Cannabis for sleep disorders

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) controls many bodily functions such as pain perception, memory, and sleep. An analysis by Canadian researchers of 24,189 user data from the cannabis app Strainprint showed significant relief from insomnia. Discomfort decreased by more than half. Indica-dominant cannabis strains, which contain mainly psychotropic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), were preferred.

Sleep disorders – widespread in the population

An estimated 10 percent of adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Nearly one-third occasionally suffer from sleep disorders. Follow-up studies showed that 70 percent of patients still suffer from symptoms one year later. Half still sleep poorly even three years later.

Complaints of insomnia (sleep disorders):

– Difficulty falling asleep

– Trouble sleeping through the night

– Non-restorative sleep

– Impairment of work performance, quality of life and mental health

Furthermore, sleep disorders rarely occur alone, but are often accompanying symptoms of other mental and physical illnesses. The sleepless nights further increase the level of suffering.

Evaluation of around 25 thousand records from a cannabis app

The Canadian research team evaluated 24,189 treatment sessions. The sample includes three years of data recorded between February 2017 and February 2020 from 991 users with insomnia under real-world conditions. Before and after cannabis use, app users rated the severity of their insomnia from 0 to 10, with higher digits indicating worse sleep. On average, the 991 participants rated insomnia as 7.35 on the scale. In addition, affected individuals documented cannabis use data such as cannabis type, application method, and cannabinoid content.

Improved sleep with cannabinoids

Cannabis was able to significantly improve the poor sleep quality score of 7.35 across all age groups: Sleep disturbance decreased by over half to 3.2 after cannabis application. What time of day to use for restful sleep could not be ascertained, as Strainprint did not specify any shift work.

In 2004, a study with young adults showed that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) does not influence the sleep architecture, i.e. the physiological sequence of sleep phases. This changes when combined with non-psychotropic cannabidiol (CBD). With THC/CBD-balanced cannabis medication, the researchers observed a decrease in deep sleep, and at higher doses, wakefulness phases also increased. Despite these results, the participants felt sleepier under cannabis. The researchers concluded that CBD influences wakefulness in a dose-dependent manner. The activating and sedating effects of THC and CBD can potentially promote sleepiness without causing daytime sleepiness.

Indica-dominant cannabis strains preferred

Overall, cannabis strains of all product categories were perceived as sedative. However, certain cannabis strains are preferred: almost two-thirds of the participants used indica-dominant cannabis strains that are considered sedating for sleeping. CBD-rich cannabis products were used by about one in seven of the app users. Only about 7 percent preferred sativa-dominant strains, which are said to have a stimulating effect.

Cannabis categories used:

– Indica (38.3%)

– Indica-dominant hybrid (26.7%)

– CBD-dominant (13.8%)

– Balanced hybrid (12.7%)

– Sativa (4.5%)

– Sativa hybrid (2.5%)

The different effects may be the result of the entourage effect, in which phytocannabinoids and other constituents such as terpenes in cannabis act synergistically. However, this is exactly where a weakness of the study lies, as strain names are not uniformly defined and therefore may have different terpene profiles.

Further studies needed

More detailed research should be conducted on the relationship between chemical composition of the cannabis product and perceived effects. Future studies should incorporate varying terpene and cannabinoid concentrations. These findings may make it possible to accurately classify cannabis strains and thus provide more accurate product information for cannabis patients. Future double-blind studies will further explore the efficacy and safety profile for sleep disorders.


Kuhathasan N, Minuzzi L, MacKillop J, Frey B The Use of Cannabinoids for Insomnia in Daily Life: Naturalistic Study J Med Internet Res 2021;23(10):e25730 URL: DOI: 10.2196/25730

About Minyi Lü

Minyi Lü suffers from chronic pain due to her finger arthritis. She has been treating her complaints very successfully with medicinal cannabis since 2017. As a pharmacist in internship, she now brings her know-how to report on the latest scientific findings around medicinal cannabis.