Among cannabis enthusiasts, it’s common knowledge that cannabis can help you fall asleep. Cannabis is also widely known to provide a deeper, more enduring night’s sleep. Whether you’re an experienced cannabis user or a complete novice, cannabis could be just what you need to address your insomnia during Sleep Month and get your best rest yet.
With its natural healing properties, cannabis can be a great alternative to more invasive prescription sleeping drugs that often come with a long list of side effects. To learn more about how patients can use weed for insomnia, Rev spoke with Julie Battel CNM/MPH, Advanced Practice Cannabis Nurse at Azalla Education & Green Network Providers.
Julie Battel has worked in cannabis medicine for five years, with a wide range of experience in research and in treating patients. She’s helped guide countless people through their journeys with medical cannabis — and for people with insomnia, cannabis treatment has some major success stories.
How can cannabis help insomnia?
According to Battel, the natural chemicals found in cannabis contribute to its soporific elements and sleep-inducing sensations. Specifically, the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes helps your brain and body fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. When combined, cannabinoids and terpenes create an entourage effect that greatly impacts your brain’s relationship to sleep.
Cannabinoids are the chemical components of weed with the most notable psychoactive effects. Famous cannabinoids include THC, CBD, and CBN, but hundreds of cannabinoid compounds exist in cannabis. Cannabinoids also help suppress the release of arousal chemicals in your brain, increasing a sleep-inducing compound called adenosine. When your brain produces regular adenosine, you can establish a deeper and healthier sleep routine.
Cannabis terpenes contribute to weed’s flavor, aroma, and olfactory effects, and certain terpenes — especially linalool and myrcene — are well-known for their relaxing effects. These relaxing terpenes are also found in sleep-inducing plants and flowers like lavender, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. “Lavender has a very similar isomer to the linalool terpene found in cannabis,” Battel explains.
The best kinds of cannabis for insomnia
When you’re looking for a weed strain to treat insomnia, you’ll use different criteria than weed consumers seeking a psychotropic effect. “About 20% of my patients don’t even want a psychoactive effect,” Battel tells us. Some insomnia patients prefer cannabis strains with high CBD levels and low THC levels, which helps minimize its euphoric effects. There are also plenty of patients who find high-THC strains to be just as effective in helping with their sleep cycles.
Finding the right strain for your sleep habits may take some trial and error. Many patients start with indica strains, which are consistently used to promote relaxation and drowsiness (you may have heard “indica = in-da-couch”). However, Battel advises against choosing your cannabis for insomnia only by strain. “The main difference between indica and sativa is the terpenes,” Battel explains, “but indica isn’t the only strain that helps with sleep. If your indica strain isn’t working, try a hybrid!”
Battel once worked with a patient who spent about 10 months looking for an anti-insomnia cannabis, trying indica after indica with zero luck. Battel recommended she try a hybrid strain, one with both indica and sativa elements — “afterward she said, ‘I’ve found my medicine!’”
How to use weed for insomnia
Insomnia is a common condition affecting millions of Americans, but everyone’s insomnia is different. Before you try treating your insomnia with cannabis, it’s crucial to figure out its root causes. “If your lack of sleep is anxiety-related, I probably would recommend bringing in cannabinoids like CBD, or even CBG,” Battel reveals. “Because sometimes, insomnia is anxiety when you’re lying down at night — during the day, we just call it anxiety.”
But anxiety isn’t always the root cause of insomnia. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, a wide range of medicinal strains can combine higher CBD and THC levels to address physical discomfort. “If you can’t sleep because of PTSD or night terrors, cannabis can help to suppress negative thoughts for better sleep,” says Battel. She adds that these cases will usually call for higher levels of CBD.
When there isn’t a direct cause for insomnia, it often calls for special treatment. “If it’s long-term insomnia, and not a temporary anxiety or pain-related issue,” Battel tells us, “my experiences have shown me THC is a great solution. So far, THC seems to be some of the best medicine for insomnia.”
Aside from cannabinoids and terpenes, people with insomnia need to understand that cannabis is an adaptogen. “That means there’s a set and setting aspect to ingesting cannabis,” Battel explains. “How hydrated are you? Have you exercised? Have you been staring at your screen? Do you have a regular sleep routine?”
All these elements — and more! — influence the overall effect weed has on your sleep schedule. That’s why, as. Battel explained, treating insomnia with weed takes a bit of experimentation.
Insomnia and weed: You know you best!
At Rev, we offer a variety of weed products with insomnia in mind — with color-coded labels that help you know which products are designed for sleep. Our Astaria Hibernation chews, which contain both melatonin and cannabinoids, use colorful packaging to designate between the different flavors: Cherry CBN, Blueberry Basil, and the upcoming Fruit Punch CBN.
When it comes to choosing a cannabis product for your insomnia, you’re the expert on what you need. And Rev’s Budtenders at our dispensaries in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and beyond are here to help you figure out what cannabis products are best for your needs. “Who could possibly know more about your sleep struggles than you?” Battel emphasizes.
Rev customers can order cannabis online for a super convenient Massachusetts dispensary experience. We offer weed delivery in the Boston area as well as in-store pickup for pre-orders and Covid-safe walk-ins. If you struggle with falling (or staying) asleep, perhaps cannabis will be just what the doctor ordered!