Insomnia is considered the top type of sleep disorder faced by adults in the United States. Many people use cannabis for sleep or to relax because certain cannabinoids induce a state of relaxation. However, could cannabis for insomnia be something to consider if you consistently have problems with sleep? Below is a closer look at insomnia as a sleep disorder, the science behind weed for sleep, and more.
What Is Insomnia?
Before trying weed for insomnia, it is important to have a clear understanding of what this sleep disorder actually is. Insomnia is much more serious than simply occasionally having a hard time getting a good night of sleep. Insomnia is an ongoing, often chronic sleep disorder.
Research indicates that as many as 50 to 70 million adults in the country struggle with sleep disorders, and the most common sleep disorder is insomnia. Insomnia can be characterized by difficulty falling asleep, inability to stay asleep, or even waking far too early. In turn, an individual who has insomnia often has a poor quality of life. The telltale excessive physical and mental fatigue associated with insomnia can lead to everything from lacking focus to problems with relationships and health.
Insomnia may have underlying factors that drive the problem, such as stress, general poor sleep habits, nutritional intake, and work schedule. However, insomnia can also be related to mental and physical health conditions.
Cannabis for Insomnia: The Science
Cannabis has been widely touted as a sleep aid for many years. According to the Sleep Foundation, 70 percent of young adults that use cannabis periodically claim that they do so to help them fall asleep or sleep better. Likewise, 85 percent of people who turn to cannabis for medical purposes say that it helps them with sleep. While there is definitely anecdotal evidence that cannabis helps with sleep, the formal studies into the idea are not quite as abundant or clear.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study completed in 2021 yielded almost positive results. Participants were given either a sublingual dose of cannabinoids or a placebo to measure the effect on chronic insomnia. During the two-week study, those given medical cannabinoids had significant improvements in Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) scores.
Preliminary research in some studies suggests that delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may help you fall asleep faster, but may also interfere with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Unfortunately, this may mean that using anything containing THC long-term for sleep may interfere with sleep quality. Researchers have also noted cannabidiol (CBD) may have some therapeutic value when it comes to treating insomnia, specifically because it may help deter excessive sleepiness throughout the day. However, more research does need to be established to make any definitive claims.
Cannabis for Sleep Due to Comorbid Insomnia
Comorbid insomnia is a form of insomnia that occurs directly because of or in relation to another medical or psychological condition. Some of the most common conditions that lead to comorbid insomnia include:
- Chronic pain
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Restless leg syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
In short, people who are experiencing ongoing insomnia due to one of these conditions may get better sleep because the cannabinoids target certain symptoms of those conditions. For example, THC may interfere with REM sleep, which is when nightmares are most likely to occur. For people who suffer from PTSD, which often involves nightmares, using cannabis may not only target the anxiety associated with the disorder but also help alleviate nightmares.
The Best Way to Use Cannabis for Insomnia
Most people prefer smoking cannabis for sleep. However, if you prefer not to smoke, you could just as easily opt for cannabis oil for sleep instead and reap the same benefits. Remember, when using cannabis to help with sleep, the goal is not necessarily to feel euphoric or “high,” but to simply reach a more relaxed state that may better support falling asleep and staying asleep. Usually, a small dose will be enough to get you in a more relaxed state.
Keep in mind, smoking cannabis will yield effects faster; usually within a few minutes. Sublingual (under the tongue) dosing with a cannabinoid-infused oil will yield effects in about 15 minutes. Therefore, time ingestion accordingly, depending on what time you want to fall asleep.
Related: Using Cannabis for Pain
Best Weed for Sleep: Does Strain Matter?
Specific strains have not been specifically documented for their ability to help with sleep or insomnia, which is thought to be partially behind the ambiguity of the topic. Nevertheless, what we do know is certain cannabinoids and terpenes of different strains may be more suitable for sleep support.
Both THC and CBD have been shown to offer sleep-inducing qualities. However, both cannabinoids act in different ways and may serve each person differently. Research has shown that higher THC levels may be more likely to interfere with REM sleep, so this is something to keep in mind. Other cannabinoids may be equally as important, such as cannabigerol (CBG).
Terpenes also play a role in a specific strain’s ability to support better sleep. For example, strains high in myrcene are often thought to be better for sleep. This is because myrcene has its own sedative properties. Other relaxing terpenes include linalool and terpineol,
Final Thoughts on Treating Insomnia with Cannabis
Does weed help insomnia? Many people who have used medical cannabis for insomnia would likely say absolutely, even though the science behind the topic is not so straightforward. If you are looking to try cannabis to help with sleep, be sure to work with a dispensary rooted in wellness like Uma Flowers.
Owned by health-focused females, our dispensary offers medicinal knowledge when it comes to cannabis. Check out the Uma Flowers blog for helpful guides on cannabis-related topics. Stop in at one of our dispensaries to speak with one of our budtenders for help finding the best weed for sleep.