Can CBD really help you get a good night of sleep? This in depth guide on the research surrounding CBD and sleep will give you all the information you need to decide if CBD is the right sleep aid for you.
Comfortable and consistent sleep is vital for moods, energy levels, and good health. Without a healthy sleep-wake cycle, you run the risk of sluggishness, grumpiness, and most detrimental – health problems.Whether the effects are physical, psychological, or worse yet – both, poor sleep takes its toll on your life and your body in some profound – and sometimes permanent – ways. The life of the average adult today is more demanding than ever. Not only do we have traditional work and family life stressors, but the advent of modern technology maintains those demands even in our personal time. Cell phones are hardly just phones these days, and often our emails, messages, and social media accounts constantly in our pockets add further pressure and expectation to already demanding lives. Add to all that the need to maintain personal relationships, buy the right foods, and any other daily need or issue that could potentially arise, and you have a mountain of expectation to fulfill at any given moment. With so much coming at us from all facets of life, it makes sense to require an effective and convenient sleep aid.
Each of us employs tools, mechanisms, or coping techniques to assist in getting the right sleep for our increasingly demanding and busy schedules. Some folks swear by soundtracks of nature, or the sound of a whirring fan to create white noise. Others use the monotony of television or streaming video (often reruns of shows watched for the umpteenth time) to lull them into the land of nod. And, of course, there are those who use natural or chemical sleep aides to help them snooze. Sleep aides can include skullcap herb (in either capsule or tea form), drowse-inducing medicines, or even alcohol and/or other depressants. Regardless of personal preference for sleep aids, researchers and scientists have long been hard at work to determine what helps us get the best sleep possible.
Sleep Systems and The Human Body
Sleep studies are far from a new science, as are studies of the varying effects of cannabis on the human body. Historically, however, cannabis studies focused on the psychoactive component of the plant, known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is what “gets you high,” and its prevalence in the cannabis plant is largely the reason for legal prohibition in most states and in other countries the world over. Despite its legal standing, a number of studies conducted over the last 30-40 years have had positive results on the potential benefits of THC and sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Researchers note the reason for this is how closely the components within cannabis mirror our endocannabinoid system. You can read more in-depth guides about sleep here.
The endocannabinoid system is the series of chemicals that naturally occur in the human body to regulate numerous functions, including sleep. The two receptor types found within our bodies are named the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are most prevalent within our brains and spinal cords, and correlate to our appetite, memory, emotional reasoning, and registering pain. CB2 receptors are found predominantly in our peripheral nervous system, and reduce inflammation when activated. The correspondence of CB2 receptors with another active component of cannabis – cannabidiol, or CBD – has become the popular choice for medical study of late, due in part to its anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic effects on the body.
How CBD Works
CBD does not connect to CB1 receptors, which is why it does not possess psychoactive properties like its sister component, THC. CB2 receptors, however, are those associated with inflammation and pain. Cannabidiol works as an anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and pain reducer, attaching to the CB2 receptors. Perry G. Fine and Mark J. Rosenfeld noted in their study “The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain,” that “exogenous cannabinoids potentially offer some degree of analgesia in various pain states.” Exogenous cannabinoids are those found outside the body and introduced via inhalation or ingestion, such as CBD oils and edibles. Though our bodies do naturally produce cannabinoids, for those with considerable or advanced issues, exogenous cannabinoid intake could help minimize or offset problems and effects caused by pain or disorder.
While the science behind CBD’s effectiveness for more serious conditions requires closer study and further testing, researchers have made considerable headway in determining the power of CBD as a sleep aid. This is due, in large part, to the anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties within cannabis – specifically attributed to cannabidiol. Ethan B. Russo writes in “Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain,” the history of pain management medicine included cannabis among others: “our first knowledge of each pain system has derived from investigation of natural origin analgesic plants, respectively: cannabis (Cannabis sativa, C. indica) (THC, CBD and others), opium poppy (Papaver somniferun) (morphine, codeine), chile peppers (eg, Capsicum annuum, C. frutescens, C. chinense) (capsaicin) and willow bark (Salix spp.) (salicylic acid, leading to acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin).” Cannabis has a long history, across numerous cultures, in the treatment of pain and dysfunction. Recently, a number of studies have honed in on the effects of cannabidiol, but some initial research on the subject dates as far back as the 1970s.
Studies and Impact
Marcos Hortes N Chagas, et al., from the University of São Paulo, conducted one such study on rats, published in 2013, to determine the effects of CBD on their sleep patterns. Though the authors admit the limited impact their study shows on statistical significance overall, the importance of their findings still stands to indicate the power of CBD as a sleep aid, as test groups given the CBD had their sleep quality enhanced – both in the facets of time spent asleep and longevity of REM cycles during sleep. The São Paulo study was also one of the first of a number of studies recently that do begin to show the increased statistical significance of CBD as a powerful sleep aid.
Published just a year prior to the São Paulo University study, researchers from the National Taiwan University in Taipei also tested the effects of CBD on rats, but to determine its efficacy for the treatment of PTSD and other stress-related disorders that often result in affected sleep patterns. The Taiwanese researchers’ findings were similar to those in studies before and after: “CBD efficiently blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression, but had little effect on the alteration of NREM sleep. Conclusively, CBD may block anxiety-induced REM sleep alteration via its anxiolytic effect…” Across the world, and in an increasing number of consistent studies, researchers are coming to similar conclusions.
In March, 2017, authors Kimberly A. Babson, James Sottile, and Danielle Morabito detail some of the collected research literature on cannabinoids and sleep with a positive and hopeful conclusion. Among their literature review details, the authors clarify that recent findings indicate “cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia,” and further that “CBD may hold promise for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness, while nabilone (a synthesized CBD pharmaceutical) may reduce nightmares associated with PTSD and may improve sleep among patients with chronic pain.” Babson, et al. conclude that cannabinoid and sleep research is still in its relative infancy, but the overall tone and supporting studies seem to trend towards the usefulness and positive impact CBD has on pain management, chronic sleep disorder, and general sleep assistance.
CBD and Popular Culture
So much has interest in CBD and sleep advanced recently that conversations about its potential have even gained traction in other mainstream, pop media sources, such as The Huffington Post. Authors detail similar studies over the last decade, and discuss the use of CBD to treat sleep apnea, PTSD, and chronic fatigue. Pop culture blogs, such as Popsugar, have articles and recipes using CBD oil as a sleep and anxiety aid. Even celebrities have spoken out about the power of CBD on their anxieties, pain, and sleep issues. Its manufacture and sale still has legal hurdles to overcome, as well as state and federal legislation to be considered and enacted effectively. There is no doubt, however, that cannabidiol is earning some popularity in mainstream culture across the US for those of us with particular stressors and sleep troubles (which is a fast-increasing number of us).
Where and How to Purchase CBD
CBD products are widely available today, which contrasts directly against the specific prohibitory stance of its sister component – THC. Without the psychoactive effect, it seems CBD will rise to general use by myriad groups of people the world over. Oils can be added to vapes, ingested by dropping milligrams onto the tongue, or used in aromatherapy via candles and diffusers. But, there are a great number of other CBD products on the market today, from balms to bath bombs, tinctures and teas, and patches and capsules. CBD product manufacturers have certainly taken to the hype over cannabidiol and its purported ability to significantly enhance your sleep and reduce your anxiety. If you’re a sufferer of sleep disorders, generally have trouble maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle, or have tried that ocean sounds playlist with no success, cannabidiol may be the aid you need to help manage your sleep effectively. Read some of our different CBD reviews to find out which product is best for your unique needs.