THC and CBD are the most thoroughly understood cannabinoids in marijuana, and they both can help with insomnia. The two differ quite a bit when it comes to their recommended use for inducing sleep, though. With 50-70 million Americans suffering from some form of a sleep disorder, knowing how to use cannabis to help insomnia can improve people’s quality of life.
THC and Sleep
To effectively induce sleep using marijuana, look for strains high in THC. We know that THC has sedative effects as it works on the body’s sleep and wake cycle. While a lot of the information surrounding THC and sleep is anecdotal, it is also backed up by a study revealing that 15 milligrams of THC caused subjects to feel sleepier.
A separate study found that strains with higher levels of THC are responsible for reducing REM sleep in subjects. When REM sleep is reduced, dreaming is suppressed. This can be extremely beneficial for those with insomnia related to PTSD and recurring nightmares. High levels of THC before bed can reduce the subjects’ REM sleep, and prevent them from dreaming, thus preventing the nightmares.
When you’re asleep but not dreaming, you’re thought to be in a deeper sleep. So theoretically, if you are reducing your REM sleep, you are spending more time in a deep sleep, and getting a night of more restful slumber. But REM sleep is an important part of the cycle and necessary for healthy functioning. Without it, we miss a portion of our sleep cycle. This could be why marijuana is shown to impair sleep quality in regular users.
Those who rely on cannabis to get to sleep are potentially sacrificing their quality of sleep for the sleep-inducing effects that help them fall asleep in the first place. The study suggesting cannabis impairs sleep quality pointed out that users who use marijuana to sleep frequently report daytime sleepiness the next day and difficulty staying asleep.
CBD and Sleep
THC is not the only cannabinoid responsible for affecting sleep quality. Cannabidiol (CBD) is also used to help people sleep, though its uses and effects differ greatly from THC.
CBD binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which allows it to work with the endocannabinoid system efficiently. THC only binds with the CB1 receptor, which can sometimes overstimulate. CBD instead relaxes the body and helps it fall asleep better.
In one study, CBD was found to increase overall sleep time.
The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate most of our rhythmic processes, and that includes our sleep hormones. CB1 receptors work with a neurotransmitter called anandamide, which is known as the “bliss molecule”, and thought to be responsible for regulating sleep processes.
Which is Better for Sleep?
We know that THC and CBD affect sleep in different ways, and we also know that individuals have their own unique responses to these compounds. While some studies have shown that THC can increase daytime sleepiness or impair sleep, the subjects are outnumbered by the abundance of anecdotal evidence suggesting the opposite: THC helps users improve their sleep.
Improving sleep with CBD is also a popular choice. Keep in mind there are different ways to take CBD, and many factors can affect how well the cannabidiol actually works in the body. If you are looking for a natural sleep aid that does not get you high, CBD is the obvious choice between the two.
Many can benefit from a combination of the two, choosing strains with equal parts THC and CBD or similar ratio. The selected strain is a crucial part because you need something sedative and relaxing to get the right effects. If you smoke an energizing sativa before going to bed, you’ll probably end up awake and frustrated.
The Best Strains for Improving Sleep
Trial and error is the best way to figure out what works for your sleep. You can narrow your choices down by looking at the best strains for improving sleep. For starters, we know that indicas are typically sedative and sativas are typically energizing. There is a lot more to improving sleep than choosing between indica and sativa, though.
The terpene profile of a given strain will give insight as to what kind of effects you will feel. Myrcene and caryophyllene, for example, are great for sleepiness. Finding a strain with a high profile of sleep-improving terpenes will benefit your sleep more than choosing between indica or sativa.
Here are some of the best strains for sleep:
Hindu Kush: This strain is a heavy indica straight from the Hindu Kush mountain range. It’s known to give users a couch lock, causing a lazy and immobile experience. The strain provides a heavy body high that can knock users out during the day, making it best for nighttime use. Along with its sedative effects, it’s also great for relieving pain and anxiety, two other conditions that can keep people awake at night.
Girl Scout Cookies (GSC): This euphoria-inducing strain is also known for its couch locking abilities. Users are quickly put in a relaxed state with little motivation to do anything. The sedative properties also help relieve bodily pains, inflammation, and muscle tension, which can help users fall asleep easier. The THC content usually falls between 25 and 28 percent, making it a very potent strain.
God’s Gift: This strain is a potent mix between the beloved Granddaddy Purple and OG Kush. Another classic couch locker, God’s Gift makes sedates users within a few hits, making it a quick and easy relaxant. It is known to make users feel happier, which can help those struggling with anxiety or depression. It can also relieve pain from inflammation and cramps related to PMS.
Tahoe OG: Reported as being a great sleep aid for its quick, sedative effects, Tahoe OG is a smooth and delicious choice for helping with sleep. It has a very heavy head high along with numbing effects on the body. Those suffering from muscle pains may find this strain alleviates the feeling, allowing for better sleep. Many users report this as an extremely sleepy strain, so it’s best saved for this purpose.
This article is purely informational and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication or adding cannabis to your treatment.