Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 For Sleep: Which One is Better?

Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 For Sleep: Which One is Better?

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Delta 8 vs. Delta 9 for sleep is a topic discussed among many beginner cannabis enthusiasts. Both of these cannabinoids offer unique effects and benefits, but should you try Delta-8 or Delta-9 for sleep? The matter is more complicated than it seems. This article will explore research about THC and sleep to help you determine which of these cannabinoids may be best suited to your needs. 

What is THC?

Cannabis Sativa Plant Leaves

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. It's a phytocannabinoid, a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants (marijuana and hemp). THC consists of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and is an isomer of cannabidiol (CBD) since it is composed of the same elements but with a different chemical structure. 

There are various forms of THC, with the most prominent being Delta-9 THC. The psychoactive effects of cannabis are attributed primarily to Delta-9 because it is so abundant in the plant, but there are over 100 other minor cannabinoids that also play a role (including Delta-8). 

THC is well-known for delivering effects such as joy, relaxation, creativity, and a general sense of well-being, although these effects can vary from person to person. Compared to CBD products, THC products have more active effects.

The reason why THC creates these effects when consumed is its resemblance to anandamide. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, a chemical messenger used in the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of chemical messengers and receptors that help regulate various functions of the body, which include: 
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Emotional Processing
  • Pain Management 
  • Inflammation 
There are many theories as to why cannabis has THC in it. One of the leading ones is that THC helps protect the plant from ultraviolet radiation, which is a valuable trait as the species evolved in the high elevations of the Tibetan Plateau. 

The Endocannabinoid System & Sleep

woman falling asleep next to hemp oil and cannabis products

As mentioned, the ECS plays a role in many vital functions, including sleep. But what role does it necessarily play? The ECS was discovered as recently as 1988, so there is still much to be uncovered about this component of the human body. However, according to a journal published by researchers at the Universidad Autónomade Campeche, the activation of the CB1 receptor leads to sleep induction.

Interestingly, the CB1 receptors are the same component of the endocannabinoid system that binds THC when you consume it. This is true whether it’s Delta-9 or Delta-8. So what are these two forms of THC, and what makes them different from one another? 

What is Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC Flower Cannabis Bud

Delta-9 THC is tetrahydrocannabinol with a double bond on its ninth carbon chain, hence the name. People often refer to Delta-9 as just "THC" since it's a prominent cannabinoid in marijuana, but this compound also occurs in hemp.  

Hemp vs. Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana are the same species. Their only difference is one set forth by lawmakers, not scientists. Hemp is cannabis with a 0.3% or lower concentration of Delta-9 THC by dry weight, and marijuana is cannabis with any concentration higher than this. 

Although Delta-9 is commonly associated with marijuana, it's also in hemp products. There is no limit to the quantity of Delta-9 in a hemp product, but the proportion. For example, Delta-9 gummies can contain 25mg of Delta-9 or even 100mg of Delta-9 if the compound does not exceed 0.3% of the product's dry weight. 

What is Delta-8 THC?

cannabis buds delta-8 thc

Delta-8 is a cannabinoid similar to Delta-9, except it has a double bond on its eighth carbon chain. Delta-8 appears in small amounts in both hemp and marijuana. However, its rise to prominence among cannabis enthusiasts did not occur until after the widespread legalization of hemp-derived cannabinoids through the 2018 Farm Bill and the state laws that followed its language. Although Delta-9 products can come from hemp and marijuana, Delta-8 products will almost always be hemp-derived.

Compared to Delta-9, Delta-8 has a weaker binding affinity to the body's cannabinoid receptors, resulting in a distinctly less intense high. For this reason, many enthusiasts will describe Delta-8 as being a lighter form of Delta-9. However, it's best to remember that cannabinoids will affect everyone differently depending on the medium one consumes them with, how many milligrams one consumes, and a person's unique endocannabinoid system. 

Research on THC and Sleep

hemp products next to bedtime pillows

What does science have to say about Delta-8 vs. Delta-9 for sleep? There aren't enough robust clinical trials out there on this subject (especially regarding Delta-8 for sleep) due to various factors, including longstanding prohibitionist red tape around cannabis research in the United States. But here are three studies that shed light on the subject of THC and sleep:

Marijuana use patterns and sleep among community-based young adults

The Study: A sample of 98 adults averaging around 22 years old had their sleep characteristics examined. 49 partook in cannabis daily, 29 were non-daily, and 20 did not partake in cannabis. 

Findings: Those who partook in cannabis daily reported more sleep disturbances than those who consumed cannabis on a non-daily basis. 

Is There a Place for Medicinal Cannabis in Treating Patients with Sleep Disorders? What We Know So Far

The Study: A review of previously published work on the applications of medical marijuana on disorders such as: 
  • Insomnia
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder
  • Nightmare disorder
  • Narcolepsy 
Findings: There was insufficient evidence to support using cannabinoids for any sleep disorder. However, promising outcomes in some sleep disorders warrant further investigation. 

Medicinal cannabis improves sleep in adults with insomnia: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study

The Study: For six weeks, 29 participants with self-reported insomnia were either given a placebo or cannabis oil with a 10:15 THC to CBD blend, which contained minor cannabinoids and terpenes. 

Findings: The 10:15 blend was well-tolerated and effective for improving the quality of sleep, duration of sleep, mood, and quality of life for adults with self-reported insomnia within two weeks. 

Remember that these are limited studies, and the FDA has not evaluated the efficacy of cannabis or THC. 

Is Delta-8 or Delta-9 Better for Sleep? 

woman peacefully sleeping at night

If you are dealing with insomnia, the first thing you should do is consult a medical professional. You should tell them if you are considering Delta-8 or Delta-9 products, whether edibles, flowers, vaping cartridges, tinctures, or any other medium. 

Best Option for Beginners: Delta-8 THC

For those who have never consumed THC before, Delta-8 may be a better option because of its weaker binding affinity. This property may produce effects that are easier to manage on a milligram-to-milligram basis than Delta-9. Many consumers prefer this option over Delta-9 for sleep because it is easier to avoid the negative side effects of consuming too much THC. 

Best Option for Those With Experience: Delta-9 THC

Those familiar with THC might find better results with Delta-9 or just "classic" THC. No chemical difference exists between the Delta-9 found in hemp products and the Delta-9 found in marijuana. Because of the dry weight limit for hemp, Delta-9 is limited to edibles, drink mixes, and beverages. Nonetheless, with hemp, you get the benefit of convenience with online shopping and a wider range of legality. Plus, because hemp is federally legal, you can take Delta-9 products (or any hemp-derived products) with you on domestic flights to states where Delta-9 is legal, as long as the airline permits you to carry such products on board. 

In conclusion, cannabis research is still in its infancy when researching the effects on THC and sleep. Some studies have shown promising results, and some are a bit mixed. Plus, there are many instances where customers have mentioned "sleep in their reviews of products. What it all essentially comes down to is that these products will affect everyone differently. What role they play in your life can only be discovered by trying these cannabinoids in a controlled, prudent manner, such as the "low and slow" approach, which involves trying a small portion, waiting for the effects, and then determining to stay where you are or consuming more.

Until next time, happy exploring, and mind your mind.

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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