Cannabis for Sleep: Tips to Find the Best Product for Your Needs

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Cannabis can be a powerful tool for a good night’s sleep, whether you’re dealing with stress or simply age-related insomnia, a topic we discussed in a recent blog post.

However, when it comes time to find the best cannabis products for sleep, your choices may feel overwhelming. Today, we’ll take a look at cannabis products legally sold in medical and adult-use (recreational) dispensaries, breaking down the options. If you’ve ever been confused when it comes to strains (chemovars), ratios, or the pros and cons of edibles versus inhaled products, then today’s blog post is for you.

A Quick Refresher on THC, CBD and Terpenes

We previously talked about the role that the cannabinoids THC and CBD play in our post on using cannabis for pain.

  • CBD: This cannabinoid is the star player in hemp products which are federally legal. CBD hemp products are required to have below 0.3% THC, which is such a small amount that it’s not intoxicating and won’t get you high. You’ll also find CBD in cannabis products that contain higher levels of THC.
  • THC: The cannabinoid responsible for the “high,” if used in large enough amounts. Cannabis products containing over 0.3% THC remain illegal at the federal level and can only be legally purchased in states that have legalized adult-use (recreational) or medical marijuana.

Of course, CBD and THC aren’t the full story. Terpenes are increasingly understood to play a major role in cannabis’s therapeutic benefits. Plant terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many different plants—for example, the relaxing linalool terpene is found in lavender as well as cannabis.

Terpenes and other plant compounds work together with cannabinoids to create an entourage effect that provides therapeutic benefits beyond any one single compound. Terpenes can also help buffer THC’s intoxicating impact, based on research conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo.  

If you’ve ever wondered how some cannabis strains can promote relaxation and sleep while other strains are known for boosting energy and creativity, the answer is largely due to different terpene profiles. We’ll dig into this topic more below.

Cannabis for Sleep: Tips to Find the Best Product for Your Needs

Finding the Best CBD:THC Ratio for Sleep

You may hear budtenders, your friends and especially the Leaf411 nurses talk about the importance of understanding the “ratio” in products. They’re referring to cannabis products manufactured with specific ratios of CBD to THC. For example, a 1:1 ratio product will contain equal parts of CBD and THC, while a 5:1 ratio product will contain five times as much CBD as THC. Understanding different ratios can be a huge help when finding the best sleep product.

Many of our supporting members manufacture different ratio products in addition to THC products. We encourage you to check out each manufacturer’s website to see the range of ratios they offer. Here are some examples showing how different options can help you dial in your cannabis dose for sleep:

Many people find success with a ratio product that’s THC dominant. While these can be more challenging to find, several of our supporting members, including Conscious Medz, have developed products to address this need.

Our Recommendation for the Best CBD:THC Ratio for Sleep

What’s the best ratio to start with? This depends on two factors: (1) The cause of your insomnia (pain, inflammation, stress, mind chatter, etc); and (2) How sensitive your body is to THC. 

Typically, we suggest starting with the current gold standard which is a 1:1 ratio, equal parts of CBD to THC, following our mantra of starting with a very low dose and slowing building up. However, depending on your specific health concerns, you might do better with a different ratio. For example, if you have anxiety at night, a 2:1 ratio of 2 parts CBD to 1 part THC may be a safer choice since too much THC for your body can actually worsen anxiety. 

Remember that you can always call our free nurse hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411) or chat us from the Leaf411.org homepage for personalized guidance that will help you save time and money.

Cannabis pre-roll joints and cannabis flower on a white background.

What You Need to Know About Inhalable Cannabis for Sleep

You may be wondering how ratios work when it comes to cannabis flower (bud). Most cannabis sold in dispensaries is THC dominant, with very little CBD. That doesn’t mean that CBD-dominant strains don’t exist, though! They can be challenging to find and don’t necessarily provide the best sleep solution for everyone, however. 

Remember, a small amount of CBD alone can actually make your mind more alert. If you’re trying a CBD-dominant flower, you’ll want to experiment with your inhaled dose earlier in the evening versus when your head is about to hit the pillow to ensure you are feeling the sedation you desire. You can always adjust by adding a bit of THC if not.

As you recall, THC and CBD are only part of the story. In the next section, we’ll dive into different cannabis strains and talk about how they impact sleep quality.

Budtender holding flower in palm of hand, with three jars containing different cannabis strains.

Cannabis Strains and Sleep: Untangling the Puzzle

What’s a cannabis strain (chemovar)? That question can be tricky, but it’s important to understand when shopping for cannabis. (Note: We use the terms “strain” and “chemovar” interchangeably, though chemovar is a scientifically more accurate representation of the compounds in the plant.)

Broadly speaking, cannabis strains are often sorted into one of three categories at the dispensary:

  • Sativa: Provides an uplifting, energetic, creative high
  • Indica: Provides calm and varying degrees of sedation
  • Hybrid: Balanced effects

If you look at actual plant genetics, most of today’s legal cannabis is hybrid, combining the strongest genes from different plants to produce healthy flower. So why are these terms still used?

They continue to be used as a shorthand to describe the plant’s effects. In fact, those effects are mostly the result of other plant compounds—namely terpenes along with minor cannabinoids which give each strain its signature effect.

For example, our Supporting Member Seed & Smith offers two different flower strains, Midnite and White 99, with very similar THC potency levels. Based on that alone, you might expect both to have similar effects, but that’s not the case at all, in large part due to the different terpene profiles!

Seed & Smith’s Midnite cannabis nug

Midnite flower

Dominant Terpene: beta-Myrcene (sedating effect)
Subordinate Terpenes:
beta-Caryophyllene (stress relief)
Linalool (calming)
d-Limonene (stress relief but energizing)

Seed & Smith’s White 99 cannabis nug

White 99 flower:

Dominant Terpene: d-Limonene (stress relief but energizing)
Subordinate Terpenes:
beta-Caryophyllene (stress relief)
beta-Myrcene (sedating)
Linalool (calming)

Which one of these strains—Midnite or White 99—would you choose for the best chance of a restful sleep? 

Our Leaf411 nurses would suggest trying the Midnite flower due to the dominant terpene causing sedation. That potency range is quite high though, so a word of caution would also be given by our nurses to start with one inhalation first and assess if that is enough for your intention.

Cannabis Strains and Edibles

Some infused product manufacturers also create products that utilize plant compounds from specific strains, or which reference either Sativa or Indica type effects. You’ll see those listed on several of the products above. 

Strains are also impacted by cultivation factors, including whether the plants are grown outdoors or indoors along with individual cultivation processes including lighting, fertilizers, etc. That’s why your friend in another legal state might rave about the Black Ice strain for sleep, yet the flower you bought in your own state doesn’t compare.

All this is to say that while you may think strains are the entire story, it’s often not the case. However, strains can provide clues for what to expect.

Cannabis flower and gummies shown as two different options for sleep

Smokable Versus Edible Cannabis for Sleep

An additional consideration when shopping for cannabis for sleep is the route of administration—how you want to use cannabis.

To some extent, it’s a matter of personal preference and also the type of insomnia you’re trying to treat, whether that involves having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both.

Smoking cannabis can be a responsible, safe method of administration in legal states; however, deep stigma remains around inhaling cannabis. Likewise, some people have concerns about the safety of vapes following the spike in vape-associated lung injuries last year, though the CDC traced most of those cases back to counterfeit or illicit vape cartridges containing Vitamin E acetate or other contaminants. In the face of the current pandemic, many people have also decided to stop smoking any substance, including cannabis, opting for edibles instead. And lastly, you may simply live in an apt, condo or shared housing where smoking is prohibited.

When you smoke or vape cannabis, the effects can be felt very rapidly, often within minutes. The intoxicating effects from smoking or vaping typically last between 2-4 hours.

From a sleep perspective, smoking or vaping may be beneficial for people who have a difficult time falling asleep. Inhalation may not fully meet your needs if you also have trouble staying asleep, though, since the effects will typically subside within the 4-hour mark.

Edibles including candies, tinctures and capsules typically have a longer onset—the amount of time it takes before you feel their effects. You can expect ingestion to take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours before you feel the effects, though those effects will last a lot longer—typically from 6-8 hours.

Edibles can be a good option if you have a tough time staying asleep throughout the night. However, you’ll want to make sure your schedule allows a full 8 hours of time for sleep.

A New Option on the Market: Quick-Acting Cannabis Edibles

Many manufacturers, including Quiq and Wana, are manufacturing new quick-acting edibles that take effect much more quickly, similar to inhaled products when it comes to timing. These new fast-acting products are a wonderful alternative to help with falling asleep. Remember, though,  that what hits your body faster will also subside faster. Fast-acting ingestible products may take some trial and error before determining whether they’re better for early evening relaxation or insomnia.

Smiling young Black man in white hoodie making the “small” symbol with his hand, pinching together index finger and thumb.

The Leaf411 Mantra: Start Low and Go Slow (and Plan for a Full Night’s Sleep!)

If you’re using edible cannabis products, you’ll want to use the products 1-2 hours before bedtime instead of waiting until the moment you are climbing into bed. Timing your dose will allow you to relax before bedtime. Of course, it should go without saying, but don’t plan to drive while using any type of cannabis, because you never know how quickly the product will take effect.

Because everyone’s system is different, the minimum dose required for positive effects is also different—that’s why we always say to start low and go slow when trying a new cannabis product. How low? We suggest starting with 1/4 the suggested serving size on the package, or 1-2 mg of THC, whichever is lower.

If you’re smoking or vaping, this equals one inhalation at a time and waiting at least 15 minutes in between doses to assess your tolerance.

You may not feel anything at the lowest dose, but by starting low and going up slowly each night, you can build up your dose safely until you find the right amount that works for your body. When increasing by a milligram or less each night, you may still end up with a dose that makes you feel a bit too groggy in the morning or uncomfortable before falling asleep. If this happens, just go back to the dose that was comfortable and reassess after a few days. When using ingestible products (edibles and tinctures), it can take up to 2 hours for you to feel an effect, so allow plenty of time before increasing your dose.

Our Leaf411 nurses always guide our callers to safe use by cautioning about potential side effects from THC, which is dry mouth and an unsteady gait. We suggest keeping a glass of water at your bedside so there is no need to walk to the kitchen and risk falling when you feel the cannabis take effect. These precautions are very similar to those you’d take with any other sleep medications.

Get Your Cannabis Sleep Questions Answered During Our First Leaf Learning Series!

This Thursday, August 20, Leaf411 is launching our inaugural Leaf Learning Series: Get the 411 on Cannabis Therapeutics. Join us online from 4-7 p.m. MDT for a FREE beginner-friendly cannabis 101 presentation, followed by live Q & A with our own Co-Founder and CEO/ED Katherine Golden, RN, as well as Leaf411 Advisory Board member Dr. Dave Gordon from 4Pillars Health & Wellness. Sign up today at this link: https://hopin.to/events/leaf-learning 

Many of our supporting members will be on-hand sharing information about their products and ready to answer your questions, including live Q&As with Medically Correct’s President Bob Eschino (maker of Quiq and incredibles); Stillwater Brands Ripple; and CAASI CBD’s Founder and CEO Lori Peck.  Seed & Smith will host a virtual grow tour and Lightshade will also be providing a dispensary tour! You’ll also have the chance to meet one of Nature’s Gift Shop’s budtenders. We’ll also have a virtual expo hall with Wana, Ripple, Lightshade, Care by Design and Altus sharing information on their high-quality cannabis products.

Hop over to this link to reserve your spot: https://hopin.to/events/leaf-learning 

Also, be sure to sign up for our newsletter below, so that you can be the first to learn about upcoming events!


How to Use Cannabis

From Edibles to Vapes, Leaf411 Has Your Questions Covered

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

When we first started taking calls on the hotline, one of the biggest surprises was hearing how many people thought marijuana has to be smoked to be effective. In fact, we even featured this misconception as our first Question of the Month!

Many different types of marijuana (cannabis containing >0.3% THC – sold in dispensaries in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana) and cannabidiol (CBD) hemp products are available today, designed to fit a wide variety of needs. Your decision on how to use cannabis may be driven by personal preference. You might also consider factors such as how quickly a product will take effect, how long the effect will last, and what issues you’re targeting.

Our cannabis-trained registered nurses are always happy to answer your questions at no cost when you call our free, anonymous Leaf411 hotline 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411). 

However, we know you might not have specific questions yet. In our guide below, we provide information on different options for using marijuana and CBD products. You’ll also find tips for getting the right dose of this plant-based medicine.

Keep reading, or skip ahead using the links below.


Leaf411 Holiday Gift Guide

Share Your Love of CBD with Family and Friends

Medically reviewed by Katherine Golden, RN
Written by Denise Gonzalez-Walker

Whether you shop online, at the big box stores, or in local craft markets, you’ll likely come across CBD-based gifts for everyone, including the family dog.

Perhaps you’ve had good experiences with CBD products. It makes sense that you would want to provide the gift of CBD (which is also sometimes called hemp) to friends and loved ones who could also benefit from this wonderful plant.

You may also be looking for the perfect gift for yourself, as someone who’s curious to try CBD hemp as part of your wellness regimen.

Leaf411 is happy to present our CBD hemp gift guide, highlighting gift-worthy products from our partner business members. We fully review all our members to ensure their products are compliant with all regulations and are manufactured to the highest standards.

We also share tips for steering away from products that are little more than a lump of coal. After all, no one wants to give a gift that’s a dud.

Is Hemp for Everyone? A Word of Caution Before You Give

So you’re thinking about buying that awesome CBD tincture for you Aunt Deborah who complains of stiffness in the wintertime. Before you pull out your credit card, ask yourself these questions about the person you’re buying a gift for:

  • Are they pregnant, breastfeeding, or under the age of 18? There’s simply not enough evidence yet about on either side of the issue—risks versus benefits—when it comes to how CBD impacts developing fetuses, infants, children and teens. For that reason, Leaf411 suggests sticking with topical products like skin cream for this group.
  • Are they undergoing chemotherapy, taking blood thinners or other long-term medications? Cannabidiol works through the endocannabinoid system, with endocannabinoids broken down by enzymes. CBD is metabolized through specific liver enzymes that also play an important role in metabolizing certain medications. In short, CBD may impact certain medications in a similar way that grapefruit does. We recommend sticking with topical products for these folks to try first, which carry the lowest risk of medication interaction. Also, either you or your gift recipient are encouraged to consult with a physician or call our free nurse hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411) for help with your questions.
  • Do they have a job that requires drug testing? This is a tricky issue. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp products containing less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that provides the cannabis “high.” THC levels in full-spectrum CBD products are so low that you will not feel any psychoactive effects—however, there’s debate about whether they could trigger a positive drug test result. For people who work in construction, transportation, public safety, healthcare, the military or other industries, full-spectrum CBD may not be worth the risk of a career-ending positive drug test.

If you’re determined to buy a hemp-based gift for someone who has concerns about drug testing or is worried about even miniscule THC content, stay away from full-spectrum CBD products. Instead, look for products that specifically say “No THC” on the label, or which are either broad-spectrum or CBD isolate.

Broad spectrum products “should” have all THC removed, though the beneficial terpenes and flavonoids remain. Terpenes, which are present in both cannabis and hemp plants, do not impact drug tests. However, terpenes and cannabidiol work together creating the beneficial entourage effect.

CBD isolate products “should” contain only CBD. All THC, terpenes and flavonoids are removed by the manufacturer.

Why do we emphasize the word “should” when describing different product types? The CBD hemp industry currently lacks clear product labeling standards, and some manufacturers confuse the terms “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” in their advertising and on product labels.

This makes finding brands you trust especially important when looking for THC-free CBD. Does the manufacturer provide a certificate of analysis (COA) for their product? These are often listed on the manufacturer website in their own section (look along the main website header or footer for a link). COA lab results will verify whether the product contains trace amounts of THC. The COA will also confirm whether the product provides the CBD as advertised.

Leaf411 member businesses provide COAs for their products. Their customer support teams can help you find an item that fits your loved one’s needs, as well.

Our Leaf411 hotline nurses are also available to walk you through any manufacturers’ COA to determine if the product will deliver on its promises. Call us toll-free at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411) with your questions.

How to Choose CBD Hemp Gifts that Fit

When it comes to gifts for hemp newbies, stick with products that have familiar features and lower concentrations of CBD. Most everyone is familiar with how to use body lotion even if it contains cannabidiol. On the other hand, a CBD dab rig might be too extreme for Grandma!

Want something special for a friend who already uses CBD? Look for clues with the products they already use. Do they prefer topical creams? If so, look for new CBD hemp body care items they might like to try.

Hemp-Based Gifts for Skin Care and Beauty Enthusiasts

Hemp-based skincare products feel amazing during the cold, dry winter season. Cannabinol (CBD) has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that helps restore stressed dry skin. There are minimal risks associated with hemp skin care products, though you’ll want to carefully check the product label for other ingredients that could be irritating or unwanted. Check the manufacturer’s COA to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for when it comes to CBD content. Also, beware that hemp seed oil is not the same as cannabidiol/CBD—we explain the difference below.

This holiday season, Leaf411 business member Color Up Therapeutics is offering special hemp holiday sets geared toward relaxation, rejuvenation and travel. Gift sets like these provide a great opportunity to test out different hemp-based products!

CBD Products Designed for Guys

Men appreciate high-quality skin and hair products that are created just for them. CBD shaving cream and beard oil are growing in popularity, with many men finding they make for a better shave. Remember to always check the product ingredients and COA.

Clean Coconut, one of our founding members, offers Man Scrub to scour away dirt and grime while moisturizing skin. While this product is marketed toward men, we have a feeling there are women out there who might appreciate it as well!

Performance-Driven Hemp Gifts for Athletes

There’s been strong interest in CBD among professional and amateur athletes and it’s no wonder—high-quality hemp-based products can make a noticeable difference in post-game recovery. Since the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from the list of banned substances in 2017, athletes across multiple sports are using hemp to improve performance and reduce recovery times. It’s important to note that THC is still banned, though, so make sure any gifts for competitive athletes are THC-free.

Companies like Arcanum, one of our founding members, have developed products tailored to athletes’ needs, including beginner-friendly salt soaks and topical cooling gels.

CBD Pet Treats for Fido

At Leaf411, we love sharing dog-approved CBD treats with our four-legged friends. CBD can keep your dog’s tail wagging through the stressful holiday season. Older dogs also benefit from hemp-based treats during the wintertime, when colder temperatures limit outdoor activity and aggravate arthritis.

Everyone knows that chocolate is bad for dogs. But did you know that your CBD gummies and flavored tinctures may contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs?

When shopping for canine gifts, stick with CBD oil and treats developed specifically for pets. These products come in dog-friendly doses, often with flavors that your best friend will appreciate, like Arcanum’s Hemp Bacon pet tincture.

Our partner Color Up Therapeutics also offers pet CBD drops that include fish oil as a beneficial addition to cannabidiol.

Not sure about where to start with CBD and your pet? Veterinary Cannabis provides guidance to pet parents, veterinarians, and product creators about the medicinal properties of cannabis, as well as how to use CBD products with pets. Their Veterinary Cannabis library is a good place to start!

Don’t Forget the Family Cat!

If you’re a cat owner, you likely know that supplements and medications can be trickier with felines. Doses are different, and individual cats may respond differently to the same medications. Despite the challenges in finding the right CBD product for your cat and convincing them to ingest it, many cat owners report success.

Online retailer CBD Garage sells Earth Buddy brand hemp treats for dogs and cats that contain a blend of CBD, mushrooms and herbs.

Tips for Buying High-Quality CBD Hemp Gifts

CBD products are legal across the United States and are widely available in stores and online. Your biggest challenge can be finding a retailer you trust:

  • Can the seller answer your questions about specific product ingredients?
  • Do they provide COAs for products they’re selling, or know where to find them online?
  • Does the retailer offer customer support in case you or the gift recipient have questions or concerns?

Leaf411 business member CBD Garage is a good example of a responsible, trustworthy online retailer that ships products across the U.S. They offer a wide range of hemp-based products for people and pets, along with education and robust customer support.

Last Thoughts: Hemp Seed is Not the Same as CBD

Before we wrap up our gift guide, let’s talk about what isn’t CBD. Hemp seed or hemp seed oil, also called cannabis sativa seed oil, contains only trace amounts of CBD. While hemp seed oil may provide beneficial essential fatty acids for hair and skin, it likely won’t provide the benefits of cannabidiol that you’re looking for.

Product branding can make it tough, too. For example, a popular body care brand features a cannabis leaf and tag lines like “Get Baked,” though their ingredient lists make it clear that the products contain only hemp seed oil.

Some products contain both CBD and also hemp seed oil as the carrier agent that the CBD is infused into—these products will list both CBD and hemp seed oil separately.

Other brands confuse CBD oil with hemp seed oil, acting as if they are the same thing in order to charge the premium prices associated with CBD.

We’re not saying that hemp seed oil products don’t make great gifts—but if your goal is to provide the benefits of cannabidiol, these products won’t deliver.

With all the name variations, it can be easy to get confused! Just remember that hemp seed oil and cannabis sativa seed oil are the same thing, and do not contain significant amounts of CBD.

We Can Help

Still contemplating that CBD dab rig for Grandma? While our cannabis-trained nurses can’t do your holiday shopping for you, we’re happy to provide balanced information, including the pros and cons of different CBD hemp products. Contact us at the free hotline: 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411)