Insomnia is a debilitating disorder that hampers everything from job performance and emotional well-being to the ability to lead an active, healthy lifestyle. Sleeplessness also impairs physical and cognitive processes in the body and leads to a higher risk of injury during the day due to lack of focus.
If you suffer from insomnia, you’ve probably tried lots of different remedies to catch some z’s—and maybe you’re still looking for the right regimen to take you off to dreamland. Depending on the root cause of your insomnia, marijuana may aid in alleviating sleeping problems. Cannabis can also serve as a supplementary treatment to help you fall asleep. Studies and anecdotal evidence both show that marijuana holds great potential to provide much-needed relief from insomnia.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is one of the most common problems around. According to Statistics Canada, most Canadians aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep and are also suffering from poor sleep quality.
The term insomnia generally refers to difficulty with sleep, although it’s used in several different ways throughout medical literature and general conversation. The condition often includes:
- Difficulty falling asleep—even when the perfect conditions and opportunities present themselves
- Trouble staying asleep
- Frequent sleeplessness at least three times per week over a minimum period of one month
- Lack of sleep due to daytime distress
- Consistently waking up too early
- Poor sleep quality
Insomnia is also diagnosed when sleep issues aren’t ascribed to prior mental disorders, other sleep disorders or the side effects of medical conditions or drug-based treatments. However, cannabis as a treatment for insomnia is deemed relatively safe for some instances in which insomnia results from these circumstances. Always check with your doctor first before you start consuming cannabis to treat your insomnia.
The Research on Using Cannabis for Insomnia
Research on cannabis to help combat insomnia has produced varying results. One study suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) is more promising as a treatment because although tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may decrease sleep latency, long-term sleep patterns could be negatively affected.
THC improves sleep by reducing REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep. REM sleep is associated with reducing dreams, which leads to better sleep quality. However, REM sleep is a normal part of the body’s immune and cognitive functioning, and prolonged suppression could lead to more serious sleeping complications.
Another study showed that sativa marijuana strains have better efficacy in reducing nightmares, while indica strains help with recurring insomnia and sleep disturbances. Preliminary research also indicates that in some cases, discontinuing marijuana for purposes of inducing sleep could in itself lead to insomnia. On the other hand, heavy cannabis consumption on a daily basis to treat insomnia should be weighed carefully in relation to the potential long-term effects of heavy, regular use.
More research on the use of cannabis to alleviate insomnia is needed. However, the research that does exist generally indicates that most indica strains with higher levels of CBD assist in inducing sleep. The long-term use of CBD for insomnia also has lower risk factors than that of THC strains in terms of interfering with REM sleep.
How to Choose the Right Cannabis to Promote Better Sleep
Although cannabis is known for its psychoactive properties, certain strains have been shown to promote sleep. Cannabis strains containing varying levels of THC and CBD produce different effects. Sativa strains are higher in THC levels with small traces of CBD, while indica strains have higher levels of CBD.
Generally, indica strains are associated with feelings of sleepiness and general calm while sativa strains promote energy. So a good place to start is with an indica strain, though it may take a little experimentation to find the one that works best for you.
Recommended Marijuana Strains to Help Ease Insomnia
Some cannabis indica strains that are popular for insomnia are:
Hybrid strains with a higher CBD content may also induce drowsiness and deep sleep. Some hybrid strains you may want to try out are:
How Should I Consume Cannabis to Help Get a Good Night’s Sleep?
Vaping, smoking and ingesting a cannabis tincture are recommended ways to consume marijuana before sleeping. In addition to using cannabis before bedtime, consider drinking herbal teas and taking a warm bath with essential oils that promote a feeing of calmness and relaxation.
Cannabis edibles will take longer to kick in and should be ingested at least an hour before bedtime—they often induce sleep after one to two hours. Many people turn to marijuana edibles for help with sleeplessness as they also produce longer-lasting effects than other consumption methods do. What this means is that insomnia sufferers are more likely to stay asleep through the night.
When Marijuana for Insomnia Can Backfire
Consuming too much marijuana to help get you to sleep could lead to increased grogginess the next morning. This will offset the effects of the good night’s sleep that you may have had. Experiment with different dosages and various cannabis strains to find the right combination and smallest required dose of marijuana for your specific needs.
If you find that some cannabis strains help relieve insomnia but increase general anxiety, look for a strain with lower THC levels and keep experimenting.
Photo credit: Adi Goldstein