In case you haven’t noticed, cannabis is all over the news these days. From new research suggesting medical cannabis may help fight pain and inflammation, ease anxiety, and control certain types of seizures, it seems there’s no end to potential uses for the cannabis plant. And this holds doubly true for one of the most prevalent health issues facing us today: Insomnia and related sleep disorders. Adding to a wealth of anecdotal accounts, a growing body of evidence suggests that using cannabis for sleep may be an effective and sustainable strategy.

Does cannabis help you sleep? If so, what are the best cannabis products for sleep? We’ll dig into these questions and others in today’s post. By the end, you’ll have a solid understanding on how to use cannabis for insomnia and other common sleep disorders.

Insomnia: An Introduction

Insomnia has several subtypes, but the simplest way to categorize the disorder is to define insomnia as: “inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.” In truth, insomnia is a complex group of sleep disorders. While many of us find the variations on the possible causes frustratingly familiar and difficult to differentiate, the reality remains: an estimated 70 million Americans suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders at any given time, and insomnia can be notoriously difficult to treat.

If you or someone you love has ever suffered from insomnia, you’re probably familiar with the countless remedies currently available. Ranging from gentle homeopathic drops to powerful—and potentially risky—pharmaceuticals such as benzodiazepines, none can be said to be 100% safe and effective. But as we’ll see, the growing acceptance of medical cannabis is fueling hopes that it might prove to be an effective and sustainable solution. First, though, it’s useful to understand that cannabis isn’t a single medicine, but many medicines in one plant.

cannabis for sleepCannabis for Sleep: What the Science Says

We tend to think of cannabis as a single drug, but the truth is a bit more complicated. The cannabis plant actually contains several-hundred compounds—including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. As far as cannabis for insomnia goes, the two most important compounds to know are the cannabinoids THC and CBD.

THC is the compound most directly responsible for cannabis’ distinctive “high.” By comparison, CBD is mildly psychoactive, delivering at most a very gentle cerebral “buzz.” That’s why CBD on its own is legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to their subjective effects, both THC and CBD deliver a wide range of medical benefits, several of which we outlined earlier in this article.

To understand how cannabis may affect our sleep, it’s useful to keep those two cannabinoids in mind. While the federal prohibition of cannabis has hampered research into its use for insomnia, we do know that THC and CBD exert different effects on our sleep cycles.

For instance, one sleep study found that cannabis with a higher ratio of THC to CBD reduced the amount of test subjects’ rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Why is this important? It turns out that REM is the sleep stage in which people experience dreams, and the theory is that by reducing dreams, sleepers spend more time in a restorative “deep sleep” state.

This also ties in to the issue of nightmares. In addition to being unpleasant and unsettling, nightmares are a major cause of sleep disruption. Just like other dreams, they occur during REM sleep. A reduction in REM sleep seems to correlate with fewer nightmares—a finding supported by a separate, small-scale sleep study.

Then there’s the subject of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. While the intersection between cannabis and PTSD is a wide-ranging topic in and of itself, research suggests that moderate cannabis use is by and large an effective response to PTSD-related sleep issues.

cannabis for sleepCBD for Sleep

Thus far, we haven’t addressed the topic of CBD and sleep. However, we mustn’t miss the promising potential of this important compound. There’s some evidence that the “second cannabinoid” may be even more beneficial than THC for sleep. One study from 2017 found that CBD may hold promise for reducing REM-related sleep disorders and quelling excessive daytime sleepiness. A large-scale study from 2019 found that CBD helped reduce anxiety—a major factor in sleep disruption—and improved sleep scores in most of the test subjects.

Taken together, the research suggests that by carefully tailoring cannabis ratios for the physiologies and needs of individual patients, clinicians could usher in a new era of gentle, sustainable, and effective treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Given what we know about cannabis for insomnia, we can make some educated choices about specific cannabis products. And this local team—at the District of Columbia’s longest-running medical cannabis facility—has some suggestions.

cannabis for sleepBest Cannabis Products for Sleep: Specific Recommendations

Standard: Sleep, by Abatin Wellness
Specifically formulated to encourage deep and restful sleep without grogginess, this tincture contains a precise mixture of the cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBN. They’re empowered by specific terpenes, the aromatic compounds in cannabis and other natural products, geared towards relaxation and rest.

Granddaddy Purple Cartridge, District Cannabis
This much-loved indica strain delivers a potent hit of cerebral dreaminess and full-body relaxation. Known for a strong “couch lock” effect, it’s just the thing to get you tucked into bed for a night of deep, restorative, and long-lasting sleep. This cartridge contains .5g of concentrate, and is designed to fit a standard 510-style vape pen.

Classic Cookies, Abatin Wellness
An alternate name for GSO—itself an alternate name for the trademark-protected “girl scout cookies”—this legendary strain is known for imparting a deep and long-lasting euphoria. Its legions of fans turn to it for reliable relaxation, a head-to-toe calming effect, and the lure of a restful night of sleep.

Pre-Roll 6-Pack: Gelato Cake, District Cannabis
Yet another strain with a fervent fanbase, this cross between Gelato and Wedding Cake comes in a beautiful handmade case of prerolls for your convenience. Packing a hefty dose of relaxing THC, Gelato Cake’s delicious flavor profile—think sweet crushed grapes and aged cognac—is primed to ease you into deep, stress- and pain-free sleep.

Best Cannabis Products for Sleep: Wrapping Up

Whether you’re comfortable with the psychoactivity of THC or prefer the gentler, stress-reducing effects of CBD, the best cannabis product for sleep that will suit you to a T is out there waiting for you. If you’d like more guidance, check with the team at Washington, DC ‘s longest-running medical cannabis dispensary for expert recommendations and a stellar lineup of cannabis products!