Do Sativa or Indica strains offer better sleep?

Do Sativa or Indica strains offer better sleep?


Sam North is an experienced cannabis consultant and writer who provides education and guidance for businesses, commercial projects, and private clients. With over 5 years of industry experience, Sam is passionate about the potential of cannabis to help restore balance and well-being into people's lives.

Sativa and Indica are the two main types of medical cannabis, and while they are essentially the same plant, they can have vastly different effects on the mind and body. With recent studies suggesting that the differences between the two may be more nuanced than the recreational cannabis market would have you believe, the question of “Do Sativa or Indica strains offer better sleep?” is becoming increasingly relevant.

Classically, Sativa cultivars are thought to offer a more energizing, uplifting, and euphoric experience. Indica's, on the other hand, can provide a more sedating, relaxing, and calming experience. So, in this typical way of thinking, it is believed that Sativa dominant strains would not make you sleepy, while Indica dominant strains would.

However, recent research has shown that these traditional effects may be more complicated than originally thought. What researchers now believe is that, while pure Sativa and Indica strains do offer different therapeutic benefits, the whole-plant effects of a given strain largely depend on the specific combination of cannabinoids and terpenes, as well as its overall potency.

But, with the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence pointing to the classic way of dividing Sativa and Indica dominant stains being at least somewhat true, it is still possible to make educated guesses as to which side of the genetic split may be more likely to help you sleep.

Sativa dominant strains

Hailing from the temperate plains of central and eastern Asia, pure Sativa strains and options with heavy Sativa dominance are usually associated with offering patients a more uplifting and energetic experience.

Most people who have never tried cannabis might find that description a little surprising, as cannabis usage is more often linked to feelings of lethargy and low motivation (especially in the media), but the opposite can actually be true.

Sativa dominant strains, while often more energizing overall, can still provide a sense of relaxation and stress relief. As such, some people may experience a feeling of relaxation after consuming a Sativa strain, particularly after the initial surge of energizing effects has eased. In most cases, the sedative effects of Sativa cultivars are more likely to be felt as a soothing body high than actual heavy drowsiness, but this is not always the case.

That initial cerebral buzz we just mentioned is great for those looking to boost their creativity, focus, and productivity levels, but it may not be ideal for those looking for restful sleep. As such, Sativa dominant options are more commonly prescribed for daytime use, and for those looking to medicate without feeling overly drowsy.

Indica dominant strains

Indica-dominant strains are frequently recommended for those looking for help with sleep, in part due to the fact that they are usually associated with a more relaxing range of effects.

Originating from the mountainous Hindu Kush regions spanning India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan – Indica genetics are typically used to produce medicinal strains with strong sedative qualities that can help with a range of issues, sleep included.

While pure Indica varieties may have a greater potential to induce sleep, this doesn't hold true in every circumstance. A strain can be Indica dominant while still offering high rates of terpenes related to alertness, so it's still important to do your research, read patient-based reviews, and speak to a healthcare professional before making a selection.

The best terpenes for sleep and relaxation

Recent research into how cannabis works has revealed that a strain's unique terpene profile can have just as much of an impact on its effects as the cannabinoid ratio.

This is known as the "entourage effect", and while it does complicate things slightly, with just a little understanding of the individual terpenes, it can be used to make more educated decisions about which medical strain may work best for your needs.

When looking for a strain to aid with getting some much-needed sleep, there are several terpenes that have been identified as having a sedative effect. Look for options that contain.

  • Caryophyllene
  • Myrcene
  • Linalool
  • Nerolidol
  • Alpha Pinene

Factors affecting sleepiness

While the administration of medical cannabis can make a hefty impact on how sleepy you feel, and the quality of sleep you get, it is anything but a magic cure-all. To ensure you get the best sleep possible, there are a range of contributing factors that need to be taken into account.

Biological factors should be considered first and foremost, as a variety of physiological ailments can have adverse effects on your sleep. Anxiety, depression, digestive issues, and chronic pain (among a range of other conditions) can all play a hand in the quality and length of your sleep. Medicinal cannabis has been shown to help with many of these issues, but each case should be taken individually and managed with the help of a qualified medical professional.

Lifestyle habits are also key players in a good night's rest, as things like diet and exercise can greatly affect the body's reaction to sleep. Those who lead sedentary lifestyles run the risk of suffering from poor-quality sleep, as do people with irregular and unhealthy eating habits.

Environmental factors should also be taken into consideration. Setting up your bedroom to be conducive to sleep by using a comfortable bed, having the correct temperature set, and restricting light can help you drift off easier and faster. Screen time should be kept to a minimum an hour or so before bedtime, and ideally, nights should be free of any stressful activities.

And then we have the factors related to the medicinal cannabis itself. Each and every person will react to different strains dissimilarly. The best way to figure out the strain that works for you is to first consult with a qualified medical professional that has experience working with medicinal cannabis. They will be able to provide you with advice based on your health and lifestyle, and will also be in a better position to guide you towards the best strain options for your needs.

Dosage is another key factor, as finding the correct amount to take is key to getting the desired results. It is usually recommended for patients to start with a low dose and gradually increase it if needed.

The way you choose to administer a medicinal cannabis product has the ability to modulate the effects felt, and the timeline in which they manifest.

For inducing sleep, the most common forms of consumption include:

  • Inhalation through vaping will offer the quickest onset of effects.
  • Edibles are one of the more popular methods of consumption for medical cannabis patients. They do come with a delayed onset (anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours), but they also offer a much longer duration of effects and a slightly altered experience. Most consumers agree that edibles offer a more Indica-like range of effects, even if the product is Sativa based. CBD and THC oils come under the edibles banner, as do dosed capsules.
  • Tinctures offer a middle ground between inhalation and edibles. They are usually taken sublingually (under the tongue), which allows them to be absorbed more quickly than edibles, offering a faster onset of effects.

Do Sativa or Indica strains offer better sleep enhancement?

So, to answer our original question, are Sativa or Indica dominant strains best for sleep?

Well, if you go by the traditional way of thinking, then Indica options will always be the best choice.

But, as mentioned, the most up-to-date research is showing that the effects of a particular strain are controlled by the entourage effect and the combination of the specific terpene and cannabinoid profile.

Essentially, the best strain to induce sleep will be one that fits your own body’s needs.

Before you rush out and pick up the most potent Indica option available, it is advisable to consult with a medical practitioner first. They will be able to offer the best advice when it comes to the nuanced science that is cannabis medicine.


Medicinal cannabis can be a potent ally in the battle against poor sleep and insomnia. However, it is important to remember that there is a multitude of factors that can influence the quality of your sleep and that cannabis alone is unlikely to be the ‘magic bullet’.

By incorporating medicinal cannabis into your regimen and ensuring that all other contributing factors are taken care of, you will set yourself up for the best chance at getting the sleep we all crave.

If you are looking for expert advice from qualified medicinal cannabis doctors from the comfort of your own home, reach out to us here at Releaf. We have access to a team of experienced cannabis doctors based here in the UK, all of whom are ready to help you on your journey.

Releaf understands the importance of medical cannabis in treating various medical conditions. With our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, you can access the treatment you need without worrying about the stigma. 

Releaf - Removing the Stigma from Medical Cannabis

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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