Sleep is vital to our health. Many health problems like stress, headaches, pain, and others can often be a result of a lack of sleep. According to Matthew Walker in his eye-opening book ‘Why We Sleep’, “sleep loss increases levels of circulating endocannabinoids”.5 This isn’t surprising, as our endocannabinoid system acts across body systems to restore balance. Cannabis, containing phytocannabinoids, imitates this natural system. Modern life can be stressful, impeding our body’s natural coping mechanisms. While the body and mind might be willing, even demanding sleep, sometimes it just won’t come.
First Thing’s First: Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Our favourite three ways to use cannabis as a sleep-aid are most effective when combined with proper sleep hygiene. Cannabis can certainly help you sleep when life is chaotic and needs the edge taken off. But cannabis alone is a short-term solution to improving sleep over the long-term.
What is sleep hygiene? The Sleep Foundation stresses that: “Strong sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene.”4
When you combine mindful cannabis use with good sleep hygiene habits, you build an arsenal of powerful tools to effectively combat light sleep, restlessness, and insomnia.
Method 1: Vape a Heavy Indica Cannabis Strain for Sleep
If you’re looking for a way to wind down and put your mind at ease, vaping cannabis is the way to go. Inhalation is the fastest way to feel the effects of marijuana. It also gives you the most control over your experience.
Vaping a heavy indica cannabis strain is a good way to induce couch lock and sleepiness. These strains tend to have higher concentrations of CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which reduces anxiety and brings about relaxation. Sativa strains are notoriously energizing, often with higher ranges of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, which stimulates creativity and euphoria. If sleep is your goal, ensure that the strain you pick is either pure Indica or an Indica-dominant hybrid. A good balance of THC, CBD, and the other 144 cannabinoids present in cannabis is required to bring about deep sleep.
Vaping vs Smoking Cannabis for Sleep
Here at Sacred Meds, we strongly suggest vaping pure cannabis buds as a safe, enjoyable alternative to smoking them, especially before bed. Smoking can irritate your throat and inflame your airways. This can inhibit clear breathing during sleep, which can cause light, disturbed sleep. Poor breathing during sleep also limits the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood. This can leave you feeling drowsy and unrefreshed upon waking. We are so passionate about advocating for vaping over smoking that we put together an article ‘Smoking VS Vaping’ to explore the topic in depth.
Make vaping your favourite indica cannabis strain a cornerstone of your bed-time wind-down ritual. We suggest a cup of valerian root tea1 and a good book go along with it.
How to Vape Cannabis for Sleep
We love Kush strains and Indica-dominant hybrids for sleep. They are renowned for body sedation, couch lock, and increasing sleepiness. Some Indica-dominant hybrids like Afghani Hash Plant and Rock Star Kush have a creativity-enhancing onset, enhancing auditory and visual sensations. If you like to Netflix and chill before bed, we highly recommend MKV Train and Violator Kush. GSC is also a wonderful strain to unwind and fall asleep to.
Depending on how long it takes you to wind-down, start vaping your Indica-dominant cannabis strain during this time. This could be an hour or more before bed. You should start to feel euphoric and relaxed within five minutes of vaping an Indica cannabis strain. Vape more as needed. You should begin to feel sleepy within 30 minutes to an hour.
Method 2: Cannabis Edibles for Sleep
Ingesting cannabis is one of the most effective ways to use it as a sleep-aid. While vaping an Indica strain will relax you, it won’t sedate in the same way ingested cannabis does. The reason is 11-hydroxy-THC, the by-product of THC metabolization in the liver. This compound is a highly effective sedative and induces very deep sleep.
If you have an option, make sure you use an indica edible over a sativa edible. Twisted Extracts differentiates between the two, as well as CBD edibles for totally non-psychoactive edibles. If the strain isn’t specified, then it should be fine for sleep, but be prepared for a wider range of experience. A sativa edible, like THC Sativa Cara-Melts by Twisted Extracts while also ultimately sedating, can sometimes have the odd effect of waking you up at a certain point when the high kicks in. This rarely happens with indica edibles like THC Indica Cara-Melts by Twisted Extracts, whose phenotype induces additional couch lock and body relaxation that will mitigate the rousing effects of a peaking psychoactive high. A 1:1 CBD to THC edible like 1:1 Black Cherry Zzz Bombs by Twisted Extracts also optimizes sleep.
If you’re interested in making your edibles, our article ‘Cooking with Cannabis 101: Tip and Tricks for perfect Edibles’ has you covered. When you have this oil or butter around, you have a wonderful natural sleep aid that can be added directly to your dinner.
How to Use Cannabis Edibles for Sleep
Edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to take full effect. The onset can also range from gradual to fully sedating. Your overall sleep hygiene habits will greatly affect this onset, as will the dosage. It can therefore take some time to figure out an edible sleep-aid protocol that works for you. Start low, go slow, and mentally prepare yourself for sleep as you’re dosing, at a minimum 30 minutes before bed.
Method 3: Cannabis Tinctures & RSO oil for Sleep
The drawback of edibles is that they need a sufficient carrier, meaning calories. Not everyone wants to eat their sleep aid. For dental health sticklers, they can also make you too sleepy to brush your teeth before bed. Cannabis still has you covered.
Tinctures absorb quickly because they are designed to be used sublingually, meaning you place the liquid under your tongue. In the way that inhalation allows cannabinoids to directly enter the bloodstream through the lungs, cannabinoids are absorbed similarly sublingually. Make sure you select a tincture that has a good balance of CBD to THC, like 600mg CBD: 600mg THC by Daily or even more THC, like 400mg CBD:800mg THC by Daily for a heavier sedative effect.
RSO oil, or Rick Simpson oil, is a concentrate with very high levels of cannabinoids for heavy sedation. It can be consumed like cannabutter, as an additive to food, or applied sublingually like a tincture. As it is highly concentrated and produced using solvents, smoking is not recommended for maximal therapeutic benefits.
How to use Tinctures and RSO Oil for Sleep
The sublingual application of tinctures and RSO oil will produce a quicker onset than edibles, which have to travel through the digestive tract before entering the bloodstream. Still, effects can take up to 30 minutes. As with edibles, be mentally prepared for sleep as you’re dosing. Mindfulness is a significant part of good sleep hygiene.
Combine 3 Methods for Sleep
Vaping indica cannabis strain flowers, eating edibles, and using tinctures can all be safely combined for maximal results. Always start small if you’re new to using cannabis as a medicinal or recreational herb. To further your learning about cannabis, we’ve put together a series of articles: Cannabis 101: A Guide to Cannabis Strains, Cannabis 102: A guide to Cannabinoids, and Cannabis 103: A Guide to Terpenes. We hope you find them useful!
1 Bent, S., Padula, A. and Moore, D. (2015) “Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” PMC US National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/ (Accessed 14 March 2021).
2 Blair Wellness Center (2021) “How to Use Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) A message from our Clinical Director on the benefits and uses of Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), a highly concentrated form of medical cannabis.,” Blair Wellness Center, [online] Available from: https://blairwellness.com/how-to-use-rick-simpson-oil-rso/ (Accessed 14 March 2021).
3 Medic, M. (2020) “Seven cannabis strains that could help treat insomnia,” National Post, [online] Available from: https://nationalpost.com/cannabis-health/seven-cannabis-strains-that-could-help-treat-insomnia/wcm/3538421a-f036-4adc-be8f-a90a672f157a (Accessed 12 March 2021).
4 Suni, E. (2020) “Sleep Hygiene What it is, why it matters, and how to revamp your habits to get better nightly sleep,” Sleep Foundation, A OneCare Media Company, [online] Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene (Accessed 12 March 2021).
5 Walker, PhD, M. (2017) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, New York, NY, Scribner. Kindle Edition, Loc 2818.