Have trouble falling asleep at night? Learn how cannabis can help play a role in promoting sleep. Learn the basics and find top bedtime strains.
We all need sleep, but for many of us, getting better sleep is easier said than done. About 30% of Canadians struggle to get enough sleep. And, it’s gotten worse in recent years – Statistics Canada reported a 42% increase in nighttime insomnia symptoms between 2007-2015. It’s no surprise more people are looking into cannabis for sleep.
Many experts in the medical cannabis community recommend the plant as a more natural treatment for many sleep disorders. In this article, we’re breaking down the basics of cannabis and sleep.
When considering cannabis for medical use, we recommend speaking with your doctor or a licensed medical cannabis professional to develop a custom plan for you. While we’re here to help you deepen your cannabis knowledge, our advice isn’t meant to replace that of medical professionals.
It’s no surprise that we’re so exhausted. We’re inundated with screens, notifications, and meeting requests. Our world is busier, faster, and more connected than ever before.
A good night’s sleep is considered a luxury, but it’s as important to your well-being as nutrition, exercise, and self-care.
Sleep research has come a long way in recent years. People used to think that when you sleep, everything shuts down, but the opposite is true. During sleep, our bodies perform critical body functions, like restoring energy, repairing muscle tissue, improving immunity, and processing new information and memories.
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) links insufficient sleep to chronic diseases and conditions including: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Recent studies link sleep deprivation to early Alzheimer’s and dementia, and increased risk of cancer. Then there are the health risks that come with drowsy driving and sleeping pill prescriptions.
So we know we need sleep. How can cannabis help with sleep?
Humans have been using cannabis for thousands of years. Recent studies have confirmed what has been practiced in some traditions for centuries: cannabis chills you out. Specifically, it can help you fall asleep more easily.
One recent study found that cannabis can help you fall asleep faster, for those with and without sleep problems. For troubled sleepers, it was 30 minutes faster. For strong sleepers, it was even 15 minutes faster than that.
The varied effects of cannabis are determined by what’s referred to as the “Entourage Effect”. This refers to how varying levels of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds interact to create each strain’s unique effects. Because every cannabis plant strain has different levels of each compound, some are more sedative and relaxing than others.
So which strains should you choose?
Even if you’re relatively new to cannabis, you’ve probably heard the terms sativa, indica, and hybrid. These terms refer to the cannabis species.
Sativas are generally believed to be uplifting and energizing whereas indicas are thought to be more sedative – as in, indicas put you “in da couch”. Hybrids are a mix of both.
While this classification can help simplify it, it’s not entirely accurate. Researchers have found the plant’s effects have more to do with the levels of cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) and terpenes.
You’re better off looking at the THC, CBD, and terpene breakdown than the species. If simplicity is what you’re after, check out our cannabis categories. We organize our cannabis products by intent. If you’re looking for cannabis that could help you sleep better, you can start by trying products in our moon: rest category.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid famous for the cerebral high. It has other effects too.
Research has found that THC has sedative effects and can make falling asleep easier. The cerebral effects can be just what you need to slow your mind and drift off to sleep.
THC can alter the amount of time you spend in each sleep stage. Specifically, it can reduce the time spent in REM sleep, the stage in which we dream. If you suffer from nightmares or PTSD, THC may be helpful. However, if used long-term then stopped suddenly, you could experience a burst of dreaming (known as a REM rebound).
Preclinical studies suggest that it may also be able to treat sleep apnea, a condition that inhibits proper breathing at night. A 2013 study noted improvements in 15 out of 17 study participants following 21 days of treatment.
Consider your own experiences too – if you’ve found high THC strains tend to increase anxiety, consider a lower percentage. Note, however, that CBD-dominant strains tend to increase alertness. More on that below.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that’s getting a lot of attention for its medical capabilities. Researchers believe that CBD helps balance or counter THC’s effects. It’s kind of like THC’s more responsible older sibling.
CBD is known to help treat anxiety, reduce stress, relieve pain and inflammation, and promote mental focus and clarity. When it comes to sleep, CBD is believed to reduce sleepiness and boost energy during the day, promoting focus and alertness. It isn’t believed to affect sleep-wake cycles.
CBN (cannabinol) isn’t as popular as THC and CBD, but it’s another cannabinoid worth talking about, especially when it comes to sleep. CBN is believed to have powerful sedative effects, especially when combined with THC. Like CBD, CBN also helps reduce pain and inflammation. Studies suggest CBN stimulates appetite.
If you’ve been holding onto flower for over a year, the THC in your weed can degrade into CBN. This explains why smoking old weed can make you feel sleepy – and extra snacky.
Terpenes are gaining more popularity in the weed world. They’ve always been around, but often overshadowed by cannabinoids.
Terpenes aren’t exclusive to cannabis. You’ve actually had quite a lot of exposure to them over your life. Think energizing lemons, refreshing pine trees, and relaxing rosemary. Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give them their unique scent.
There are over 20,000 terpenes in existence. The cannabis plant has more than 100 of these terpenes. Many cannabis terpenes are found elsewhere in nature.
Terpenes work as part of the Entourage Effect, helping shape the type of effects you’ll experience after consuming cannabis.
Every terpene has unique properties. We’ve outlined some of the terps to look out for when you’re shopping cannabis for sleep.
Caryophyllene: It’s peppery and spicy. Caryophyllene is believed to help reduce stress, promote calm, and restore balance to the human body. It can help increase gastro-protectiveness, reduce inflammation, and even manage arthritis.
Limonene: It’s citrusy and spicy. Limonene is known to elevate your mood and help deal with stress. Researchers believe that limonene’s calming, mood enhancing effects come from its ability to increase serotonin levels in the brain. It may also help reduce insomnia symptoms.
Linalool: It’s floral and sweet. Linalool is known for its mood-enhancing, calming, relaxing, and sedative effects. Lavender contains high levels of linalool, which should come as no surprise given how relaxing it is. Linalool has been found to lower anxiety and depression symptoms, and protect the immune system against damage from stress. As it relates to sleep, this powerful terpene has been found to increase adenosine, a sedating hormone that helps us fall asleep.
Myrcene: It’s earthy, spicy, and musky. Myrcene is known for its sedative, calming, and relaxing effects. This soothing terpene can help reduce inflammation and muscle tension. It has also been found to increase the effects of THC. It could be partly responsible for the couch lock associated with cannabis.
Terpineol: It’s floral, piney, and minty. Terpineol is known for its relaxing and sedative effects. Eucalyptus, pine and lilacs contain terpineol. Some believe this spa-scented terpene contributes to couchlock. Terpineol is also studied for its pain-relieving, antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-malarial, and anti-inflammatory properties. A medical powerhorse.
We organize our cannabis by intent. If you’re looking for cannabis that promotes sleep, you can check out the products in our “moon: rest” category. This includes THC dominant indica strains with a variety of sleep-inducing terpenes.
Before going all-in on one strain, consider trying a few first. Every user has a unique response to cannabis, so it’s worth trying in small quantities, then recording your experience in a cannabis journal. We like Gold Leaf’s patient journal for medicinal or therapeutic use.
Caryophyllene: Girl Scout Cookies (GSC), Bubba Kush
Limonene: Super Lemon Haze, Tangerine Dream Wedding Cake
Linalool: Sour Diesel, Banana Split
Myrcene: Grandaddy Purple, Blue Dream, OG Kush
Terpineol: Jack Herer, White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, OG Kush
Everyone has different preferences for how to consume cannabis. It’s really an individual choice, but there are some factors to consider when using cannabis for sleep.
Edibles: Edibles like gummies, soft chews, cookies, and chocolates are a great choice for a lot of people. They don’t take a lot of effort, allow you to monitor precise dosing, and can taste good too.
A few things to consider: edibles take about 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in, so factor that in when winding down for the night.
A lot of novices will over-do edibles the first time because they mistake the delayed onset time as inefficacy. Wait at least 30 minutes before reaching for that second edible, and if you do increase your dose, consider halving it. We always recommend going low and slow.
Edibles are also believed to help you stay asleep longer.
Capsules & Soft Gels: Capsules and soft gels are a popular choice among medical users. They allow for precise dosing, are inconspicuous, and don’t require inhaling smoke or vapor into the lungs. Like edibles, they take about 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in.
Their effects can be felt for up to 12 hours, making them more suitable to use before sleep if high in THC.
Sublingual: Sublingual is just a fancy word that means “under the tongue”. Cannabis oils can be placed under the tongue, which allows them to bypass the digestive system and be felt faster.
Effects can generally be felt within 3-20 minutes, with a second round of effects felt 30-minutes to 2 hours later (when any residual that’s swallowed makes its way through the digestive system). Users typically feel its effects for 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Joints, Pipes & Bongs: Joints are the OG cannabis consumption method. Joints are quick, convenient, and accessible. Smoking dried flower allows cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream through the lungs, so you’ll feel the effects near instantly. The effects tend to last for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Pipes and bongs are similar. Some people prefer them to joints because the size of the bowl (the part you put your flower in) allows for consistent dosing.
Vapes: Vape pens are essentially e-cigarettes but with cartridges containing cannabis extracts (and sometimes flavours). Similar to smoking, they allow for fast entry into the bloodstream through the lungs.
Vape pens also allow for more precise dosing than joints. One dose/nhale is typically considered to be 2.5mp, but it can differ depending on concentration.
Effects can be felt instantly, and can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Cannabis can be a powerful tool to support your sleep routine. If you’re considering making cannabis a part of your sleep care practices, we recommend discussing some of the key takeaways here with your doctor or a licensed medicinal cannabis professional.
Everyone is different, so you’ll want a sleep care plan that’s unique to you.
While cannabis can be an effective treatment, there are other things you can do to help promote healthier sleep:
Blue light from electronics tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, delaying brain and hormone processes that initiate the sleep cycle. Do yourself a favour and ditch screens for 2 hours before bed. If that’s a stretch, start with 30 minutes and work your way back. If TV is how you wind down, consider swapping it for a good fiction novel.
You’re more likely to experience a cannabis hangover if you’re consuming low-grade or pesticide-riddled cannabis. Not to worry – at Dimes, we only carry cannabis goods we believe in. These are high quality, mindfully-sourced, and clean. Check out our sleep-friendly moon: rest strains.
Recent research has found cannabis to be an effective treatment for promoting sleep. Certain strains are more effective than others. This is influenced by the balance of THC, CBD, CBN, and sleep-friendly terpenes, or “The Entourage Effect” of individual strains.
THC-dominant strains tend to promote sleep more than CBD-dominant strains. CBN is another cannabinoid that works in conjunction with THC to encourage sleep. Terpenes like caryophyllene, linalool, limonene, myrcene, and terpineol are being studied for their role in treating common sleep disorders.
How you choose to consume cannabis for sleep will impact the onset time and duration of effects. Edibles, soft gels and capsules take from 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in, but are believed to help you stay asleep longer. Vapes, joints, and sublingual methods offer a more immediate effect, but it’s not as long-lasting. It could be just enough to help you drift off.
Have more questions about cannabis and sleep?
Want to learn more about cannabis and sleep? Want to explore more sleep-promoting strains?
Our team of Budtenders is here to help. Come by for a visit, PM us on Instagram, or call us at 416-516-7250.
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