I Can’t Sleep. Will Cannabis Help?

There’s something particularly miserable about struggling to fall or stay asleep. Good quality sleep is vital to function, and yet the vast majority of us don’t get it. The market for over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids is staggering — topping $69.5 billion worldwide in 2017 — and yet, we don’t seem to be sleeping any better. Chalk it up to stress, a scenario that creates the anxiety that makes us unable to shut off our brains come bedtime. Increasingly, people are turning to lifestyle changes and alternative treatment options to better manage the anxiety that creates the insomnia. Cannabis is one of them.

Here’s the Thing

As with all things cannabis, empirical evidence is limited. And while we can’t say with certainty that a particularly cannabinoid is best for promoting sleep, it is true that THC offers sedative properties. Many people find cannabis effective for calming anxiety, which can help you relax enough to drift into sleep. There is some evidence that the entourage effect of various cannabinoids and terpenes can persist in sleep, but these compounds themselves won’t knock you out the way a pharmaceutical would.

And Then There’s Dosing

Dosing plays an integral role in a cannabinoid’s effects, and dosing itself is highly personal. CBD, for example, has been shown to promote a calming effect in higher doses, but can be stimulating in low doses. This kind of variable means a trial and error approach to using cannabis for sleep isn’t just a good idea — it’s downright necessary.

About those Terpenes

The effects of cannabis on the individual are highly dependent on terpenes. That’s likely why cannabis pairs so nicely with other natural sleep aids — think chamomile tea or a lavender-scented eye mask. The double whammy of terpene exposure can boost the calming, relaxing, sedating effects of the cannabis, making it easier to drift off.

Next Steps

The limited research we do have about cannabis and sleep tends to focus on THC. If you’re struggling to find the sleep you’re desperately seeking with CBD, a low dose of THC may be the ticket. Ask a trusted budtender for a recommendation, and be upfront about the effects you’re after. And remember all the best practices for inducing slumber — no distracting devices, a calming bedtime ritual, a peaceful sleep environment, the perfect temperature for sleeping, and patience.

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