also evidence suggesting THC may improve breathing during sleep; which could prove to be a potential treatment for those who experience sleep apnea.

CBD and Sleep

There has been significant evidence that CBD can promote relaxation and reduce stress. Therefore, taking CBD before bedtime is optimal for those people who suffer from anxiety issues.

Strains with high CBD can be especially helpful when someone is feeling anxious or stressed because these are both contributing factors that keep us awake at night; and, subsequently, prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep.

Certain strains of marijuana that have a high CBD content can be extremely beneficial to those who simply want a natural aid to help them relax before bedtime. Taking CBD makes it easier for you to fall asleep without altering the sleep-wake cycles.

What are Terpenes and why are they Important?

Terpenes found in the cannabis plant also play a role in aiding our sleep. These tiny, aromatic molecules form a large class of organic compounds responsible for each strains’ unique scent and smell. More importantly, certain terpenes found in different strains of cannabis are also known for their medicinal properties; including potential benefits for sleep, mood, and pain:

Cannabis terpenes
  • Myrcene – Possess a sedative effect and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Caryophyllene – Works as an anxiolytic to reduce anxiety; helps you fall asleep faster.
  • Limonene – Possesses antidepressant properties; can reduce anxiety and has the ability to alleviate symptoms related to insomnia.
  • Terpineol – Causes a sedative effect; also helps relieve pain so you can sleep better at night.
  • Linalool – Has the ability to lower a person’s anxiety level while increasing levels of adenosine- which is a sedating hormone in the body.

Choosing the Right Strain

Many strains of cannabis will either have varying levels of CBD or THC, even a combination of both (called hybrids). Finding the best strain to fit your individual sleeping needs or particular situation might take some time.

That being said, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the types of different strains and the effects each of them can have on your body. The two most prominent cannabis strains are Indica and Savita.

Indica strains that contain higher amounts of THC are preferred to help promote sleep because of their sedative effect. Therefore, consuming an Indica cannabis strain can improve your quality of sleep because it is able to both speed up the process of falling asleep and lengthen the deep sleep phase.

Savita strains are considered mood enhancers, which can alleviate the feelings of being anxious and stressed—putting you in a more relaxed state and making it easier to fall asleep.

If you’re not sure one specific strain can help you, why not check out our Electric Sheep Mix Pack for a whole variety of strains to help put you to sleep.

Best Indica Strains for Sleep

If your goal is to find a sleep-aid, Indica will probably be your best bet. The following are a few of the best Indica strains that can help promote sleep and solve sleep-related issues:

Gorilla Glue – This Indica-dominant strain possesses soaring levels of THC up to 29%. Gorilla Glue is ideal for inducing a deep slumber and an effective alternative remedy for alleviating mental and physical ailments such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Afghan Kush – As an almost pure Indica strain, Afghan Kush has a THC level of up to 21%. It is notorious for producing the effect of an incredibly potent full-body high that is guaranteed to relax you and relieve your anxiety. It is known as a ‘go-to strain’ for the sleep-deprived.

Grape Ape – Grape Ape’s 20% plus THC content produces a deeply relaxing high. It is a preferred Indica strain because it allows the user to ease slowly into a state of a peaceful, sound sleep. Grape Ape contains an abundance of Myrcene (the terpene responsible for its sedative qualities), which can help combat fatigue and insomnia. This strain can also help to reduce chronic pain and anxiety.

Girl Scout Cookies – This Indica strain possesses a potent THC level of 24% accompanied by the highly beneficial terpenes Pinene, Linalool, Myrcene, and Limonene. In addition to its powerful sedative effect, GSC also possesses anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties; making it a popular choice for alleviating chronic and acute pains.

Grandaddy Purple –The effect of this robust Indica strain is described as a total mind and body high that hits hard and fast. With a 24% THC content, it will have its users “fixed on the couch, savoring the calm and relief from pain, stress, and muscle spasms; followed by an insomnia-beating, PTSD-free, deep sleep.”

In addition to smoking marijuana, there are a variety of options to choose from that will allow you to reap the benefits of cannabis:

Is there a Downside to Using Cannabis for Sleep?

Cannabis for Sleep
  • Smoking and vaping —health risks associated with inhaling.
  • Next day grogginess and fatigue, especially with overuse of a high-THC strain.
  • Continual use of high-THC strains can potentially lead to dry mouth, headache, dry eyes, and increased appetite.
  • Cannabis users experience fewer dreams because of a shortened REM cycle-—so if you stop after extended use, it’s possible to experience ‘dream build-up’ also known as REM rebound.
  • Possible withdrawal symptoms may include changes in mood and sleep patterns.

Final Thoughts

The research on the influence of marijuana on sleep is both promising and ongoing. Whether you suffer from a sleeping disorder or simply have trouble falling asleep, cannabis is quickly becoming a popular natural alternative to synthetically-made prescribed medications.

If you are not familiar with using cannabis you might want to consult with your health care provider or a knowledgeable cannabis specialist at your local dispensary. They can provide you with important information regarding the correct dosage (THC to CBD ratio), various strains available (medical and recreational), and methods of consumption to suit your individual needs.