Cannabis and Insomnia: How Cannabis Can Help Us Sleep

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The topic of cannabis and insomnia is one we are often asked about, and with good reason!

Trouble falling asleep? Wake up after only a few hours’ sleep? Wake up too early and then can’t get back to sleep? Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep? You have insomnia and you are not alone.

An estimated 90 million Americans suffer along with you each and every night with the highest incidence occurring in people 60 years and older.

All too often, anti-harm reduction drug warriors fulminating against marijuana trot out insomnia as a prime example of how laws allowing for the use of marijuana medicinally are abused for trivial reasons rather than for “serious ailments.”

Far from being trivial, the impact of insomnia on an individual’s health is enormous.

Complications from insomnia include daytime fatigue, difficulty paying attention or focusing on tasks, tension headaches, gastrointestinal upset, lower performance on the job or at school, slowed reaction time while driving with higher risk of accidents, weight gain or obesity, poor
immune system function, increased risk and severity of long-term diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes and psychiatric problems, such as irritability, depression and anxiety.

Robert Goldberg, Ph.D. at The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest has stated that, "We should treat insomnia as it should be treated: a serious medical condition that has significant health and economic implications.” 

Market reported that in 2020 “The total
market of perscription and over the counter sleep “drugs” is estimated at $2.1 billion.”

Consumer Reports warns readers that all insomnia medicines, prescription and OTC, can cause dependency, and even worsen sleeping problems along with significant side effects such as daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, dizziness, unsteadiness, rebound insomnia, sleep-
walking, sleep-driving, memory lapses, and hallucinations.

Desperate for sleep, turning to extremes is all too commonplace. Michael Jackson died trying to get to sleep. The night of his death, his doctor had prescribed a cornucopia of medications including Valium, Ativan, Versed and Propofol.

Obviously, this is an unconscionable use of prescription pharmaceuticals, but Michael Jackson is not the first celebrity who died from using
legal medications to treat insomnia.  Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe all died from prescription pharmaceuticals used to get a good night’s sleep.

Instead of drowning them in prescription pharmaceuticals, if their doctors had instructed all these famous folks to ingest marijuana, they would have all lived another day as well as gotten a good night’s sleep.

Cannabis and Insomnia: Historically a Far Safer and Better Choice

Cannabis as an aid for sleep has been used safely and effectively for thousands of years.

Eighty-five years ago, before cannabis was declared an illegal substance, cannabis was found in almost every American medicine cabinet and one of its principal uses was as a sedative.

When grandma was tossing and turning not able to fall asleep, she would get up, go to the medicine cabinet, grab a bottle of tincture of cannabis, place a few drops under her tongue, get back into bed, snuggle up
next to grandpa and drift off to sleep.

By reducing some of the problems associated with insomnia such as pain, depression, anxiety, stress and nausea, cannabis can help induce sleep.

Even without any underlying problems, cannabis can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Although popular anti-insomnia medications like Ambien and Lunestra will get you to sleep, you quite often do not feel like you had a good night’s sleep when you wake up because these medications induce an artificial sleep.

With cannabis you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated because the cannabinoids in cannabis, like the cannabinoids your own body makes,
induce a natural night’s sleep.

How Much Cannabis to Take for Insomnia?

How much cannabis to take for insomnia is a very individual matter. 

Due to the government’s opposition to allowing research to go forth that would show positive benefits for cannabis, there is no research out there for determining how much to use other than anecdotal evidence.

You will have to determine how much you need to use to obtain the therapeutic dose necessary to fall asleep.

Unlike commercial drugs for insomnia that regularly kill celebrities and non-celebrities alike every year, no one has ever died from using cannabis, so determining the proper dose poses no significant health risks.

One thing you need to consider is how to ingest cannabis for insomnia.

Although inhaling cannabis remains the most common method of ingestion, many patients find that ingesting cannabis as an edible to be the most effective delivery route for insomnia. Although it takes
longer to achieve its effect when taken through the digestive system, the effects last longer.

A hotly debated issue is which strains of cannabis are most effecting in treating insomnia. Most people find indica strains to be more relaxing with a pronounced sedative quality.

Sativas tend to be more of an energizer. Due to hybridization of most cannabis strains, it is nearly impossible to find a pure indica or sativa strain.

We also now know that cannabis terpenes have more to do with effects than the broad categories if Indica versus sativa.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter much, as for most people the bottom
line is generally any pot is better than no pot.

A word of caution on Cannabis and Insomnia

A word of caution though. You don’t want to overdose as that will keep you awake rather than help you get to sleep.

Cannabis has bi-phasic effects.  This means that small and large doses can sometimes have completely opposite results!

If you are not already a cannabis consumer and not familiar with the
effects of cannabis, start with a very small dose and slowly increase intake until you find the dose that helps you get to sleep.

Remember edibles take much longer to have an effect than inhaling smoke or vapor.  Cheri Sicard's free edibles dosing class at Cannademy can help you determine your optimal dose.

But if you are not getting at least 6 to 8 hours sleep a night because you can’t fall asleep, stay asleep or you’re waking up to early, then cannabis may very well give you the good night’s rest that has been eluding you for far too long.

About the author 

Lanny Swerdlow

Lanny Swerdlow, RN is host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at

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