Photo by Sarah Diniz Outeiro

Cannabis for Insomnia

“My family described me as a ‘night owl’, from the time I was young,” says Eliza Moody, 45, of Texas. “I was always the last to fall asleep at sleepovers. In junior high, it got worse. By high school, I was getting two or three hours of sleep per night.”

Moody tried several natural remedies as well as prescription pills to ease her lifelong insomnia, finally settling on cannabis as the most effective remedy.

“With sleeping pills and other prescriptions, I always felt so hungover and out of it the next morning, sometimes lasting for hours or even all day,” she says. Cannabis, however, helps her sleep without casting a fog on the next day.

Why cannabis makes you tired

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a key ingredient in many cannabis strains, and the cannabinoid best known for producing the plant’s famous ‘high.’ THC acts like a key in your brain’s CB1 receptors. As part of the endocannabinoid system, CB1 receptors help regulate a number of bodily functions, with sleep being one of the most important. Through this chemical reaction, THC can decrease sleep latency (the time it takes you from lying down to being in a complete sleep) .

CBD, or cannabidiol, is another cannabinoid thought to promote sleep and relaxation. Much research already supports CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation, pain, and anxiety – all factors that can contribute to a poor night’s sleep. Additionally, preliminary research into CBD’s direct impact on insomnia is promising, and suggests CBD has therapeutic potential for a variety of sleep issues.

Cannabis is often viewed as an insomnia aid that has few side effects compared to prescription sleeping pills like Ambien, but it’s not a perfect pill.

There is growing evidence that habitual use of cannabis as a sleep aid can result in the suppression of REM sleep, a necessary part of the sleep cycle. Going for too long without enough REM sleep can cause grogginess upon waking and might not be great for long-term health. If you’re using cannabis for sleep and start waking up groggy, or unable to recall dreams for a prolonged period of time, you can try ‘resetting’ your body by decreasing your nightly dose, or by ceasing use for a little while.

Strain differences

Although many people use the terms indica and sativa to describe strain differences – indicas are believed to be relaxing, while sativas are believed to be energizing – modern researchers point to terpenes as likelier differentiators.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and other plants, and the ingredients that provide different strains with distinctive scents. Terpenes also cause functional differences in the way strains interact with the human body.

These days, most licensed producers provide terpene profiles for their strains. If you’re shopping for cannabis to help you sleep, look for strains with the following terpenes:

Myrcene is the primary terpene in strains believed to be sedating indicas. Seek a strain with over 0.5% myrcene content for the most sedating effects.

Also found in lavender, linalool is the active ingredient in many plant-based remedies for anxiety and stress. Linalool also demonstrates pain-relieving and sedating properties.

When looking at strains, it’s important to take a holistic approach – terpenes influence effects, as do cannabinoid content and mode of ingestion. If you’ve smoked or vaporized dried flower without much effect, you might find relief with topical creams, cannabis-infused bath salts, oils and capsules, or even edibles.

Every person has a unique response to cannabis, and you may need to go through some trial and error before finding your “magic bullet” strain. (If you’d like free guidance through this process, our partners at Natural Care can help you manage your medical cannabis needs, from getting a prescription to creating a personalized product and dosing plan .)

Other things to keep in mind

Insomnia is sometimes caused by what doctors call improper sleep hygiene. Some other things you can do to help get a good night’s sleep include: turning the lights off in your room, ditching devices or putting them on “night mode,” keeping your bedroom up to 5 degrees Celsius cooler than other rooms in your house, and making sure your room is as dark as possible, including covering displays on alarm clocks. Don’t eat heavy foods before you go to bed, and don’t drink alcohol. Incorporating these tips into your cannabis routine might help amplify its effects.

Good health is dependent on good sleep, and insomnia can be a devastating condition. There are real medical dangers to prolonged insomnia, so if you’re suffering, you should seek medical help.

For Eliza Moody, finding medical cannabis was a game changer. She now inhales before she turns in for the evening, and sleeps through the night. “The entire household is happier just because I feel better.”

Interested in exploring your medical cannabis options for insomnia or other conditions? Book a free consultation with a Natural Care prescriber, or call 1-888-671-8022 with your questions.