10 Cannabis Strains to Try for Sleep

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Just like exercise and diet, sleep is a crucial component of healthy living. The average person should aim for 7 hours of sleep each night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

But plenty of adults have a hard time getting enough sleep. Maybe you have a hard time falling asleep. Or maybe it’s staying asleep that’s the hard part for you.

While the usual suggestions of avoiding caffeine later in the day, getting exercise, and limiting screen time before bed can make a big difference in your sleep habits, they aren’t always enough.

That’s partly why a growing number of people are exploring cannabis as a potential sleep aid. But is it actually affective? And which strains are best for sleep?

Here’s a look at what experts do and don’t know about cannabis and sleep, along with some strains that may help you get some shut-eye.

While it’s still early days when it comes to scientific research investigating the full impact of cannabis on sleep, researchers have made a few interesting discoveries around THC and CBD, the two most well-known cannabinoids.

THC

For decades, scientists have been conducting research into the effects of THC, the cannabinoid that’s largely responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis.

2020 reviewTrusted Source of existing research suggests that THC does seem to help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep. But it also appears to decrease REM sleep, which is where dreams happen.

The authors note that people can have different levels of tolerance to THC depending on how often they consume it. What helps an occasional consumer sleep might not do much for someone who regularly uses cannabis.

They also note that many of the studies around cannabis and sleep are low-quality, making it hard to draw any firm conclusions.

Others are concerned about how taking a break from cannabis might result in cannabis withdrawal, which can impact sleep. But again, a review of the research around this link acknowledges that the studies are inconsistent.

CBD

More recently, researchers have studied the effects of CBD, the non-impairing cannabinoid found in higher concentrations in some strains of cannabis.

Several studies included in the 2020 review mentioned above suggest that THC has a lulling, sedating effect while CBD has a reviving effect. But the authors note that CBD consumers have reported a modest improvement in sleep length and quality.

They also note that Sativex, a pain-reliving mouth spray containing almost equal amounts of CBD and THC, was found to improve sleep in people with pain-related sleep disturbances.

The verdict

There’s not a concrete answer to the cannabis-and-sleep debate. Maybe THC is the magic ingredient. Maybe it’s CBD. Maybe it’s a specific combination of the two.

To make things more confusing, some newer theories suggest that terpenes — the compounds that give cannabis its flavor and aroma — might play a big role in the effects of cannabis.

While there’s little clinical evidence around this theory, the cannabis review site Leafly used aggregated self-reported data to determine which terpenes seemed to provide the most relief from insomnia.

They suggest that strains high in these terpenes may be a good option for sleep, including:

  • terpinolene
  • myrcene
  • caryophyllene

Based on all of this, it seems that strains with a small-to-moderate amount of THC and a small amount of CBD could be helpful if you’re new to cannabis. If it feels ineffective, you can try a strain or product with slightly more THC.

Aside from THC, CBD, and terpenes, there’s the issue of sativas versus indicas.

Cannabis menus frequently categorize products as being either an indica, sativa, or a hybrid of the two, based on the plant origin.

Products derived from cannabis sativa plants are known to be energizing, while those derived from cannabis indica plants are known to be sedating. Hybrids fall somewhere in between, depending on how dominant the sativa and indica elements are.

If it’s better sleep you’re after, strains labeled as indica or indica-dominant hybrids are a good starting point. You can also tell dispensary staff that you’re looking for something with indica properties.

However, not all consumers report experiencing these effects. Plus, botanists have noted that there aren’t any molecular differences between the two plants. They simply look a bit different from each other (sativas are taller with thinner leaves, and indicas are stockier).

While far from perfect, the sativa versus indica distinction can be a helpful way to narrow down the right product for you.

People report having good results with the following strains when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Just keep in mind that strains can vary from brand to brand, so your experience might be different depending on the product you use.

HOW WE CHOOSE STRAINS

The following strains were chosen using Leafly’s strain explorer and consumer reviews. THC and CBD percentage ranges reflect data reported by Leafly, WikiLeaf, and AllBud.

1. Hindu Kush

Depending on how much THC is in the product, Hindu Kush can be suitable for moderate to experienced consumers who want a potent indica widely reported to lull the sleep-challenged into a slumber.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15 to 32 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

2. Grandaddy Purple

This is another indica strain that’s actually purple in color and is known for its sedating, muscle-relaxing effects. It’s a classic cultivar beloved by the sleep-challenged — but watch that THC content! If you don’t have much experience with cannabis, beware the mid-to-high end of the spectrum.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 12.5 to 32 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

3. Harlequin

If you’re hesitant about the psychoactive effects of THC, research suggests that consuming THC with a decent amount of CBD may mellow things out a bit.

Harlequin is a “1:1” strain , meaning it has nearly equal amounts of CBD and THC. It’s a good option if you’re new to cannabis or find that high-THC products make you feel anxious or paranoid. Its higher CBD content may also work better for folks dealing with pain-related sleep issues.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 7 to 15 percent
  • CBD: 8 to 10 percent

4. Grape Ape

Interested in exploring a strain high in myrcene, one of the terpenes suspected of being good for sleep? Consider Grape Ape, which can have a moderate to high amount of THC and is typically rich in this earth compound.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15 to 25 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

5. Girl Scout Cookies

Experienced consumers looking for a powerful sleep aid might want to consider Girl Scout Cookies, a high-THC, indica-dominant hybrid strain. It’s also rich in caryophyllene, another terpene that might be good for sleep.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 25 to 28 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

6. Pink Kush

A classic strain beloved by nighttime consumers, Pink Kush is another indica fave in the kush family with body-relaxing effects.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 12 to 35 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

7. ACDC

While existing researchTrusted Source suggests that THC is largely responsible for cannabis’ sedating effects, it’s unclear if you actually need to consume that much of it.

ACDC combines a low amount of THC with higher levels of CBD. Just keep in mind that CBD may make you feel a bit alert.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 1 to 6 percent
  • CBD: 14 to 20 percent

8. Gelato

While lots of consumers love this strain for hanging out with friends, it’s also known to have warm, comforting effects that may be useful for unwinding at home.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 17 to 25 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

9. Sherbert

Also known as Sunset Sherbert, this is another strain frequently reported to have warm, calming effects that are helpful for both social gatherings and pre-bed routines.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 15 to 24 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

10. Wedding Cake

A cross between Cherry Pie and GSC, Wedding Cake can have relaxing, calming effects, but watch for its appetite-stimulating properties — consume after dinner if you’re headed to bed.

THC and CBD content:

  • THC: 16 to 25 percent
  • CBD: <1 percent

The onset times of the effects of different cannabis products can vary. If taking edibles, consume a few hours before bedtime — ideally on an empty stomach before dinner.

If smoking or vaping, the onset times are much shorter, and you can consume cannabis closer to bedtime.

Cannabis can also have negative effects that are unpleasant in particular for new consumers.

Depending on the type of cannabis and your tolerance to THC, it may cause:

  • feelings of anxiety or paranoia
  • insomnia
  • drowsiness
  • increased appetite
  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • dizziness
  • rapid heart rate
  • slowed reaction time
  • coordination issues

If you’re new to cannabis, start by going low and slow with a lower-THC strain, using only a small amount at a time.

While there are plenty of positive anecdotal reports of the sleep-inducing effects of cannabis, it’s important to remember that not everyone will experience the same effects. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t experience what others report — it could take time to find the right products that help.

Be mindful that research is limited. While many report that cannabis is helpful to sleep, it’s unclear how much you should use and whether there are long-term effects on sleep or cognitive function.

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