How Medical Marijuana Helps Insomnia
Updated: Apr 27
One of the things that cannabis is known for is as an insomnia aid. Many users swear by medical cannabis as the only thing that helps them fall asleep. They also report far fewer side effects than traditional sleep aids. But why does it work and are there any drawbacks? That’s what we’re going to explore. Here’s what you need to know to use cannabis effectively for insomnia.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to get to sleep. Most people experience acute insomnia at some point in their lives. It only lasts a couple of days. But many people also experience chronic insomnia. This is the type of insomnia that cannabis can really help with. Insomnia can happen on its own (primary insomnia) or because of an external condition like stress (secondary insomnia).
How does cannabis help?
Cannabis is full of compounds called cannabinoids. THC is the most well-known one since it causes the high, but others like CBD have additional effects on the body including increased sleepiness and relaxation. Indica strains of cannabis are primarily used for their calming effects and have a higher concentration of CBD. By ingesting cannabinoids, their relaxation and pain reduction effects allow sleep to come.
What’s the right balance of THC/CBD?
This depends on your strain and how your body processes cannabis, but here are some general principles. High THC strains tend to perk people up, while high CBD strains calm them down. Dosing also matters. People who use a strain in a dry herb vaporizer and the same strain to make an edible will experience different effects and onset rates. Edibles take longer to kick in, but their effects last longer.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different strains, dosages, and delivery methods. Like with all drugs, start with a lower dose and then increase it over time until you find the right balance. You don’t want to take a heavy strain right off and find yourself sleeping through your work alarm!
Take notes and talk with your doctor about the effects you’re experiencing. Some users say that using cannabis before bed can leave them feeling groggy the next day. Taking other vitamins and water before bed may help fight this effect.
Chronic pain and cannabis
Insomnia isn’t always because of brain chemistry alone. Secondary conditions like chronic pain or emotional upset can cause insomnia. Make sure you understand the cause of the chronic pain before taking precautions, consult with a doctor to identify the source of the trouble. For example if it’s a lower back pain you might want to consider getting a mattress for back pain or if you are suffering from migraines try changing your diet and avoid stress. Once these are taken care of, sleep often comes easily. The pain reduction that comes from consuming cannabis may be just what you need to get to sleep. If pain reduction is what you need, you might need to find a cannabis strain with a higher THC content for its pain reduction effects.
Aging your cannabis
THC also breaks down into CBN over time, another cannabinoid known to cause sleepiness. It’s much stronger than CBD, but it takes a while for it to form. Older cannabis creates a stronger sedative effect because of CBN. Time, heat, and oxygen all contribute to the breakdown, so try keeping a bag inside your garage over a few weeks and compare experiences. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Another thing that plagues some insomnia sufferers is intense dreams. Those who use cannabis over time get more deep sleep, but they also reduce their REM sleep. REM sleep is the state responsible for dreams. Too little REM sleep can cause other problems like grumpiness, so you might not want to take huge doses over time. Also, some users report a spike in dream activity after going off of cannabis for a few days. This is done to reduce tolerance to cannabis, but it can make for some sleepless nights and some entertaining dream stories.
Cannabis users fighting insomnia should also take other measures to improve their sleep hygiene. Sleeping at the same time every night, turning off lights, covering LEDs, and keeping the room cool can all help increase the quality of sleep. Add a little edible an hour before bed or a few puffs from a dry herb vaporizer and you’ll be good to go for a nice deep sleep.