Marijuana is a relaxation and sleep aid for many users, with 76 percent of medical marijuana users turning to weed for relaxation and 65 percent for a sleep aid. But which type of cannabis is best for sleep?
Different cannabinoids (of which 400 varieties can be found in cannabis) can have different effects, which can influence how well they help you sleep or stay alert. In general, you can expect THC to be more sedating and helpful for sleep, but there are exceptions.
Marijuana and Sleep
Sleep difficulties are common, with 50 to 70 million adults experiencing a sleep disorder. Nearly 40 percent of adults are so tired that they report falling asleep during the day at least once in a 30 day period. Insomnia is common, affecting 30 percent of adults, and 25 million U.S. adults have obstructive sleep apnea, which typically causes snoring and frequent nighttime wakings.
Treatment for sleep disorders can include therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. But some people who suffer from sleep disorders turn to alternative medicine including acupuncture, chiropractic care, and sleep aids including supplements and marijuana use.
Marijuana users often swear by the drug to get better sleep, and many research studies support this trend. Marijuana has been used to relieve symptoms that can interfere with sleep, including pain, tremors, nausea, and anxiety. Relieving pain, anxiety, and other symptoms that make rest difficult can make it easier for you to relax and drift off to sleep at night.
But marijuana use may lower sleep quality, especially for heavy or daily users. Marijuana can change your sleep, as using cannabis before bed can reduce your REM sleep. REM sleep is associated with dreams, encoding memory, and problem-solving.
At low doses, THC can have a calming effect. However, at higher doses, THC can cause intense anxiety, especially for those who don’t regularly use marijuana.
Aged THC strains may be more sedating. With time, THC ages and its effects can change. THC can transition to CBN as it ages, and CBN has a more sedating effect. However, this process can take years and may only occur under certain conditions.
Although THC is typically more sedative and CBD is generally more rousing, the high that comes with THC may be too much for some users. CBD offers the sleepy benefits of marijuana without the euphoria if it offers any high at all. CBD is a good choice for people who want help sleeping, but don’t want to experience any psychoactive effects.
CBD is known to increase alertness with lights on but doesn’t make much of a difference while sleeping with the lights off. If you’re experiencing difficulty sleeping at night and feel tired during the day, CBD may be helpful to feel alert in the morning.
THC and CBD
Working together, THC and CBD can be helpful for sleep. CBD can offset the high experienced with THC, making it easier for novices or people with anxiety to relax and get to sleep. Research indicates CBD and THC interact to offer a sedative effect.
A study of THC, CBD, and 1:1 THC and CBD found that CBD has a mild activating effect, THC has slight sedation, and a 1:1 combination can offer sleep improvement for patients with pain conditions. The study found 40 to 50 percent of subjects were able to experience good or very good sleep quality.
Using Marijuana to Improve Sleep
There is no one size fits all solution for sleeping better with marijuana. Generally, you can expect a relaxing effect from THC, CBD, or a combination of the two. But some can work better than others. Although marijuana can be helpful for improving sleep, it’s not the only thing you should do to sleep better at night.
Talk to your budtender. A good budtender will have an understanding of the effects offered by each strain available. Each strain will have a different ratio of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. Explain if you’re a novice user, prone to anxiety, and what you’re looking for regarding effects such as pain relief, anxiety relief, a sedative effect, and euphoria. Ask about the best time to consume each strain for sleep, because some strains are best just before bed, while others should be consumed earlier.
Combine marijuana use with other sleep aids. Support a more relaxed, sleepy environment with other sleep aids, including yoga or meditation. Take a warm bath or shower, and try aromatherapy.
Practice healthy sleep hygiene. If you’re not sleeping well due to poor bedtime habits, you can’t expect marijuana alone to solve your sleep issues. Make sure you’re maintaining a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, going to bed and waking up at about the same time each night and day and going through the same activities just before bed.
Avoid stimulants. Although marijuana can be helpful for sleep, other substances can make sleep more difficult. Alcohol has a similar sedative effect that can put you to sleep at night but drinking alcohol before bed can make your sleep too shallow to be satisfying and restorative. Caffeine is particularly stimulating, so it should be avoided in the afternoons and especially in the evenings.
Create a healthy sleep environment. Sleeping comfortably means your bedroom should be a healthy place to relax. Consider your mattress and bedding and whether they’re appropriate for your needs. Even your bedroom wall colors can influence sleep quality, with stimulating colors like a bold red making it difficult to calm down and get to sleep, and calmer colors offering a more relaxing vibe. You should make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Using blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or a fan can be helpful for reducing distractions and improving sleep.