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Real Talk — Will Cannabis Help me Sleep?

There’s something particularly miserable about insomnia. Life is just harder when you’re running on little to no sleep, and people start getting desperate — which is what drives a thriving industry of pharmaceutical sleep aids. But what about cannabis? Will cannabis help you sleep? A few studies and some robust anecdotal evidence point to yes.

What We Know

People have long used cannabis to both fall asleep faster and stay asleep, because of its relaxing, sedative effects. One study supports the idea that cannabis shortens the length of time it takes to fall asleep, and that was true for people who struggle with sleep problems and those who don’t. These results align with another study that had similar findings about a faster window to falling asleep. So what’s the deal?

Basically, different cannabinoids have different effects on sleep, and terpenes likely play a role. We know this much, but we don’t necessarily know why or how (as is often the situation with cannabis). Research does show that THC in particular has sedative effects, which can make it easier to fall asleep. On the downside, THC seems to alter time spent in certain sleep stages, most notably REM. That means less dreaming, which can be an advantage to people struggling with PTSD that presents with frequent, disturbing dreams. But because all sleep cycles are important for healthy sleep, factoring for this impact of THC can help you decide whether to opt for a THC-dominant product or not. If you do, a low dose is a good starting point.

CBD may be useful because of its ability to reduce anxiety and relieve pain. The absence of anxious thoughts and physical pain makes it much easier to fall asleep. Still, findings from one small survey showed two-thirds of adults experienced improved sleep with CBD, while one-fourth found their symptoms worsened.

Pro Tip — Cannabis Plays Well With Others (Sleep Aids, That Is)

The good news is that a little cannabis can go a long way, particularly when you pair it with some natural sleep-inducing rituals. That’s because terpenes, especially myrcene, have a big role in the effects of cannabis from one person to the next. When you combine cannabis and classic herbal remedies like chamomile tea or a soothing lavender bath, the effect of these sleep-inducing compounds together can be pretty powerful.

The Takeaway

Cannabis can be a pharmaceutical-free path to better sleep, as long as you’re willing to give it the ol’ college try. That means experimenting a bit with products and dosing until you find the right combination for you. As always, ask a trusted budtender for recommendations and suggestions.

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