THC is an effective alternative to habit-forming sleep aids for millions of Americans who struggle to fall asleep. When people talk about THC, they generally refer to Delta-9, the most popular and abundant cannabinoid responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive and therapeutic effects. Delta-8 is another popular form of THC, typically hemp-derived that some people also use for sleep.
Delta-9 and Delta-8 share similar chemical structures and effects. But these compounds also differ in ways that extend to their sleep-assisting qualities.
Here we compare Delta-9 and Delta-8, including their five main differences in treating insomnia.
Similarities between Delta-9 vs. Delta-8 for Insomnia
Many people wonder what’s the difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9 when deciding which products to buy. First, let’s look at how the compounds are similar.
- Both interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system of neurotransmitters and receptors that play a role in almost every function, directly impacting sleep cycles.
- Both bind with specific cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 and CB2 receptors, throughout the brain, central nervous system, and immune tissues that play a role in sleep by calming down processes like breath, heart rate, and mental activity.
Delta-9 and Delta-8 share several benefits when it comes to treating sleep disorders, including:
- Increasing adenosine levels, a chemical that promotes sleep
- Affecting REM and deep-sleep cycles
- Causing happiness and relaxation
- Easing anxiety and stress
- Relieving chronic and temporary pain
Top 5 Differences in Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 for Insomnia
Delta-8 and Delta-9 also differ in several ways that affect their ability to support people with sleep disorders. Here are the five main differences between Delta-8 and Delta-9 for treating insomnia.
The most significant difference between Delta 8 and Delta 9 is their potency levels. Delta-9 binds with a strong affinity to CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system, which can cause potent effects. For example, some users experience intense sedation that leads to couch-lock and deep sleep. Other times, Delta 9’s intensity can lead to paranoia and anxiety, preventing sleep.
Delta-8 appears to have a lower affinity for the CB1 receptor than Delta-9. As a result, Delta-8 is less psychoactive and about 50% to 75% milder than Delta-9 so it won’t produce quite the same “high.” Most users comment that Delta-8 provides a calming, euphoric, “indica-like” high, acting as a sleep aid without being too intense.
Research shows that Delta-9 increases the time spent in deep sleep, the essential stage for health and feeling refreshed.
Delta-9 also decreases the time spent in REM sleep (rapid eye movement), the stage where dreaming occurs. REM suppression can benefit those with PTSD or who suffer from nightmares, a common cause of insomnia. On the other hand, experts say that dreaming is essential because it stimulates areas of the brain vital for memory and learning, so suppressing REM sleep over the long term is not ideal.
Scientists don’t know as much about Delta-8-THC for sleep. But a preliminary animal study on Delta-8 concentrate in cats found that it induced sedation while increasing time in REM sleep. According to the researchers, Delta-8 might offer clinically relevant effects for sleep that can also help people process emotions and memories.
According to the Sleep Foundation, anxiety disorders are one of the primary reasons for serious sleep disturbances, including insomnia. Anxiety keeps the mind and body vigilant and unable to rest.
A study at the University of Chicago revealed that low doses of THC produced stress-relieving effects in line with those commonly reported among cannabis users. The results showed that Delta-9 could support better sleep by alleviating tension in some instances. On the other hand, Delta 9 THC in higher doses could have the opposite effect of increasing anxiety and causing paranoia.
Anecdotal reports claim Delta-8’s milder, relaxing effects are more in line with CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis and hemp known to combat anxiety. Delta-8’s lower potency means it exhibits fewer adverse effects than Delta-9 and perhaps has a better chance of tackling insomnia.
Research shows Delta-9 is a promising therapeutic agent in treating chronic pain, a common cause of sleep disorders. Specifically, Delta-9’s interaction with CB1 receptors allows it to control pain signals, improve mood, and alter perception, making people less irritated by discomfort.
Delta-8 also interacts with pain receptors similar to Delta-9, though to a lesser extent. As a result, Delta-8 won’t provide the same potent pain-relieving effects as Delta-9 while people are awake. But Delta-8’s relaxing qualities may help people sleep better, and research shows pain signaling significantly decreases during sleep.
Delta-9 and Delta-8 legality might be a factor for people who seek THC for insomnia treatment. Although many states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, the government still classifies Delta 9 THC as a Schedule I drug, making it federally illegal.
Delta 8 THC, on the other hand, exists in a legal gray area because it comes from federally legal hemp-derived CBD. As a result, Delta-8 has become popular in states where marijuana is still banned. Additionally, Delta 8 doesn’t require medical marijuana cards, making it easier to access.
Best Products and Dosage for Insomnia
There are numerous ways to consume Delta 9 and Delta 8 THC, including:
Users commonly smoke Delta 9 THC directly from the plant. Strains with potent levels of terpenes, myrcene, and linalool are reportedly best for sleep because these compounds also function as sedatives. Smoking THC can help, but the effects are short-lived, typically less than an hour.
Delta 8 THC’s most common forms are edibles, vape cartridges, and tinctures. Edibles are one of the most effective products for insomnia relief. That’s because edibles must go through the digestive system, which slows and intensifies their effects. They can provide long-lasting overnight relief, typically six hours or more.
First-time users should start with low edibles doses and build up to their desired experience. A low dose for Delta 9 THC edibles is 2-5 mg. Since Delta 8 is about half the strength of Delta 9, most users can start with dosages two to three times higher. Edible gummies with 5 mg of Delta 9 THC will have an equivalent dose of 10-15 mg for Delta 8.
The Bottom Line
Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC have much to offer regarding insomnia relief. Some users indicate that Delta 8’s milder effects are more calming and have fewer drawbacks than Delta-9, such as being too intense or causing paranoia. Due to its lower potency, Delta-8 might be more effective than Delta-9 in quelling anxiety that keeps people awake at night. Delta-8 is also hemp-derived, making it federally legal and more accessible than Delta-9 in many places.
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