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Bad Insomnia? Cannabis May Summon The Sandman

Philip Ghezelbash
older adult with bad insomnia tries to fall asleep

Abundance of research, anecdotal and scientific, suggests cannabis can help those with bad insomnia get more shut eye.

Maybe there’s a reason for the sleepy stoner stereotype. Cannabis may do wonders for sleep, even when it’s bad insomnia.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is an active cannabinoid found in cannabis that has demonstrated strong sleep-inducing properties. While better known for its intoxicating abilities, research suggests that THC can induce sleepiness. THC achieves these effects by binding to, and activating, cannabinoid receptors such as the G-protein coupled receptors CB1 and CB2.

Research suggests that CB1 receptors play a key role in THC’s sleep-inducing capabilities. One animal study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine (2017), showed that the light/dark cycle modulates the THC-activated CB1 receptor. This suggests that THC and CB1 activation could play a key role in sleep regulation.

man with bad insomnia

Other Cannabinoids That Help Sleep

The other main active cannabinoid found in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), has also shown promise as a sleep-aid. This is great news to anyone who doesn’t like getting high since CBD is non-intoxicating substance. As a result of this, it is legal and available in more countries and states as an extract or hemp product. CBD also differs from THC in the way that it induces its effects. CBD acts on non-cannabinoid receptors, and instead modulates other receptor pathways.

A widely cited PubMed literature review shows that CBD holds promise as a treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness. But CBD’s real promise lies in its potential to treat other disorders that negatively affect sleep routines.

Insomnia tends to afflict patients with anxiety. So then, reducing anxiety may have a positive effect on sleep.

One study from U.C. Denver, looked into CBD’s effect on a range of neuropsychiatric disorders and found that CBD was able to reduce the anxiety scores of seventy nine percent of patients. Impressively, this reduction remained throughout the study. Sleep scores also improved in sixty six percent of patients, although this result did fluctuate at times.

It is also known that CBD is able to activate the serotonin receptor, 5-HT1A. Studies suggest that increased serotonin expression improves sleep onset with the help of other molecules.

Myrcene: A Terpene That Makes You Tired?

Myrcene is a terpene present in cannabis and other plants and is thought to have sedative effects. One Brazilian study investigated the effects of myrcene on mice, and found that 100mg and 200mg/kg doses of myrcene resulted in muscle relaxation and increased barbiturate sleeping time. Doses of 200mg/kg also demonstrated that sleeping time in mice increased by two hundred and sixty percent. These results indicate that myrcene has significant sedative and motor relaxant effects which could aid in inducing sleep and treating insomnia.

woman asleep due to cannabis

Pick The Best Cannabis For Bad Insomnia

So we know which components of cannabis induce sleep, but how do you go about picking the best cannabis strain and product to help you fight insomnia?

Ratios Are Key 

Cannabis plants are not one size fits all and different plants contain different levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. So it’s important to pick the right one if you’re wanting to improve your sleep routine.  

As both CBD and THC have shown sleep-inducing qualities, you may find a sleep-inducing effect from any CBD/THC ratio. Although general anecdotal evidence says that plants with mild THC levels and some CBD are best. Cannabis plants with high levels of myrcene are also ideal choices. These tend to also be CBD-rich.

Strains That Can Trigger a Visit From The Sandman   

Granddaddy Purple 

High levels of myrcene with a high CBD to THC ratio, it reportedly induces sedating and relaxing feelings.

OG Kush 

Reported to produce feelings of relaxation, happiness, and euphoria, OG Kush has a high terpene profile and high THC levels with low CBD levels.

God’s Gift 

Well known for its sleep-inducing and stress-reducing qualities, God’s gift has high levels of THC and low levels of CBD.

CBD Shark 

With equal levels of both CBD and THC (with low THC levels compared to other plants), CBD shark is popular for its relaxing qualities. People often report heavy limbs and eyes and a sedative feeling after consuming it.

Palm Tree CBD

This strain also has equal levels of THC and CBD at around thirteen percent each, although these are slightly higher percentages than CBD shark. Palm Tree CBD is known for its relaxing and stress-reducing symptoms and people often report feeling sedated and sleeping after consumption.

man who no longer has bad insomnia waking up after good sleep

How To Take Cannabis For Bad Insomnia

So you’ve now decided on your cannabis strain, but which way is best to consume it? There is a range of techniques when taking cannabis that will be more or less desirable depending on what you’re after.

Smoking/Dabbing/Dry herb vaping: Inhaling cannabis can have an almost instant effect which is ideal for those wanting to experience possible sleep-inducing qualities immediately. Although these effects will not last as long as other cannabis substances and may be too intense for some.

Concentrates: When you consume cannabis concentrates — in edibles let’s say — their effects, while delayed, last for longer. Cannabis concentrates also contain all the active compounds of cannabis so you can receive the benefits of terpenes and cannabinoids.

Isolate: While cannabis concentrates contain all the compounds of cannabis, isolates instead only contain one. This may be ideal for those wanting to avoid certain cannabinoids, like THC, due to its high-inducing effects. Or for those who react negatively to certain compounds and only want to take a specific isolated compound.

Hopefully the above content will help the sleep-deprived masses get some much needed shut eye. After all — according to studies — the importance of sleep in our everyday lives should never be underestimated.

Philip Ghezelbash

Philip Ghezelbash is an ex-personal trainer with a science background who currently operates New Zealand's only health specialized writing studio. He is passionate about presenting complex science in an easy to digest manner and is a firm believer that cannabis has substantial potential to be used as a medicine for degenerative disease.

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