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What Happens When You Go to Sleep High?

man sleeping soundly on his bed

Table of contents

  1. How Marijuana Affects Sleep
  2. Do You Sleep Better After Getting High?
  3. Can Being Too High Cause Insomnia?
  4. 6 Best Weed Strains for Sleep
  5. The Bottom Line
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

Cannabis is commonly used as a natural sleep aid for people living with insomnia and other sleep disorders. But the relationship between sleep and marijuana is complex. Some strains leave you nodding off in no time, while others will do just the opposite.

Smoking marijuana before bed can affect dreams, sleep cycles, and more. Let’s look at what happens when you sleep high, plus the science behind why some strains are better than others for a good night’s sleep.

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How Marijuana Affects Sleep

There are many different strains (cultivars) of cannabis; each will affect you differently. For example, strains with a lot of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will get you high, while those with cannabidiol (CBD) won’t. These two compounds also have unique effects on sleep.

Both CBD and THC interact with what’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This elaborate system is a network of neurotransmitters and receptors that communicate with the body’s nervous systems to maintain healthy functioning. The ECS is crucial for modulating body functions like sleep, appetite, memory, emotional processing, and temperature.

It also plays a significant role in hormone secretion. Whether you consume CBD or THC, these cannabinoids are thought to alter how the ECS functions, impacting these internal body processes.

CBD, for example, has been found to lower cortisol levels in the blood. Cortisol is a stress hormone that leads to feeling wakeful and alert. If you have too much cortisol coursing through your system, it can be hard to fall asleep. That’s why smoking strains high in CBD may make it easier to fall and stay asleep. Certain low-THC strains exhibit the same effects, while low CBD doses may make you feel more energized.

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Sativas, Indicas, and Sleep

Many people associate indica strains with feeling heavy, blissful, and sedated. Sativa strains are said to leave you feeling peppy and excited. However, this isn’t always accurate: both indica and sativa varieties can put you to sleep.

What seems to be key is the terpene myrcene. Terpenes are compounds that give each cannabis plant its unique aroma. These compounds also play a role in how you feel after consuming certain strains of cannabis. Marijuana strains high in myrcene tend to have more sedating effects, whereas those lower in myrcene and higher in other terpenes (like limonene) have more uplifting effects.

Do You Sleep Better After Getting High?

The short answer? Yes and no. Again, it really depends on what type of cannabis you’re consuming. For example, if you sleep high on a low-myrcene, high-limonene strain, there’s a good chance you’d lie there staring at the ceiling with a million ideas rushing through your mind, meaning little to no sleep.

Other cannabis varieties are great at helping you fall asleep faster and keep you from waking up in the middle of the night. Marijuana may also change your sleep architecture or how long you spend in each sleep stage. Using THC-rich marijuana short-term seems to increase the time we spend in our deep sleep stages, which can leave us feeling refreshed and rested when we wake up.

Marijuana use can also reduce how long the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage lasts. This phase is characterized by random, rapid eye movements, sensory deprivation, and vivid dreaming. REM is a crucial sleep cycle step, helping us process emotions and cement new memories.

You might think not getting enough REM sleep has consequences, but research has found that reduced REM sleep may be favorable for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since REM is the phase where dreams and nightmares occur, people with PTSD or REM sleep behavior disorder may benefit from using cannabis for sleep. 

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Can Being Too High Cause Insomnia?

As mentioned, high-CBD and low-THC strains can positively impact sleep by lowering cortisol levels in the blood. Lower cortisol can also alleviate anxiety, allowing you to feel calm, relaxed, and ready for a great sleep.

That said, smoking too much or using the wrong strain can have unwanted side effects. For example, studies have found that taking high doses of THC increases anxiety and paranoia among some users, thus negatively impacting their sleep.

THC may also boost cortisol levels, which usually leads to feeling energized and alert. These more hyperactive effects can feel overwhelming, especially for inexperienced cannabis users. However, those who have built up a THC tolerance may experience sedative effects when used in high doses.

If you struggle to get quality sleep, it might be a good idea to refrain from smoking certain strains past mid-afternoon. Energizing strains tend to be lower in myrcene and higher in limonene or terpinolene. It’s also important to pace yourself, as paranoia and anxiety are side effects of smoking too much THC. Sometimes, a couple of puffs is all you need.

6 Best Weed Strains for Sleep

Now that we’ve gone through the relationship between marijuana and sleep, let’s look at which strains are best if you’re having trouble sleeping. Please note that feedback on these varieties is based on anecdotal reports, and you may find another strain that works better for you.

For sleep in general, you’ll want to seek out cannabis cultivars with low-to-moderate THC, moderate-to-high CBD, and more relaxing terpenes like myrcene, humulene, and linalool.

1. Northern Lights

Northern Lights is one of the most famous indica strains of all time. It has an earthy, spicy, herbal, and floral flavor profile and is reported to leave users feeling relaxed, sedated, and euphoric.

Thanks to its THC and myrcene content, Northern Lights makes it easier to fall into a deep sleep and may improve overall sleep quality.

2. Girl Scout Cookies

This is an indica-dominant hybrid marijuana strain bred from OG Kush and Durban Poison. Girl Scout Cookies (GSC) often releases a wave of euphoria, followed by deep, full-body relaxation. GSC has a THC potency of 19%, which, although high, isn’t necessarily overwhelming for a beginner — especially when taken in small doses.

If you struggle with light sleep, poor sleep, or other sleep issues, GSC may help you drift off quickly. It may also relieve people with chronic pain, making it easier for them to get a good night’s sleep.

3. Bubba Kush

This indica strain has gained popularity in the United States over the last couple of years. Bubba Kush is known for its heavy sedative and tranquilizing effects, making it perfect for people with sleep disorders. This strain has a sweet chocolate and coffee taste. You may feel hungry after smoking Bubba Kush, so be sure to keep some snacks handy.

Bubba Kush is the strain many people have chosen as their sleep medicine; smoking this flower leaves muscles relaxed and the mind hazy and calm. Put some ambient lighting on, listen to some mellow music, and let Bubba Kush lull you into the deep sleep you deserve.

4. Gelato

Gelato is a balanced hybrid marijuana strain that lends itself to non-REM sleep. Due to the balance between indica and sativa genetics, Gelato offers the best of both worlds.

Taking this strain results in a euphoric head high and full-body relaxation. Its intense effects make it perfect for people with chronic pain, sleep disturbances, and other issues that cause poor sleep.

5. Granddaddy Purple

Granddaddy Purple is a cross between Mendo Purps, Skunk, and Afghanistan — all iconic strains in their own right. The resulting matrimony creates a potent indica strain with a robust THC profile.

Smoking or dabbing this dank flower will leave you feeling warm, fuzzy, dreamy, and relaxed. If you have trouble staying asleep or are a lighter sleeper, Granddaddy Purple may be the strain for you.

6. Harlequin

Harlequin is a 1:1 marijuana strain, meaning it has equal amounts of CBD and THC (8-10% CBD and 7-15% THC). Such strains are perfect since these two cannabinoids both balance and counteract each other.

When you sleep high on Harlequin, something called the entourage effect occurs. This phenomenon happens when two or more cannabinoids react harmoniously to produce new and unique effects.

Harlequin creates a mild buzz rather than a strong, overbearing high, thanks to its relatively low THC concentration. This makes it less likely for anxiety to set in after using it and may be a good alternative for controlling insomnia.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to improve the quality of your sleep, pay attention to what varieties are recommended for relaxation. Look for strains that are rich in myrcene, with high doses of CBD and low-to-moderate levels of THC.

Limit the amount of marijuana you smoke before bed if THC makes you feel anxious or alert. Those with a high tolerance to THC may find these varieties sedative. With the right strain and dosing, cannabis can be a natural and effective option for optimizing your sleep schedule.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is CBD or THC better for sleep?

CBD has been found to directly impact cortisol levels in the body. This makes it easier for people to fall asleep after using it. Therefore, cannabis strains high in CBD may be an effective sleep aid.

Can you use marijuana with melatonin?

At nighttime, the brain produces the hormone melatonin in response to darkness. Melatonin helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Marijuana naturally increases melatonin, so consuming cannabis before bed may negate the need for a supplement.

Is sleeping high the same as sleeping drunk?

No. Drinking alcohol before bed has been found to reduce sleep quality. Alcohol delays the onset of REM sleep, leaving you groggy and tired in the morning. Unlike cannabis products, drinking alcohol before bed is likely to worsen sleep problems.

Article written by

Samuel Njoroge