Whether you’re a stranger or a newcomer to occasional bouts of insomnia, it can be hard to get your recommended seven hours a day. Adding cannabis as a sleep aid to your everyday life has the potential to help with any short-term sleep troubles.

Cannabis as a sedative and sleep agent is a tale as old as time. That being said, the jury is still out on what formulation uniquely treats difficulty sleeping. THC and CBD, the most famous cannabinoids, have alternating effects on sleep depending on dosage. Anecdotal and research evidence haven’t given us great guidelines on exact measured milligram levels, although a 1:1 mixture of both has been shown to have maximum sleep benefit in people suffering from pain, according to a 2017 review on the role of cannabinoids in sleep disorders.

Independent cannabis testing company Steep Hill Labs has also identified sedative effects in the cannabinoid known as cannabinol (CBN), which is found in smokable flower in increasing concentrations over time through the oxidation of THC.

That being said, there are a few things to note from the research that’s been done so far.

  1. When buying flower, focus on the CBD to THC ratio, not indica and sativa strain type
    Nomenclature on sativa and indica is confusing and even botanists can’t agree how many strains of cannabis there are! Psychopharmacology researcher Dr. Evan Russo argues that the sativa and indica designations are useless, and recommends focusing on cannabinoid content instead.
  2. High dose CBD has been shown to help with sleep, but low dose CBD has been shown to have stimulant effects
    A study of medical cannabis users found that users treating insomnia were more likely to use high dose CBD strains. However, other studies in both humans and mice which administered lower doses of CBD demonstrated increased wakefulness. More research needs to be done on exact dosing.
  3. Short-term cannabis use can help you fall asleep faster, but for some people that’s not always the case
    Cannabis use has been shown to affect how quickly you fall asleep (sleep latency) and help you stay asleep longer. However, it’s important to be mindful of your long-term cannabis usage, as some early studies point to development of tolerance to the sedative effects in some people.
  4. Different modes of ingestion yield different effects
    In general, ingesting cannabis via edibles has a prolonged, body-high effect that is uneven in onset, while inhaled or vaped cannabis has more immediate and pronounced impact on your body.

Your best bet is to try different combinations and modes of ingestion to see how your body responds. Go slow and be patient because each of us are different. Personalized treatment for sleep, as with any condition, is the best way to achieve optimal results.

To avoid any daytime sleepiness, consume cannabis close to bedtime. Experimentation and close observation of how cannabis affects your sleep cycles via an app on your phone can help streamline which method is best for you.

Getting a better night’s sleep can’t be solved solely through herbal medicine, though, practicing good sleep hygiene is key. Sleep experts typically recommend creating a soothing sleep environment devoid of electronic distractions, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants in the hours before bed, and establishing a nighttime routine. These habits can all help you achieve that sought after well-rested feeling in the morning.

Above all, find the right fit for you and remember that a holistic approach to sleep is important. In combination with good sleep habits, cannabis has the potential to help you doze.

Read more on CBD with the Definitive Guide.

By Kelly Yeo

April 20, 2018

Kelly Yeo is an intern at the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative and an acai bowl enthusiast with a penchant for future funk and cardio barre.