THC vs CBD for Sleep Problems


Among the assortment of therapeutic benefits that cannabis extract possesses, its role as an insomnia treatment and sleep aid is becoming increasingly common.

With the rise of legal hemp-based CBD products storming the cannabis marketplace in recent years, however, many insomnia victims have been asking themselves the question: “Should I use CBD or THC for sleep issues?”

It is a legitimate question and is one that is worth looking into with care and consideration. Given the fact that each compound can have different effects on the body, THC and CBD for sleep would offer varying levels of effectiveness in terms of the acquisition of healthy, natural rest.

In this article, we delve into the topic of CBD vs THC for treating sleep issues. This is so you, the consumer, can make the wisest decision in terms of what product to take.

CBD vs. THC for Sleep: Understanding the Physiology

In order to accurately discuss CBD versus THC for sleep issues and insomnia, we need to consider each compound’s specific effects on the human body. Also, we need to consider well effects each has on the normative sleep-wake cycle.

For starters, THC is the compound in cannabis that gets users high. Its ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and CNS produces an iconic psychoactive response.

CBD, on the other hand, is not known to interact directly with receptors in the brain. For this reason, it does not produce a high. Rather, it indirectly interacts with receptors in the body and the immune response system.

With these broad physiological actions in mind, we must then consider the specific chemical mechanisms that associate with sleep disorders. This is in addition to the effects cannabinoids have on the mechanism in question.

Available scientific literature

Fortunately, there has been a decent amount of scientific literature published on CBD vs THC for sleep aids. One of these publications is titled Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. In this study, researchers discovered that both CBD and THC have beneficial molecular actions for obtaining a healthy, natural sleep pattern.

However, they also noted that while CBD expressed a “therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia,” THC could “impair sleep quality [over the] long-term.” It was, however, observed that THC could decrease sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) over the short term.

The same study showed that CBD possesses “promise for REM sleep behavior disorder, [as well as] excessive daytime sleepiness.” The study pointed out that while THC and CBD for sleep likely possess advantageous properties, the end result of cannabis for sleep therapy will likely produce “mixed results.”

On a more anecdotal level, it has long been understood that heavy indica-dominant strains (such as Northern Lights, Granddaddy Purple, and OG Kush) produce deeply sedative effects that can work wonders for insomnia relief and general sleep therapy.

A bit surprising?

However, recent investigations have shown that CBD – more so than THC – may be the active “culprit” in these strains that helps to produce the relaxing, sleep-inducing effects.

For example, a 2013 study that examined the influence of CBD on sleep-wake cycles in rats showed that the “total percentage of sleep significantly increased in [groups that were treated] with 10 and 40 mg/kg [doses] of CBD.”

The study concluded with the following rather definitive statement: “Systemic acute administration of CBD appears to increase total sleep time.” This evidence points to cannabidiol rather than THC as the component capable of inhibiting insomnia and promoting sleep.

That said, it’s important to point out that this study was not a clinical trial. It was a controlled laboratory study on rats. Results should not be taken as the ‘be-all-end-all’ to the CBD vs THC for sleep debate.

THC or CBD for Sleep? It Might Depend on Where you Live…

Even if someone were to establish a clear “winner” in the THC vs CBD for sleep argument, consumers must realize that depending on where they live, they may not have access to high-quality THC products.

Case in point, recreational cannabis is only legal in 10 U.S. states; if you are not a resident of one of these states, your only real option in using cannabis for sleep therapy is to acquire a hemp-based CBD oil (more on that later).

Medical cannabis is of course an option given that it is now legal in 30 out of 50 U.S. states, but acquiring a valid medical marijuana card is no walk in the park; it often involves face-to-face doctor’s visits, cumbersome amounts of paperwork, and hefty application/consultation fees.

All in all, if you live in an area where marijuana dispensaries are an option (either recreationally or medically), then we simply advise trying out a couple of different products to see whether CBD or THC works better for sleep in your particular circumstances.

If you don’t enjoy the prospect of getting high, we would recommend trying out a high-CBD strain of cannabis that has almost zero THC in it. These products mostly come in the form of oral tinctures (oil droplets that you place under the tongue), but if smoking is your preferred method of consumption, there are several high-CBD strains that possess the sedative properties of cannabis without producing any psychoactive high.

If you do not live in an area where “testing out” various forms of cannabis products is an option, then perhaps your only real option is to order a high-quality CBD hemp oil from one of the USA’s select manufacturers that have an operational pilot hemp research agreement.

Understanding what’s meant by ‘CBD from hemp’

Hemp-derived CBD oil is a “double-edged sword” kind of topic. On the one hand, it’s great that “CBD” has become so widely available to residents across the US. You’ve likely seen it advertised for sale in health food shops, grocery stores, and so on.

However, what few people realize is there’s a large discrepancy between CBD oils on the market. There are massive differences between oils made from U.S. pilot hemp research farms, and “CBD oils” that come from low-grade Asian hemp fiber. Or even worse, “CBD oils” that come from hemp seed (seeds of the hemp plant do not contain CBD).

CBD hemp oils are in fact available in all 50 states (either in-store or via online ordering). The kicker is that few of these products offer much effectiveness in terms of therapeutic potential. In other words, few “hemp-derived CBD oils” that you see in will have much (if any) effect on sleep therapy.

That said, companies that operate under legal pilot hemp research farms usually produce quality CBD products. Many of these products are available to U.S. consumers in all 50 states. It just takes a fair amount of research to distinguish a “legitimate” CBD hemp oil from a low-quality one.

CBD or THC for Sleep: What if You Didn’t Have to Choose?

With all this talk of CBD vs THC for treating sleep issues, it is relevant to point out that you don’t always have to pick one or the other. In other words, there are products out there that contain equal amounts of both THC and CBD.

These 1:1 cannabis products have been grabbing the attention of some of the world’s most prolific marijuana researchers. It appears that the even ratio maximizes the full-spectrum therapeutic properties of cannabis, without over-emphasizing the psychoactive effects to the point of anxiety or paranoia.

Again, however, 1:1 CBD to THC strains for sleep are only available in licensed medical or recreational dispensaries. Keep this in mind when assessing your options.

CBD vs THC for Insomnia: What About THC-Induced Paranoia and Anxiety?

If you’ve ever smoked a high-potency indica strain like Northern Lights or OG Kush, you’ll know the sedation they produce. Unless you’re experienced and have a high tolerance, indicas typically work well in treating insomnia and other sleep issues.

As many cannabis users will tell you, however, anxiety and paranoia are possibilities when consuming large amounts of marijuana. While first-time indica users are likely to experience good sleep-inducing results, it appears that this body/mind relaxation has a tendency to morph into THC-induced anxiety over the long term.

If you remember the study we had mentioned earlier (in regard to the effects of THC for sleep), this anecdote would make perfect sense as the report observed a potential for THC to impair sleep quality over time.

Again, it would appear that in the ongoing debate of THC vs CBD for sleep therapy, CBD (or at least a 1:1 THC-to-CBD product) would be preferable over other high-THC/low-CBD options.

Final Thoughts on THC vs. CBD for Treating Sleep Issues

There is no clinical data suggesting that one cannabinoid is “better” than another for treating sleep and insomnia. Many individuals experience better sleep when consuming high-THC Indica strains. Others, however, have found that over the long-term excessive THC can morph into onset anxiety and even paranoia. Of course, this is the exact opposite effect you’re trying to achieve if sleep is your goal.

It’s not easy to make one single recommendation in terms of THC vs. CBD for sleep therapy. If we must, however, we would suggest trying a 1:1 THC-to-CBD strain. Or, perhaps, a high-CBD/low-THC oral cannabis oil. This is assuming you have legal access at a licensed dispensary.

If you do not have access to a large selection of cannabis products, we suggest doing some research on hemp. Legal hemp-derived CBD oils are available for online ordering, and most brands ship nationwide. While there are a lot of low-quality products out there, there are also many high-quality manufacturers. These companies are producing CBD hemp oils with many of the same medicinal benefits as full-spectrum cannabis.

While these suggestions may not outwardly solve the ongoing argument of CBD vs THC for sleep and insomnia, hopefully they will at least set you in the right direction for achieving healthy, natural rest.