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Can’t Sleep? How To Find The Right Cannabis For The Best Zzzzzs

Matt Weeks
can't sleep man with pillow over his head

Insomnia is the great plague of modern life. The right strain of cannabis can end sleepless nights.

Pathological sleeplessness affects nearly one-third of the world’s population. The irony is that while humans are busier than ever before, instead of being exhausted at the end of the day, many lay awake anxious about the things that didn’t get completed. Can’t sleep? Cannabis may help.

Faced with endless tossing and turning, people catch their zzzzzs with cannabis, thanks to its relaxing effects. There’s just one problem: Not all strains are going to do that.  

It depends on the ratio and potency of chemical compounds within the plant, cannabis can provide very different effects — but not all of these are good for sleep. 

The Right Terpenes for People Who Can’t Sleep

Insomnia is not a one-size-fits-all condition. For example, it can be caused by either physical or psychological factors. People can’t sleep because of stress at work, chronic pain, new medicines, caffeine, lack of exercise, and on and on. Add to that, some have trouble falling asleep, while others have difficulty staying asleep.

Because there are so many factors causing insomnia, there are many different ways to treat it. Choosing cannabis with the right terpene profile is one of the safest, non-habit forming methods. 

a man who can't sleep

Terpenes are aromatic compounds within cannabis that have special properties. These are responsible for the scents and flavors of cannabis, ranging from fruity, earthy, woodsy to floral. But, each terpene has unique medicinal benefit as well. And this is what will separate the anti-insomnia prowess of one cultivar over another.

Myrcene, for example, is a terpene common in cannabis that has extraordinary sedative effects. It’s also found in mangoes, lemon grass, and basil (in trace amounts). Myrcene is responsible for the sleepy effects of hops in beer. 

Then there’s terpinolene, another must-have terpene for folks who can’t sleep. While it’s less common than many other terpenes, terpinolene has proven sleep-inducing abilities. Terpinolene can also be found in many types of apple, conifers, sage, and rosemary. When present, you’ll know this terpene by its piney aroma. 

Caryophyllene is a terpene that provides a different function. Instead of sedative effects, caryophyllene eases pain and stress. This makes it a potent remedy for people who can’t sleep due to chronic illness or anxiety from life stress. It is sometimes referred to as beta caryophyllene or β-Caryophyllene.

Cherry Pie for Those Who Can’t Sleep

While terpenes play an important role in determining whether cannabis will help you sleep, these don’t tell the whole story. There are also myriad cannabinoids bunched into the plant. So, while terpenes can be a good guide to know whether your favorite cultivar is sleep effective, you’ll often find that the go-to is already rich in the right terpenes. For example, many insomniacs take CBD at bedtime and almost all CBD strains have myrcene and pinene. 

Cherry Pie, for instance, is termed an ‘indica-dominant’ strain that is not only a good sedative, but also has powerful anti-anxiety effects. For nervous thinkers with brains running 1,000 miles a minute, Cherry Pie is a good choice to calm down the cerebellum enough to get some good shut-eye. The dominant terpenes are: myrcene and caryophyllene. 

If the source of anxiety is physical pain, Purple Kush is a good place to start. It’s powerful enough to make getting off the couch difficult, but that kind of stillness is exactly what some people need. It also has potent pain-relieving abilities, making it perfect for those whose physical injuries make a sleepless night. The top terpenes in Purple Kush are linalool (potent painkiller) and myrcene. 

One final recommendation is Granddaddy Purple, another popular indica strain for dealing with insomnia, and for good reason. It’s a nice, easy hybrid with loads of myrcene. A dose of Granddaddy will deliver the insomniac to dreamland in no time. 

a woman who can sleep, possibly from cannabis

When and How to Dose if You Can’t Sleep

The final piece of the puzzle is knowing dosage. It’s important to take cannabis at the right time and in the right amount to rid yourself of the can’t sleep blues. That being said, there are currently no recommended guidelines, only trial and error. 

Patients report that the best time to smoke is approximately forty minutes before bedtime. That way, the brain has time to process the psychoactive effects of THC and settle down before hitting the hay. If using edibles, the time will be lengthened to about ninety minutes to give time for cannabinoids and terpenes to work their magic. 

Most importantly, remember that each experience with insomnia is unique. Therefore, what worked for the guy down the street may not work for you. Start by looking for the right terpene profile, then choose indica. Buy in small quantities and experiment until the perfect night’s sleep is had.

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Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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