EducationThe five best terpenes for insomnia, and how they work

The five best terpenes for insomnia, and how they work

7 min read

Sam North

The five best terpenes for insomnia, and how they work

Sleep is an absolutely vital component of our mental and physical health. But the unfortunate truth is that many of us are simply not getting enough of it. While many of us experience the odd sleepless night due to the daily stresses of modern-day life, one too many cappuccinos at work, or an oppressively hot and muggy summer evening, an ongoing loss of sleep could be categorised as insomnia.


Insomnia is the regular loss or disruption of sleep that may be caused by a variety of internal or external factors. While the causes can often be a result of modern technology like blue light or our caffeine-fuelled, fast-paced lifestyle, insomnia is nothing new. 

Moreover, history tells us that civilisations all over the world have turned to the plant cannabis sativa L. to aid restful sleep for centuries. There are numerous chemical compounds within this incredible plant that are conducive to good sleep and good health. In this post, we’ll look at the role of terpenes in mitigating the effects of insomnia and aiding restful sleep.

Do you have insomnia?

There are many reasons why sleep may elude us at night, but how do we categorise insomnia? The NHS website identifies the following symptoms as being indicative of insomnia:

  • Finding it hard to go to sleep
  • Waking up multiple times during the night
  • Spending nights lying wide awake
  • Waking up early and being unable to go back to sleep
  • Feeling tired after waking up
  • Finding it hard to nap during the day despite feeling tired
  • Feeling tired and irritable during the day
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate during the day due to fatigue

If you have these symptoms for more than 3 months, this is known as long-term or chronic insomnia.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are clusters of volatile hydrocarbons that react with the body’s endocannabinoid system (among a range of other regulatory systems) much in the same way as cannabinoids like CBD, THC, and CBG. They are not only present in the cannabis plant but in all kinds of trees, bushes, fruits, and vegetables. Indeed, it is usually terpenes that are responsible for imbuing certain cannabis strains with their distinctive tastes and aromas, be they spicy, floral, sweet or citrusy.

Which terpenes make you sleepy, and how do they work?

Terpenes found within the cannabis plant react not only with the endocannabinoid system, but with other chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system is the body’s largest collection of impulses and receptors and is responsible for a host of bodily functions that are necessary for homeostasis. These include immune function, mood, fertility, and sleep.

Studies suggest that terpenes have their own innate properties that can help to regulate the body’s hormone levels and achieve the restful state that is necessary for sleep. Different terpenes can affect the body in different ways that are conducive to sleep, including:

  • Easing inflammation and discomfort
  • Reducing anxiety and stress
  • Shortening the time it takes to fall asleep
  • Making it easier to stay asleep
  • Aiding concentration and alertness during waking hours

There is evidence to suggest that terpenes work by stimulating the body’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system. This system acts as a neurotransmitter, facilitating communications between brain cells.

The entourage effect explained

As well as having their own potentially therapeutic effects, terpenes can interact with cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant to create an ‘entourage effect’ that may prove particularly effective for those whose insomnia stems from anxiety and stress.

The right combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids may help to aid rest, relaxation, and sleep while reducing the risk of side effects like dryness of mouth and paranoia that may disrupt or prevent sleep.

The five best terpenes for insomnia

Having examined the functions and properties of terpenes, let’s have a look at five of the most effective terpenes for potentially alleviating insomnia, and how they work.


Linalool is a terpene that is found in lavender, as well as other flowers and spice plants including roses, cinnamon, lemongrass, basil, and neroli oil. Preclinical rodent studies have demonstrated that linalool has anxiolytic properties, as well as being mildly sedative. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can ease pain or discomfort from inflammatory conditions, preventing them from interrupting restful sleep.


Myrcene is abundant in the plant kingdom and is found in everything from mangoes and citrus fruits to hops and bay leaves. It is also one of the most abundant terpenes in the cannabis plant, often making up over 50% of many strains terpene profiles.

A 2021 review of studies stated that while human trial data was limited, numerous animal studies revealed Myrcene to have anxiolytic, analgesic, sedative and anti-inflammatory effects in animal studies.

Beta-Caryophyllene (BCP)

Beta-Caryophyllene (BCP) is the terpene that gives peppers and clove oils their distinctive, spicy, woody taste and aroma. While it is a terpene, it actually functions in a way that is identical to that of cannabinoids, binding to CB2 receptors in the brain and nervous system.

As such, it may prove effective in targeting multiple causes of insomnia including anxiety, pain, discomfort, and inflammation.


Like linalool, terpinolene is a terpene that’s commonly found in plants that are known to have mildly sedative properties. It’s present in patchouli oil, lilac, sage, tea tree oil and cumin.

While it’s not abundant in the cannabis plant, it does pop up in certain cultivars. There are a few studies that have found it to improve the length and quality of sleep in mice, as well as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.


As the name suggests, pinene is found in the resin of pine trees and is responsible for giving them their fresh earthy and subtly sweet fragrance. Pinene is also found in other green leaves like rosemary and eucalyptus. Studies demonstrate that pinene pairs well with linalool and may have natural antidepressant and anxiolytic effects.

The importance of terpene profiles in medicinal cannabis

When matching a strain of medicinal cannabis to a patient, it is important to consider not only the balance of cannabinoids, but the terpene profile found within each strain. This is why the experts at Releaf take great care to understand each subscriber’s symptoms and circumstances before assigning them to a cannabis strain that suits their unique needs.

At Releaf, we believe that access to medical cannabis is essential. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

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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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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