Cannabis is hailed as a sleep aid, but can too much THC keep you awake? It’s certainly a valid concern.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 30 percent of adults experience insomnia symptoms, and up to 10 percent have insomnia severe enough that it’s considered a full-fledged disorder. Moreover, a poor night’s sleep can drain your cognitive abilities, leave you emotionally vulnerable, physically weak, and put you at risk for long-term health problems such as depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Given that pharmaceutical sleeping aids can come with a slew of side effects, it makes sense that more and more people are turning to cannabis. But, while THC is dreamy for some, it can activate others, making it a less than ideal choice for insomnia. Keep reading to learn how cannabis can act as a sleep aid, how THC can keep you awake, and how to find the best medicine for you.

Cannabis can act as a sleep aid.

Prescription sleep aids are not for everyone. Drugs such as Ambien can help put you to sleep but also come with a risk of dependency. They are also not meant for long-term, chronic use. For many people, cannabis is an appealing alternative to sleep aids. The side effect profile of cannabis is much shorter than that of Ambien or anti-anxiety meds such as Xanax, which tend to be more addictive than cannabis.

Additionally, cannabis can help you fall asleep and directly address what’s keeping you up at night by treating ailments that cause insomnia. For example, if you experience anxiety, it can be hard to fall asleep with a mind racing. Thankfully, cannabis can help quiet these racing thoughts, allowing you to drift off to a peaceful slumber. For people who live with pain, whether chronic or recovery from surgery or illness, cannabis can also safely manage pain levels to allow for a more uncomplicated night’s rest.

THC can also suppress nightmares by subduing REM sleep. For PTSD patients kept awake by their vivid and haunting nightmares, this can make bedtime easier. When REM sleep is suppressed, nightmares can go away. However, the body notices when it misses out on REM sleep. Then, if you stop taking cannabis or go on a tolerance break, you may experience REM rebounds. These occur after your body is denied REM for a prolonged period. You usually enter REM sleep faster and stay in it longer during a rebound, as your body tries to keep up. So if you like to dream, and nightmares aren’t a concern for you, you may want to opt for a low-THC variety.

THC can also keep you awake.

If there’s one truth about cannabis, it’s that it can affect everyone differently. Due to differences in the plant, and our endocannabinoid systems, it’s a fool’s errand to expect everyone to use
cannabis as a successful sleep aid in the same manner. Some types of herb, especially those that contain high levels of THC, can be activating. While this means they can work as creative fuel, propelling an active mind, it also means that certain people should stay away from THC before bedtime.

While some folks need a hefty dose of THC to fall asleep, other non-psychoactive cannabinoids get the job done. These are useful if THC keeps you awake or leads to grogginess the following day. In particular, CBD can act as a sleep aid without disrupting your natural sleep cycle. As Leafy reports, most studies on cannabis and sleep focus on high THC, leaving plenty of room for imagination when it comes to CBD, terpenes, and other cannabinoids. However, due to government regulation, cannabis research is severely lacking.

Nevertheless, some animal research shows that CBD is stimulating, and one study on 72 adults found that the relaxing effects of CBD improved sleep in two-thirds of respondents. Because CBD products are so safe (assuming you got yours from a reputable source), there’s no harm in using them as a sleep aid if they work for you. As always, check with a cannabis-friendly MD if you have questions.

Practicing mindful cannabis use can help you find what’s right for you.

To use cannabis as a sleep aid responsibly, first talk with your doctor to discuss the proper dosage and delivery method for you. As always, you should start low and go slow. It’s much better to take too little, and have more after you can’t fall asleep, than to take enough to become paranoid and spend the night awake in bed filled with doom.

For some folks, the long-lasting sedative effects of edibles are exactly what the doctor ordered. Because edibles last a long time, they may help you sleep through the night better than other methods. However, for those who want a lighter touch, and just need help initially falling asleep, an inhalation method such as smoking or vaporization can do the trick. These methods of intake kick in much faster but don’t last as long as edibles. While Indica has a reputation for making you sleepy, we now understand that the differences in cannabis strains are much complex than the Indica versus Sativa model would have you believe. While Indica is a safe place to start, make sure to use a strain that details its genetic composition. Based on how your body reacts, you can tweak as needed (as always, with the help of a cannabis MD) to find the perfect sleepy forumla for you.

Cannabis can also work well in conjunction with other relaxation techniques. Try any of the below to usher in a restful sleep:

  • Roll a spliff using cannabis combined with soothing lavender. Other smokable sleep aids include Valerian root and Chamomile flower.
  • If you don’t like smoking or want to protect your lungs, you can add cannabis tincture to an herbal tea that uses a soothing herb such as chamomile, lemongrass, or even catnap. Your furry friend isn’t the only one who benefits from the sedating herb!
  • Add cannabis to a meditation. A short, ten-minute meditation is a wonderful way to calm the racing mind and prepare for sleep. Add cannabis to your ritual by taking a puff as you inhale, and then deeply exhaling in this enhanced mindfulness practice.
  • Take a cannabis-infused bath. Turn your bathtub into a caldron by adding muscle relaxing Epson salts, lavender for aromatherapy, and even a CBD bathbomb to help release tension and get you ready for a lovely night’s sleep.

For cannabis to work its best, remember to practice good sleep hygiene in general. Stay off phones and electronics for at least an hour before bed, don’t go to bed on an empty stomach, and keep your bedroom nice, dark, and quiet. Now, fall into a dark slumber free from fear or nightmares, and we’ll see you in the morning.