Chances are, you’ve heard the term Delta-8 used somewhere recently. Popular wellness influencers and local dispensaries alike have been advertising this cannabis alternative in full force over the last few months.
So why is Delta-8 (short for Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) so popular right now? Proponents say it provides the same kind of medical benefits as classic Delta-9 THC without negative side effects such as paranoia.
Here’s everything you need to know about Delta-8 and sleep, from what, exactly, this buzzy form of cannabis is to what you need to be aware of before you try it as a sleep aid.
What is Delta-8?
Delta-8 is a form of THC, the chemical found in the cannabis plant that’s responsible for its psychoactive effects. When people talk about THC, they’re generally referring to Delta-9, the most popular and abundant form of THC. Delta-8 is found in much smaller quantities than Delta-9.
One big difference between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC is that Delta-8 is less psychoactive, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). That means it won’t produce quite the same “high” as traditional THC, although you will certainly still experience a potent buzz. Per NCI, Delta-8 has anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, pain-relieving, and appetite-stimulating properties.
Most Delta-8 is derived from the hemp plant. Per the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp cultivation and hemp-derived products are legal under federal law. The reason why hemp-derived products are legal is that they contain no more than .3% THC, meaning they’re technically not psychoactive substances.
Be aware, though, that several states still outlaw Delta-8 products. Los Angeles-based dispensary Binoid has a list of states where Delta-8 is legal. Delta-9 THC, on the other hand, is illegal federally, although more and more states have started to legalize medical and recreational cannabis in recent years.
According to cannabis company Leafly, “most dried cannabis flower contains less than 1% of Delta-8 THC, so getting a product that contains a substantial amount of this cannabinoid can only be done through extraction, isolation, conversion, and refinement of dried cannabis flower.”
Although Delta-8 THC exists naturally only in fractions of a percent, enterprising companies are finding ways to concentrate its cannabinoids for a more potent effect—though still not at the same level as Delta-9-THC—by spraying dried hemp buds (which look exactly like garden-variety cannabis buds) with concentrated Delta-8.
Can Delta-8 help you sleep better?
Cannabis—namely cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive part of the plant—has been used as a natural sleep aid for a long time. Emerging research shows CBD can calm anxiety, making it easier to fall, and stay, asleep.
What about Delta-8? According to the NCI, Delta-8 uniquely binds twice with cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system that play a role in sleep by calming down processes like breath, heart rate, and mental activity. So, it may be able to regulate your sleep cycle and help you experience a sense of calm that promotes rest.
Of course, even silver linings come with clouds—and at this time, the research on cannabis and sleep, and Delta-8 and sleep specifically, is limited.
The research that does exist around cannabis and sleep has mixed results, according to a review of studies published in Current Psychiatry Reports. Some studies have found that while THC in general may have short-term sleep benefits, chronic use could worsen your sleep quality.
As for Delta-8, the silver lining lies in its possessing less of the psychotropic effects of Delta-9 THC while offering some of the latter’s most desirable effects.
“Once I fall asleep I’m a pretty good sleeper,” says Ian Bush, marketing director for Hii Stick, a Delta-8 company offering a growing array of products. But the challenge is in falling asleep. Bush says Delta-8 offers a “quiet mind and relaxed body”—key ingredients for falling and staying asleep. And for what it’s worth, the Current Psychiatry Reports review does note that THC can help decrease sleep latency, the time it takes to fall asleep.
Anecdotally, Bush says friends of his who are light sleepers have found that Delta-8 helps them stay asleep. Some customers have even reported that Delta-8 helps them achieve lucid dreaming, a state in which someone is aware they’re dreaming while they’re dreaming during sleep, he says.
Delta-8’s pain-relieving properties could also potentially help improve sleep. Bush shares that one customer’s mother had been struggling with pain, which made it difficult for her to sleep. Delta-8, he explains, helped mitigate the pain and helped really relax the muscles. (Learn about CBN, another type of cannabis, and whether it can help you sleep better.)
How do you use Delta-8 for sleep?
First things first: Always consult a medical professional before adding any new supplements to your regimen. Although Delta-8, like CBD, isn’t known to have any side effects—and you cannot overdose on it—it’s vital to discuss it with your doctor to be sure it doesn’t negatively interact with any current medications you may be taking.
Although Delta-8 is still new to the market, weed.com says that “already, we’re finding that it may offer specific properties that have the potential to help with sleep.” The Los Angeles-based cannabis information and product portal offers these tips for starting a Delta-8 routine for sleep:
- Time your dosage to make sure Delta-8’s effects peak when you want them to, around bedtime.
- Choose the right delivery method. A vape may help you fall asleep more quickly, while a gummy that takes longer may offer effects for several hours. This could be ideal for those who tend to wake up periodically during the night.
- Go with the right strength. Like CBD, Delta-8 products come in a variety of milligram strengths. When it comes to cannabis, experts recommend “starting low and going slow” to make sure you get the best results at the lowest dose.
- Combine Delta-8 with other cannabinoids. THC and CBD together seem to have a synergistic relationship that brings out each one’s maximum effects. Consider a Delta-8 formula that blends this cannabinoid with other naturally occurring cannabinoids.
- Combine Delta-8 with other natural active ingredients. Companies are formulating Delta-8 products with plant-based compounds already known to promote relaxation and sleep, such as lavender and melatonin.
Keep in mind that Delta-8 won’t work for everyone. “None of the cannabinoids are sedative for everyone,” said Jason (JC) Dyer, mojo coordinator at Alpine Dispensary in Helen, Ga. He emphasizes that “each individual’s reaction to cannabinoids depends on their own personal ECS (endocannabinoid system) response.”
Dyer adds that the “terpenes”—the aromatic oils that give cannabis its smell—“will have a greater effect on the sedative nature of a strain than the cannabinoids.” Strains with the terpene linalool, more concentrated in indica strains, are usually the most powerful.
If you’re interested in trying Delta-8 isolate drops, gummies, or gel caps, Dyer recommends taking them several hours before bed. That’s because Delta-8 could give you a burst of creative energy initially—but “when the psychoactive effects of the Delta-8 taper off, a deep relaxation ensues and natural sleep is easy to attain for some people, he says.
The bottom line: Delta-8 may be the new “it” thing in the world of cannabis, but it behaves a lot like CBD, Delta-9 THC, and other known cannabinoids. Be sure to check with your doc before trying it, choose a high-quality formula, and time the dosage right to see whether it will provide the key to your good night’s sleep.