Doctors say cannabis for sleep isn’t as easy as T-H-C

cannabis for sleep

According to a Compare the Market survey, almost half of Americans don’t get a good night’s sleep. Respondents shared that they were most likely to watch television, listen to music, or shower to help them get to bed. Despite the bounty of cannabis sleep products on the market, weed didn’t make the list.

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Though this pool of respondents wasn’t interested in weed for sleep, that doesn’t mean nobody is. The Brightfield Group polled cannabis consumers and found that 54 percent seek out the plant in pursuit of restful slumber.

With the current gray legality and lack of scientific research wholly accepted by the medical world, professionals are split on the matter. However, some have an opinion on sleep and weed.

Doctors speak on cannabis and sleep

Chester Wu, MD. is double-board certified in psychiatry and sleep. He cited the personalized nature of the plant as an issue.

“The impacts of cannabis on sleep and how you’ll individually react to cannabis are difficult to pinpoint because of the many different ways individuals react to the drug. Effects can be influenced by several factors,” said Dr. Wu.

How someone chooses to take cannabinoids, whether they inhale or ingest them, plays a vital role in the impact a weed sleep product could have on a person. Additionally, someone’s individual endocannabinoid system and physical biology might impact the efficacy and safety of weed. For example, someone with low liver function will likely not experience edibles the same way as someone with a liver in tip-top shape.

What cannabinoids someone takes is equally important, according to board-certified psychiatrist and neuroscientist Dr. Dave Rabin.

“There are many other cannabinoids that are active in the body that have a potential therapeutic effect that improves sleep,” Dr. Rabin explained, “Early data has come out from a number of different groups evaluating these other cannabinoids such as cannabinol, known as CBN, cannabidiol, known as CBD, particularly when used in combination with low doses or zero delta-9 THC, have minimal risk…but can be extremely helpful in promoting sleep and especially helping people fall asleep and sleep through the night.”

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The right weed for sleep

The key to using cannabis for sleep is to find an effective product, and signs point to CBD and CBN over THC this time. Many cannabis products have high THC content, but as markets mature, minor cannabinoids gain supremacy.

According to these experts, less psychoactive cannabinoids –specifically CBN and CBD–are the best option for sleep. In fact, if used daily in high doses, delta-9 THC may worsen sleep quality over time. Dr. Rabin recommends avoiding THC at night, opting to max out at one or two milligrams in the hours before bedtime.

Even with the THC caveat, the plant has fewer recorded side effects than common pharmaceutical sleep medications like Ambien, Trazodone, and Benzodiazepines. In response, more medical professionals are recommending weed for sleep.

“A lot of modern psychiatrists, psychologists, and physicians who have seen their patients struggle with sleep and have a lot of side effects from prescription sleep medications are now starting to integrate psychoactive cannabinoids like CBN and CBD to help people sleep more effectively and have fewer side effects,” Dr. Rabin shared.

Building a tolerance to weed

Those relying on cannabinoids for sleep often share the same issue: a building tolerance. The concept of building a tolerance to weed isn’t new; look at the ongoing discourse surrounding t-breaks.

“An unknown right now is the degree to which cannabis affects sleep architecture and how this potentially changes with long-term use. Even tolerance with long-term use isn’t conclusive,” Dr. Wu highlighted.

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Still, the sleep expert had tolerance-avoidant tips for those who take cannabinoids before bed: use it intermittently at the lowest effective dose. In the case of using cannabis products for sleep, daily use is not recommended. Even with a built-up tolerance, there’s no evidence that weed negatively impacts sleep quality.

“Cannabis generally does not worsen sleep quality. Even folks that are using high-THC products will often sleep better if they’re using the right products for a short time. But we build tolerance to THC more quickly, and it can over time result in lack of improvements in sleep,” Dr. Rabin said.

The best way to get sound sleep and avoid building tolerance is to focus on less psychoactive cannabinoids. Dr. Rabin believes the body doesn’t get used to these compounds as quickly as THC. However, like most aspects of cannabis effects, how someone uses weed for sleep is personal. One person may rest easy with CBN, while another might prefer 1 mg of THC in their sleep gummies.

Does cannabis help you sleep?

People commonly cite sleep as a reason to consume cannabis. According to these experts, the most effective way to harness the power of pot for sleep is to focus on CBN and CBD rather than THC. These minor cannabinoids, and possibly others, may help people fall asleep and rest easy all night.

Though the effects may differ from person to person, these cannabinoids could be vital. Until further research is published, the best bet is to follow the experts and always consult a doctor before mixing cannabis with other medications.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.