Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Insomnia is a challenging struggle for many Americans, but thankfully, cannabis has proven an effective sleep aid for many patients. Medical marijuana can slow anxious or racing thoughts, soothe distracting pain, relax tense muscles, and even get the body to produce sleep-time chemicals.
Some of the different strains (cultivars) with low THC that are shown to help improve sleep include:
- Ringo’s Gift
- Bubba Kush
- Critical Kush
Which Strains Are Best For You?
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How Cannabis Affects Sleep
Cannabis’ sleep-centric benefits come from its cannabinoids’ effect on the brain’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors. The chemicals in marijuana bind to these receptors and send messages to the nervous system to increase adenosine – the hormone responsible for tiredness – and suppress the arousal system.
Cannabis contains several active compounds, including THC, CBD, CBN, terpenes, and flavonoids. THC typically sedates brain activity, but combined with suitable terpenes (especially terpinolene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene), it can have a stimulating or arousing effect, particularly for those new to cannabis use. In these cases, individuals inexperienced with cannabis may want to avoid THC before bedtime.
Studies have shown that CBD can promote alertness at lower doses and sleepiness at higher concentrations. CBD may also temper the anxiety-inducing potential of THC, so combining the two cannabinoids may be helpful against insomnia.
Research has also found that for some users, marijuana improves overall sleep, particularly for those with conditions such as chronic pain, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, or other disorders that would make sleep difficult. Cannabis use helps these individuals fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep throughout the night, enjoying improved sleep quality.
While we’re still lacking specific research on cannabis’ impact on insomnia, many people self-report in surveys using marijuana to treat insomnia and anxiety and claim they achieved relief from their symptoms with cannabis use. Some studies have found a distinction between use frequency. More recent research shows that short-term cannabis use increases the amount of time in deep sleep while decreasing the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep with increasing frequency.
The terpenes in cannabis also play a direct role in beating insomnia and improving sleep. While the 200-plus terpenes in the plant have varying effects, some terpenes have been shown to enhance relaxation, reduce anxiety and even have their own direct sedative effects.
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Best Ways to Use Cannabis for Sleep
Sleep is vital for everyone, so the best consumption method depends entirely on the user and their preferences or specific health needs.
Smoking or vaping cannabis are two fast-acting consumption methods, as the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream via the lungs and circulate within 30 minutes throughout the body. Effects can last up to three hours, making it helpful in achieving sleep when you need it quickly.
Edibles offer a longer-lasting marijuana treatment for anxiety, though its onset time takes a little longer, up to 90 minutes, for effects to show. When purchased from dispensaries, edibles offer precise, reliable dosing that allows you to control the amount of cannabis you consume and avoid using too much, making you more anxious. If you need to sleep soon, you’d want to take these a few hours before bedtime as part of your wind-down routine.
Remember that not all cannabis strains will positively affect sleep; some varieties, or too-potent amounts, can produce more stress and keep you awake. Be sure to discuss your treatment options with your medical marijuana doctor and start with low, slow doses to figure out what works best for you.
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Best Cannabis Strains for Sleep with Low THC
Ringo’s Gift is a high-CBD strain that clocks in at about 1% THC with a 3:1 CBD:THC ratio. It reportedly provides soothing relaxation that feels physical without the stoned effect of heavier THC strains. Myrcene, pinene, caryophyllene, and limonene are the most dominant terpenes in Ringo’s Gift.
Bubba Kush is a balanced strain with low-to-moderate levels of THC. The strain contains high levels of myrcene, a sedative terpene perfect for winding down before bed.
Harle-Tsu is a high-CBD strain – up to 24% CBD per weight – a good choice for tackling disruptive pain or inflammation. It contains beta-caryophyllene, a terpene that soothes inflammation in conjunction with the strain’s CBD.
ACDC is another high-CBD strain that reportedly relaxes users with conditions such as anxiety or chronic pain. Its piney scent comes from high alpha- and beta-pinene levels, which have calming and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cannatonic contains slightly higher levels of THC than other high-CBD strains in this list, but it reportedly is a practical choice for soothing physical pain or discomfort. It also features high levels of beta-caryophyllene and limonene, which work together to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety benefits.
Critical Kush has the highest THC on this list but reportedly has significant mood-boosting and physically relaxing properties. Many anecdotally claim that Critical Kush produces happy, relaxed moods, perfect for halting racing thoughts that may cause insomnia. Myrcene and beta-caryophyllene are the two most abundant terpenes found in Critical Kush.
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