One of the major reasons that customers enter cannabis stores today is to help them find some rest, and one of the major questions we receive is what cannabis can do for sleep. Sleep difficulties are no light concern in this day and age. According to the CDC, at least 70 million Americans face chronic sleep problems. Lack of sleep can lead to some serious long-term effects, and thus should be addressed as soon as possible.

It is suggested that adults receive eight hours of quality sleep per night for healthy functioning, and yet few people appear on a track with that magic number. Sleep deprivation has been linked to memory issues, mood changes, a high rate of accidents, high blood pressure, a higher risk for diabetes, and a weakened immune system.

What are some benefits of high-quality sleep?

Due to the restoration of bodily systems, good rest helps to improve energy levels and positively boost mood. The brain is better able to form new neural connections that help us to process and maintain new information. Sleep leads to improved concentration and more productivity as a result. The heart is at less risk for unwanted cardiac issues. Blood sugar is naturally regulated in the body. The immune system is strengthened and becomes better at fighting infections.

While you are resting, your body is at work detoxifying organs and completing processes necessary to the restoration of homeostasis (internal balance). Not having quality rest time can be a major source of disruption in the body’s sending and processing of information. What is one of the major systems responsible for homeostasis? Here’s a hint: the cannabis plant helped us discover it. Yes, it’s the endocannabinoid system. We know from research on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that it is the primary system in the body responsible for balance and communication with other bodily systems (insert ECS Overview article). And we also have some evidence that the ECS is directly connected to our sleep.



We know that the ECS is potentially the primary system in the body that regulates and maintains homeostasis. It is also the system that responds most directly to cannabis, due to cannabinoids developed in the plant that mimic internal chemicals produced by the body (endocannabinoids). This regulation of homeostasis includes the sleep cycle and the circadian rhythm. 

According to research from the journal Current Neuropharmacology, there is strong evidence of modulation of the sleep-wake cycle by the endocannabinoid system. There is evidence that activation of the CB1 receptor induces sleep (Murillo). The CB1 receptor is one of two major receptor types found in the ECS. CB1 is the primary receptor type that is activated by THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most famous constituent in the cannabis plant. THC mimics our endocannabinoid called anandamide, also known as the “bliss molecule” and plugs directly into these receptors. This may be why THC has become an extremely popular sleep aid in modern culture. The ECS also helps to modulate serotonin, and serotonin production is known to be an integral component of helping us sleep. 

Chronic inflammation also appears to be a major result of endocannabinoid dysfunction. There is strong evidence showing cannabinoids and endocannabinoid regulation as primary methods for reducing inflammation. Lack of sleep is a primary factor in chronic inflammation for many people as well. When people find relief from chronic pain, they often find that they also sleep better. There is a good chance that turning to the endocannabinoid system to help regulate chronic conditions such as insomnia or inflammation may fare well. The Cannabis Health Index (CHI) has rated the effectiveness of cannabis on sleep disorders as probable, according to the research available.



All cannabinoids do not affect sleep equally and everyone experiences sleep difficulty for different reasons – thus, the proper cannabis regimen will vary for each individual. Let’s take a look at two major cannabinoids on the market for rest today. See Cannabis 101 for more information on these cannabinoids, and others. 


The most research-based evidence of improving sleep with cannabis falls on CBD (cannabidiol). CBD may be helpful for those with insomnia, Sleep Apnea, REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, and Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Disorder (Sleep Foundation). 

CBD works differently in the body than other popular cannabinoids – it helps slow the breakdown of endocannabinoids rather than plugging into receptors to produce more. This makes its effects feel more subtle at the moment, although CBD doesn’t lack any power. 

Among others, CBD activates the 5HT1A receptor which is directly linked to sleep and mood. CBD helps to regulate REM sleep, and also reduces cortisol levels which are connected to stress and anxiety. It may affect the signaling of adenosine, making it weightier in its brain signal and creating stronger pressure for sleep to occur. Adenosine is an endogenous chemical serving a multitude of roles, including the promotion and maintenance of sleep. CBD is also hypothermic – it cools the body down, which we know to be a powerful component for a good night’s rest. It is anxiolytic, calming anxiety and relaxing the mind. Anxiety, tension, and restless thoughts are known to be major factors of insomnia, and thus using CBD to reduce anxiety could directly impact sleep as a result. 

At low doses of consumption, there is evidence that CBD promotes wakefulness, while at higher doses promoting sedation. Sedation does not typically start below 25 milligrams, and for many people does not begin until the consumption of higher dosages. Each person will need to experiment with CBD to find the dosage that suits their body. Ingesting CBD will generally produce the best results, but effect onset is delayed to somewhere between 30 minutes and three hours. Smoking CBD will have an immediate onset, but a shorter duration. Many find relief and enough support with the use of CBD before bedtime. Those who don’t may want to consider exploring the realms of THC or other cannabinoids.

Please keep in mind that cannabis and CBD in particular can sometimes interact with pharmaceutical prescriptions. It is best to look into any potential interactions before starting a cannabis regimen if you are taking prescription medication.



THC is the primary psychoactive component in the cannabis plant, plugging directly into the endocannabinoid receptors to produce high levels of anandamide, the “bliss molecule”. There are many people for whom THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is just too mentally active, and CBD is thus a better avenue to go down for sleep support. However, some people never find the levels of sedation or relaxation they need from CBD and are able to tolerate some dosage of THC before bed. This generally helps them fall asleep quicker – THC is well-known for decreasing sleep onset latency. 

For those who prefer to smoke, searching for cannabis strains of Purple or Kush varieties are often successful bets when it comes to getting some shut-eye. Smoking will trigger the quickest onset of effects. These strains, and many others, are high in the terpenes myrcene and linalool which are known to promote both relaxation and sedation. Terpenes are essential oils produced by plants including cannabis and are responsible for the main aspects of smell, taste, and effect. Look out for strains like Grand Daddy Purple, Grape Ape, OG Kush, or Mango Kush. 

It should be mentioned that there is evidence that THC has the ability to block REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which plays a role in memory, dreams, emotional processing, and brain development. This is the time of night when we tend to have our most vivid, intense dreams. You may have a friend who is a heavy THC user and never seems to dream anymore, or you may have stopped remembering dreams yourself. This is probably due to the lack of REM sleep occurring. For individuals with PTSD or trauma that plays out overnight in anxiety-producing dreams, this could be extremely beneficial. However, when someone stops using THC after a long time, they may experience a rebound mechanism where their dreams come back even more intensely. The body attempts to bring back the REM that was lost during THC use, and will thus go into overdrive, producing more vivid dreams than ever before as a result.

 THC is also believed to increase slow wave sleep or deep sleep. Slow wave sleep is also considered important for the consolidation of memories and efficient daytime function. It’s important to know that there seems to be a dependency tolerance – you start to need more THC to get the same benefit, and may experience some withdrawal effects when stopping use. This can sometimes lead to heightened insomnia for a period of time while the body rebalances itself.


A Note on CBN:

In both legal and non-legal Delta9 THC states, you will often find CBN (cannabidiol) products to be primary recommendations for sleep aid. CBN is a degraded form of THC and is thought to be great for inflammation, pain, and anxiety. It is also known anecdotally to have a sedative effect, and many customers report drastically improved levels of sleep with some form of CBN. In terms of research, however, there is almost no evidence linking CBN specifically to improved sleep, and should thus be studied more extensively in addition to these other cannabinoids in order to improve our understanding. 


Finding the right blend and ratio of cannabinoids for your body has the potential to alter the way you rest at night and function during the day. Each person is truly unique in their endocannabinoid system and thus will require cannabis products that fit their individual body and needs. This often means that some combination of CBD, THC, and/or CBN will be necessary to find that sweet spot. Keep an earnest heart when exploring options and dosages, because attuning to the right thing for your body can make all the difference.

 Other lifestyle changes that alter the ECS, such as healthier food choices, exercise, stretching, meditation, and other forms of stress reduction, detoxification, and herbal supplementation can also support the improvement of sleep patterns. Making lifestyle changes in addition to finding the right cannabis supplementation will typically produce the greatest results for your well-being.


Man relaxing on laptop.