Pot has pretty good PR when it comes to sleep. Smoking marijuana is seen as a calming activity and most smokers are nothing if not laid back. But whether cannabis helps or hinders dozing is still TBD. Yes, it’s a powerful relaxant, but it can also get your mind racing and make it impossible to fall asleep (not to mention other potential health affects). Reports are mixed.
Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer of helloMD, specializes in treating patients with insomnia and says it’s crucial to understand exactly what you’re smoking. Cannabis is traditionally divided into two species, sativa and indica. The taller and longer-leafed sativa produces a heady, energized high, while the shrubbier indica leaves tokers relaxed and “in-da-couch.”
Indica seems like the natural choice for sleep, but it’s not that simple. After decades of underground hybridization between the species, it’s virtually impossible to find a pure indica or sativa. Instead, says Solomon, it’s best to look for buds that are low in THC and high in CBD. As every stoner worth their stash knows, THC is the compound that gets you high. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and provides most of the medicinal properties of cannabis, like reducing nausea and inflammation, relaxing muscles and bringing on drowsiness.
Although THC and CBD content can vary from plant to plant, here are seven strains with good ratios for treating insomnia, ranked from least to most potent.
1. Blueberry Kush
3. Vanilla Kush
4. Bubba Kush
5. Grandaddy Purple
6. Purple Urkle
7. Blue Dream
To beat insomnia, experts say, it’s worth considering the method of delivery. If you have a hard time getting to sleep, smoking or vaping will give a quick and powerful sedative rush. For those who wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, edibles confer longer-lasting effects, which might continue into the next day. There’s no one solution for everybody — and people should never, ever rely on it as a sleep aid.
“It’s not a ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning’ situation,” says Solomon.
His advice? If you want to try a toke before bed, ”Go low and go slow, starting with a small dose and increasing it gradually until the desired outcome is reached."
But Given Time (or Heat), Any Kind of Weed Might Welcome Sleep
If the above strains are hard to come by, any old marijuana can be optimized for sleep — literally: Over time, as THC reacts to oxygen and heat, it turns into CBN (which is distinct from CBD). While only mildly psychoactive, CBN is considered a powerful cannabinoid for inducing sleep.
If you don’t have the time for aging your pot, Dr. Jordan Tishler of Harvard Medical School says strains “are often more marketing than fact” and believes that any cannabis can be used for sleep. The key is understanding temperature. CBN evaporates at around 380°F, and CBD at 392°, so a hotter vape will give the best outcomes for snoozing.
Because of its classification as a Schedule I drug, there’s a dearth of information on the exact impact marijuana has on sleep. Several studies have found that pot increases deep sleep and reduces REM sleep, but the outcome of that shift is unclear. Solomon says that a longer deep sleep phase restores the body, but Dr. Kevin Hill of McLean Hospital told Mic that reduced REM time will keep the brain from getting its best rest. And, as we've reported previously, we still have a lot to learn about the connection between toking up and passing out.