5 min

How To Use Cannabis For Improving Your Sleep

5 min

Marijuana has long been used to help people drift off to sleep. Recent research even suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in sleep regulation. Learn how cannabis affects your sleep and find out about the best strains for insomnia.

Cannabis can affect how we sleep, so much that some smokers with sleeping troubles regularly use cannabis before they go to bed. Those who smoke cannabis at night often report drowsiness, together with a shorter sleep onset latency (how long it takes them to fall asleep). Moreover, they wake up less often during the night, claiming that cannabis greatly increases their sleep quality.

This holds a significant draw for insomniacs looking for a natural alternative to sleeping medicine, and many are now turning to cannabis and its use.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people have problems falling asleep or sleeping well through the night. Most of the time, insomnia isn’t a condition on its own, but a symptom of a broader condition that may cause it, such as depression or anxiety. It is thought that about 10–30% of all adults may be suffering from insomnia to some degree. The majority of people (95%) who are diagnosed with insomnia take prescription medication to deal with it.

Unfortunately, sleeping medicine can have unwanted and long-lasting side effects. These unwanted effects can range from prolonged drowsiness when awake to more serious side effects. In addition, many types of sleeping medications also carry a risk of dependence. For these reasons, it is no wonder that many are deciding to substitute prescribed medication for cannabis use. But is doing so safe? And how exactly does cannabis help?

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The top 5 cannabis strains for insomnia

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue is a 50/50 sativa and indica hybrid that is the result of crossing Chem's Sister with Chocolate Diesel. This is an award-winning cultivar that provides earthy flavours with hints of pine and lemon. Complete with an average THC content of 26%, she's the ideal choice for those seeking relaxation and soothing sensations. Perfect for promoting sleep readiness. A few pulls from your favourite vaporizer or a joint mid-evening could help achieve a healthy night's sleep.

Northern Light

Northern Light

Northern Light is an indica-dominant strain with a reputation for relaxation. Its resinous buds often carry a purple tinge, as well as a sweet and spicy scent. Northern Light induces waves of relaxation and calm, accompanied by a gentle euphoria sure to clear all traces of anxiety and depression. If you’re looking for a strain to ward off sleeplessness, look no further: Northern Light will carry you off into a deep slumber, and leave you there with a smile on your face. Northern Light produces a long-lasting high, which should prevent you from waking up during the night.

CBD Critical Mass

CBD Critical Mass

Another strong contender from the breeders at CBD Crew is their take on Critical Mass, simply named CBD Critical Mass. Much like all of their other strains, the emphasis on CBD Critical Mass is the high CBD content, which works in tandem with THC to offer and route to slumber. This relaxing and potentially couch-locking indica dominant strain has a citrusy sweet taste and a cannabinoid content that will not disappoint those looking for a sleep focused medical strain.

Vanilla Kush

Vanilla Kush

Vanilla Kush is an indica dominant strain that both tastes good and has a strong cannabinoid content. The combination of the subtle yet highly enjoyable vanilla flavours and its ability to take you in to the depths of a far reaching stone makes it the ideal choice for those needing to lose the tension within their body and mind, aiding them in drifting off to sleep.

Blue Mystic

Blue Mystic

Blue Mystic is an indica dominant strain that has a short flowering period and a decent yield. It has a herbal and fruity taste that delivers a comfortable body buzz for general relaxation. It is a good starting point for insomniacs starting out with weed, as it is not as overwhelming as some of the other strains on this list. It give you the option to slowly and comfortably lower yourself into the depths of sleep.

Marijuana and the sleep cycle

Cannabis has been found to not only affect how easily we fall into and maintain sleep, but also the actual sleep cycle itself. Cannabis significantly increases deeper stage 3 sleep and reduces the amount of lighter REM sleep we experience.

Stage 3 sleep is thought to be the most important for those suffering from a sleep deprivation condition. REM sleep is the light sleep in which we dream. As a result of less REM sleep, those who tend to use cannabis as a sleep aid tend to report dreamless sleep.

A reduced period of REM sleep has been linked to improved memory and reducing the symptoms of depression. However, it is worth noting that not much is actually known about REM sleep and what it does. For this reason caution is always advised, as by reducing the REM phase of the sleep cycle, you enter fairly uncharted territory as far as scientific investigation goes.

Saying this, many people swear by the use of cannabis in order to get to sleep, and what research suggests there is, at the minimum, positive effects on sleep.

Sativa or indica?

Sativa or Indica?

So, let‘s move onto the best strains to get the job done, but do you want to be focusing on sativa or indica strains? The simple answer is indica. Typically, sativa strains are more energising and heady in effect. Since they are commonly bred to be high in THC, it‘s easy to end up getting a little too spacey, as shown by the previously mentioned research, which demonstrates that high doses of THC can counteract sleepiness.

Conversely, indica strains tend to induce a more profound body-centred stoned effect. Indica also tend to show a wider range of cannabinoids, often also higher levels of CBD, which goes hand in hand with THC to induce and maintain good sleep. So even when you have an extremely powerful strain with high THC, the CBD also contained within it can take off the edge.

What is the best way to consume it?

Whilst the most popular way of taking cannabis tends to be smoking it, those looking for its medicinal effects should consider eating it. When you eat cannabis the liver converts the cannabinoids into a much more potent and longer lasting form.

As a consequence the sleepy effects are stronger and they last much longer through the night – improving the chances of uninterrupted sleep. The downside of eating baked cannabis goods is that they need to be prepared, i.e. baked into something, as cannabis needs to go through a heating process to become orally active; plus it can take 45 minutes to an hour to kick in.

Another good way to take cannabis is through a tincture, which is both simple to take and easy to prepare. The advantage of a tincture is that the preparation stays potent for many months, and it is very easy to find the right dose in the form of drops. It‘s a bit of an effort to make one the first time, but once done, it remains viable for months.

Related article

How To Make Cannabis Tincture: Step-By-Step Guide

The information presented is not to be considered medical advice and is not intended to replace proper medical care. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Cannabis, sleep and research

Cannabis, Sleep and Research

There is surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) little research into how the two main cannabinoids within cannabis, THC and CBD, affect sleep. With the recent wave of cannabis reform, and the mounting research coming out about the other medicinal properties of cannabis, researchers are only now beginning to focus on this area.

What research has been done suggest that the endocannabinoid system within our body, (the system that THC, CBD and the other cannabinoids interact with), plays a significant role in sleep regulation. A study from 2012 even goes as far as to suggest that insomnia may be caused by an abnormality within the endocannabinoid system, and that this system should be focused on for finding a treatment.

Whilst not implicating cannabis directly, as one of the few things that successfully interacts with the endocannabinoid system, it only makes sense that the solution lies within cannabis – which fits the anecdotal reports.

The current problem is that most research into the matter has been conducted in vitro, or on animals with similar biological systems to us, such as rats. There has been very little actual human testing, although animal testing does show very encouraging results in favour of cannabis as a sleep aid. However, due to the lack of studies, many rely on anecdotal reports from the internet and friends.

The research that has been conducted on humans with insomnia is woefully old and very small in scale, but they do show positive results. A study conducted in 1973 and published in th Psychopharmacologia outlines how 9 patients suffering from insomnia were given varying doses of THC, either 10, 20 or 30 mg. It was found that those who were given 20 mg got to sleep much faster than those given a different dose. Interestingly, the 30 mg dose made it harder to get to sleep, which was described by one of the researchers as being due to the increased psychedelic nature of the experience overcoming the desire to sleep.

Another study that looked into the effects of CBD found that those given a 160mg dose maintained a longer period of sleep then those given a placebo. What this suggests is that the combination of both THC and CBD can help us to fall asleep quicker, and for longer periods of time.

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

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