For many people, sleep can be a struggle. Some live with the daily negative effects of insomnia. Others wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Whatever your sleep issues are, CBD may be the cure.
This article covers the ABCs of CBD for sleep, to give you all the information that you need to decide whether it’s the right solution for you.
A Quick Overview of CBD
CBD, or cannabidiol, is just one of the chemical compounds listed under the broader heading of “cannabinoids”. It is an important and active ingredient in cannabis.
While research on the properties of this cannabinoid is still thin on the ground, there is enough anecdotal evidence, as experienced by the scientific and medical communities, to list the following benefits of CBD:
- Pain relief
- Reduction of anxiety and psychosis
- Reduction of inflammation
- Is effective in stimulating appetite for those that have theirs suppressed by other medications or conditions
- Effective in reducing nausea, seizures and convulsions
- Has been shown to counteract nervous system degeneration
When it comes to sleep, there is another big advantage to CBD: it can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep for much longer, gaining the quality rest that your body and brain require.
How Does CBD Affect Sleep?
The human body, and the brain specifically, contain receptors that only interact with cannabinoids.
In fact, the human body manufactures cannabinoids naturally, to manage a variety of issues that affect day to day living: controlling emotions, managing pain sensitivity, regulating appetite, and sleep.
These cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids. “Endo” refers to something that is internal. Your body has specific neurons and receptors—CB1 and CB2—that interact with these endocannabinoids and collectively, these make up the endocannabinoid system.
What this means is that the human body and brain is already adapted to interacting with cannabinoids naturally, and the endocannabinoid system is also adapted to interact with cannabinoids that come in from outside, as opposed to the naturally occurring variety within the body.
Outside cannabinoids have one source: the cannabis plant. THC, CBD, CBN, and CBG are all cannabinoids that your body takes in when you inhale, ingest, or in some other way absorb a cannabis product into your bloodstream. They are natural and are referred to as phytocannabinoids, the prefix for which means “of or relating to plants”.
In simple terms, the body and brain doesn’t make a distinction between endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids when interacting with them. When a cannabinoid is present, they interact with your neurons and receptors to activate certain systems in your body. So, as mentioned earlier, regulation of emotion, pain, appetite, and sleep need cannabinoids to “turn on”, as it were. If you don’t have endocannabinoids in your body, those systems aren’t activated.
Need an analogy to make that work? Think of your endocannabinoid system as if it was a video game system. You load a game and you expect to play that game, with all the effects and game rules applicable to that game. For example, if your game of choice is Tetris, you get the blocks and the game board and the ability to maneuver the pieces into place, to win. If you load in another game, you would rightly expect it to be a different game.
Use that analogy to understand the endocannabinoid system: the cannabinoids—THC, CBD, CBN, and so on—are like the games. When you plug a cannabinoid like THC into your body’s endocannabinoid receptors, you should get a certain and expected result, which is the high that you experience. When you load CBD into your body’s endocannabinoid receptors, you’ll get a different result.
If you want to use CBD for sleep, what’s actually happening is that the CBD molecules that you took in dock with the CB1 and CB2 receptors and work to calm your body and brain, reducing the endless whirring of thinking that can keep you awake, which allows you to fall asleep quickly, and stay asleep throughout night.
Additional Ingredients for Sleep
While CBD for sleep is a wonderful sleep solution in and of itself, many CBD products that are marketed also include other ingredients that can contribute to better management of your circadian rhythms.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythms. It basically works by telling your body when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Based on the amount of light you are exposed to each day, melatonin levels naturally increase at night and go back down again in the morning.
Some people experience a lack of natural melatonin production, which can make it more difficult to relax enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.
This is where a CBD product that includes melatonin can help. It effectively resets your body clock so that it can function the way it is supposed to, allowing you to fall asleep at night in a matter of minutes, instead of the hours it can take if your body is off kilter.
Another cannabinol that is derived from marijuana is CBN. It has been tested in rodents as a sleep aid, with one study dating back from 1976, and it has been shown to produce greater sleep than THC, as there are no side effects of a high.
When combined with CBD, CBN also leaves you with less grogginess, or that feeling of a hangover, that can occur with other sedatives.
Gamma Aminobutyric Acid
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid. Its purpose? To behave as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
GABA blocks specific signals in your brain and, as a result, decreases activity in your nervous system. The net effect of this is to stop your brain from thinking, enabling you to relax and fall asleep.
The causes of insomnia can be hard to pinpoint in the average person, barring any obvious trauma or worries. There can be natural causes for sleeplessness like insufficient levels of melatonin, GABA or the endocannabinoids that your body craves to be able to get the rest it needs.
With that in mind, it’s important when you read the label for a sleep inducing CBD product to note whether any of these other ingredients are included. While some or all might be present in the body naturally, there aren’t negative side effects resulting from taking more. You won’t end up like Sleeping Beauty, unable to wake up! Rather, by choosing a CBD for sleep product that includes some or all of these extras, you have a better chance of knocking out the problem that is causing your insomnia.
Topical, Edible or Inhaling-Which Is Best?
There are three categories of CBD products available on the market today: topical application, products you ingest and products you inhale. Which is best for you depends on your personal preferences and circumstances, but the following should help you to narrow it down:
These are the least effective CBD product types to use as a sleep aid unless you are dealing with sore muscles or another type of specific pain that is preventing you from relaxing and falling asleep.
Ingestion basically refers to anything that you put in your mouth, though not necessarily something you eat. For example, you could have a sublingual product (that dissolves under the tongue) or one that dissolves along your cheek. Whether or not you are swallowing the product directly, your delivery method is ingestion.
Because it’s so discreet and easy to consume, ingesting CBD for sleep is a popular method of taking it because it’s discreet and simple. Some of the products that fall into this category are:
- Other edibles
The options are varied, which makes it easy if you want to experiment with different ones to see which CBD products work best for you.
Inhaling refers to any intake method that requires taking a smoke or vapor into your lungs. You probably associate inhalation with smoking marijuana, and the process is similar. It’s a traditional method of consumption but one that many people still prefer. Inhalation includes products such as:
- Joints, blunts and spliffs, which differ in contents but are smoked in much the same way.
- Bongs and dab rigs
- Vape pens
Not everyone enjoys inhaling, however, and it’s not as simple to do, particularly in a family setting. But on the plus side, when it comes to inhaling your CBD product, versus an edible for example, the effects are immediate. Most edibles will take an hour or even longer to take effect. Regardless of which inhalation method you opt for, it would only be a matter of minutes until you feel calmer, more relaxed, and ready to fall asleep.
Is CBD Safe to Take for Sleep?
The short answer is: yes. Regardless of the form you take it in, there are very few side effects associated with CBD. The only issue that is ever reported with any regularity is an experience of having a dry mouth after taking it.
When you consider that standard pharmaceuticals can come with a laundry list of negative side effects, many of which seem worse than the original problem, dry mouth is worth it if it means you get to sleep quickly and stay asleep through the night.
The one caveat to keep in mind is that CBD is biphasic. This means that the effects will be different at different dosage levels. If you want to try CBD to improve your sleep, you will need to experiment with dosages to see what seems ideal for you. There’s no one dosage level that works the same way on everyone.
The only other point worth noting about CBD is that it can decrease your liver’s ability to process other drugs and might be contraindicated.
A small amount of THC may not make you high but it may improve the way the CBD interacts with your body. Your body has cannabinoid receptors which modulate how the molecule works. I have always felt that CBD products with no THC do not have the same medicinal benefit and even a small amount of THC makes a difference and improves your sleep.
Before You Experiment, Talk To Your Doctor
Particularly if you take other medications for chronic conditions or other illnesses, it’s important to consult with your doctor or a trained medical professional before you add a CBD product to your regimen. They are in the best position to clarify for you if there is any medical reason why you shouldn’t consume CBD to manage your sleep.
If you’re ready to give it a try, your best bet is to go to a dispensary and speak to a “budtender”; they can help you find the best CBD for sleep delivery method and product for you.
Anthony Franciosi, also known as Ant, is an honest to goodness farmer whose fingers are as green as the organic cannabis he grows. He is the proud founder of Honest Marijuana – an all natural, completely organic marijuana growery in Colorado.