Are you looking to Cannabis to help you fall asleep? Do you have a proper sleep regimen in place yet still “struggle” with sleep?
Cannabis has a complex relationship with sleep, but I’ll try to make it a bit easier for you. By the end of this article you will hopefully have some actionable tips to help you choose a cannabis product to help with sleep.
Why is cannabis and sleep complex?
When someone uses a particular strain (a chemical variety) of cannabis they may find it stimulating or uplifting.
Yet another strain will make them sleepy and relaxed.
And consuming cannabis in different ways, such as swallowing it versus inhaling it, affects how quickly it works, and how long it lasts.
I am not aware of a Cannabis Rosetta Stone or exact guide on what will be the right cannabis product for you to help YOU sleep. You are different, you are in an individual.
So I will provide general suggestions that can act as a starting point for you to begin your own medical cannabis experiment.
Please note, I am not recommending you use medical cannabis, instead I am suggesting that if you have spoken to your doctor and are going to try medical cannabis for sleep then this is a starting point. For medical advice please speak to your doctor.
Can a pure CBD oil help with sleep?
Cannabidiol (or CBD for short) is a popular non-intoxicating cannabinoid.
By itself at lower doses it is not associated with making you sleepy: it lacks a sedative effect.
Dr. Ethan Russo – a neurologist who studies cannabis – says that even though pure CBD doesn’t make you sleepy if it’s in a cannabis product high in the terpene myrcene then it may make you slightly drowsy. (More on myrcene below.)
Even though CBD itself won’t put you to sleep it may help relieve some of the symptoms that are keeping you awake in the first place.
As an example, if you aren’t sleeping due to anxiety and worry then perhaps the CBD can calm the anxiety and allow you to drift off to sleep.
So though it didn’t put you to sleep, CBD helped take down the barriers that were preventing you from sleeping.
But I want a sedative effect
If you have established a good sleep hygiene protocol, and you are doing everything “right” but still can’t sleep then you may need some additional help.
This is where you may need a cannabis product higher in THC than just a hemp-derived CBD oil.
I may be guilty of being hard on THC when I say that it gets people high or stoned. I’m not wrong saying this, but I should add the caveat that this occurs when you take larger amounts.
And “larger amounts” for someone who has never used cannabis is going to be different than “larger amounts” for a long-term cannabis user.
If you’ve never drank before and you go buy a 6-pack of beer and drink it all at once then yes, you’re going to experience the intoxicating effects of alcohol. I.e. You’ll get drunk.
But if you buy that same 6-pack of beer and just take a sip then you won’t get drunk.
Everyone is an individual, so if you want to try and get the benefits from THC without experiencing too many negative side effects, then start low and go slow.
Cannabis Strain selection (chemical variety selection)
According to the work of Dr. Ethan Russo cannabis strains that are high in a terpene called myrcene are usually more sedating than other strains.
Dr. Russo says that THC can be sedating or cause drowsiness by affecting the central nervous system, and myrcene by itself can be slightly sedating, but combining them together has an additive effect. Basically, when combined together they will make you even sleepier.
So when you are selecting a cannabis strain have a look at the terpene profile.
The grower or manufacturer of the product should be able to provide you with the terpene profile.
A variety of cannabis doesn’t have just one single terpene in it, but instead will have a variety of terpenes.
So how much myrcene does a strain need to have to “tip the scales” and make it cause sleepiness versus stimulating?
According to this online article from Stainprint when there is greater than about 0.5% myrcene content in your cannabis product it will elicit a relaxed and sleepy effect.
It is no guarantee that this 0.5% level of myrcene is going to cause drowsiness in you, but it is a starting point.
Examples of strains that may help with sleep include:
- Granddaddy Purple
- Purple Kush
- Sensi Star
- Bubba Kush
The above information I got from Leafly.com A website dedicated to cannabis.
How to take cannabis to help you sleep
How you consume cannabis – for instance whether you inhale it or swallow it or put it under your tongue – will depend on your preference and what kind of sleep issues you have.
Above is handy chart showing the how long different routes of administration take to start working (“Onset of Action”) and how long they last (“Duration of Action”). The reference behind this information can be found by clicking here.
I generally think of inhaling and swallowing as opposite ends of the spectrum.
Inhaling cannabis works quickly but does not last as long. As you can see in the chart above it starts to work within minutes but will only last a couple hours or so.
The picture below helps to visualize this effect. See the steep slope? That is why this is sometimes compared to a shark-tooth or mountain-top curve. Up quickly, then down quickly.
When I say inhaling cannabis I mean vaporizing it. Smoking is another way to inhale cannabis, but it generally isn’t recommended for medical use, and it isn’t smart to smoke in bed.
Swallowing Cannabis – Oral Route
Swallowing cannabis takes longer to start working (1-3 hours) but it stays in your system longer and lasts longer (6-8 hours). This has a gentler slope as you can see in the image below. It is more gradual incline then descent: like an Alberta foothill.
Caution: If you wake up in the middle of the night and only have 4 more hours to sleep before work, don’t take more oral cannabis because it will still be in your system and could potentially cause daytime impairment.
What about Sublingual?
Now let’s look at sublingual route of administration. This is when you place a medication under the tongue. It gets absorbed into the blood vessels that line the inside of the mouth under the tongue.
I had some difficulty finding exact numbers on how quickly it is absorbed and how long it lasts.
But it is believed to have a more rapid onset of action than swallowing cannabis, yet last almost as long.
So it seems that sublingual administration of cannabis may provide a nice middle ground between inhaling and swallowing.
It will work quicker than swallowing it and may not not be as fast as vaporizing it but then you don’t have to inhale anything or buy a vaporizer. If you’re new to cannabis and you want some cannabis for sleep, then a cannabis oil under the tongue may provide a happy medium between swallowing the oil and vaporizing the dried plant.
What kind of sleep issue do you have?
Take a moment to think about what kind of sleep issue you have.
Do you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or perhaps a combination of sleep disturbances.
Because vaporizing cannabis works quickly it can be used for quicker relief or for nighttime awakenings when you need to get back to sleep and you don’t want to wait for swallowed cannabis to kick in.
On the other hand if staying a sleep is more your concern then keep in mind that swallowing cannabis lasts longer. Therefore it may help see you through the night so you can get a decent rest.
- Look for a Cannabis product high in myrcene (greater than 0.5% myrcene in the terpene profile)
- If it is a sleepy, hypnotic effect you want then myrcene combined with THC is will help provide this
- I always suggest to start at a low dose and then increase the dose slowly if needed
- If you need help falling asleep then vaporizing works quickly
- If you need help falling asleep then sublingual cannabis oil may work fairly quick too
- If you need help falling asleep and you want to swallow the cannabis then keep in mind it may take about 2 hours to start to “kick-in”
- If you wake up frequently in the night then swallowing cannabis oil or using it under the tongue may stay in your system throughout the night to help prevent these awakenings
- If you get up in the night and need to get back to sleep quickly then vaporizing may provide the quick relief you desire
Thanks for taking the time to read my post.
I hope this helps provide some direction for you. And I hope it helps you get a good night’s rest. Remember, please speak to your doctor about medical advice if you are taking cannabis as medicine.
My name is Tim Dyer and I’m a Registered Pharmacist from Penticton BC. I started Harmony Cannabis to provide information and education about medical cannabis for beginners and seniors.
If you are looking for a medical cannabis consultant in Penticton, BC or surrounding area, send me an email to timdyer (at) harmonycannabis.ca
If you want to know more about medical cannabis and you like podcasts, please check out the “Medical Cannabis Podcast: A Beginner’s Guide” that my friend and Dan I record.