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Can You Use CBD For Insomnia?

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 30-40% of adults experience sleep disorders at any given year. 

Insomnia can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get quality sleep. Scientific studies have linked insomnia with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and accidental death—Yet many people don't take the dangers of chronic sleeplessness seriously.

Insomnia can have a number of causes, ranging from stress and lifestyle habits to health conditions and medications. While insomnia can be frustrating, there are ways to improve your quality of sleep.

Many people turn to cannabis products for relaxation and sleep. Since marijuana and THC remain illegal federally, legalized hemp-derived CBD products are becoming increasingly popular for this use.

CBD is being studied as a potential treatment for insomnia, and preliminary results are promising. This post will explore what the science suggests about CBD as a treatment for insomnia.

Too Long; Didn't Read:

  • Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and it's an incredibly prevalent sleeping disorder that can lead to serious health effects if it becomes chronic.
  • CBD is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant that's been studied for its health benefits including its potential as a sleep aid.
  • CBD primarily interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to support homeostasis—the body's innate ability to maintain the balance of its essential systems for optimal function.
  • The ECS is suggested to play a critical role in the sleep-wake cycle. CBD is interesting in that it in some studies it has been seen to act as a wake-promoting agent, while at the same time helping with better sleep quality. Its effects seem to be dependant on the CBD dosage.
  • More medically reviewed research on humans is needed to support CBD's use to treat insomnia, but there is a lot of anecdotal reports of people using nonprescription CBD products for anxiety and sleep with success.
  • There are currently no FDA-approved CBD oils that can treat, cure, or mitigate insomnia or any other complex sleep-related behaviors.

What Causes Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep. It can lead to daytime fatigue, poor work or school performance, and strained relationships.

The good news is that there are many natural ways to treat insomnia, but the first step is understanding what causes it. There are many factors that can contribute to insomnia, including stress, medication use, chronic pain, and environmental factors.

What Exactly Is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring chemical found in the cannabis plant. Both marijuana and hemp are technically cannabis plants—but most CBD products on the market come from hemp due to its legal status.

CBD doesn't have intoxicating effects like THC—the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana— which is what makes it a more ideal compound for therapeutic use.

CBD and other cannabinoids closely resemble neurotransmitters in a cell-signaling system for regulating homeostasis called the endocannabinoid system, (ECS). The endocannabinoid system is responsible for supporting many human functions from the sleep-wake cycle, stress, memory, energy metabolism, and much more.

The Endocannabinoid System And Sleep

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors and chemicals that play a role in many physiological processes, including sleep. Researchers are only beginning to understand the role the ECS plays in sleep, but there is evidence that it may be involved in both the initiation and maintenance of sleep.

Relevant animal studies and some human trials have indicated that the sleep-wake cycle is regulated by endocannabinoids and their interactions with the CB1 receptor for promoting wakefulness, but it may also enhance sleep quality through its relaxation qualities and ability to reduce the sensation of pain [1].

While there isn't enough clinical data to say definitively that cannabinoids can be used as natural sleep aids that hasn't stopped people from using them.

Many people report mental sedation from taking large doses of CBD to help them fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. The effects of CBD on insomnia and other sleep disorders seem to depend on the dose (mg of CBD) and the setting (the time CBD is taken).

This is largely due to the fact that CBD doesn't have an affinity to bind to receptors in the central nervous system to exert its effects—rather, it supports the overall function of the endocannabinoid system as a whole.

CBD supports the endocannabinoid system by increasing the body's levels of endocannabinoids for better signal functioning and may help to improve binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors, which is possibly why it may help with feelings of wakefulness and works for sleep complaints too [2].

Different Forms Of CBD Products For Sleep

CBD is harvested from the resin glands found concentrated on hemp flowers and leaves.

Cannabinoids are an incredibly versatile ingredient. It can be used straight from the hemp flower smoked or brewed into a herbal tea, formulated into food products, vape products, or even topical applications for massage oils and skincare products.

So, which CBD product will deliver peaceful sleep?

It depends— a lot of it lies in your personal preference and dosage.

Most people use CBD as a sleep aid by smoking it (for fast-acting effects) or eating it—as smoking CBD isn't accessible to everyone. Let's get into the most popular formats of CBD products and how people use them for their potential health benefits—specifically, a good night's sleep.

1. CBD Oil/ CBD Tincture

CBD oil is the most widely available form of CBD—it typically consists of two main ingredients: hemp extract and a carrier oil like hemp seed oil or coconut oil. CBD oil can come in a wide range of strengths indicated by the mg of CBD on the bottle. Neurogan has CBD oil ranging from 200MG to 12,000MG (the strongest on the market).

You can use CBD oil by adding it to food or beverages—but for fast-acting effects, people will hold the CBD oil under the tongue (sublingually) to allow the active compounds to absorb into the bloodstream through the network of microcapillaries under the tongue.

2. CBD Capsules

For those who don't love the taste of CBD oil—which typically has a naturally bitter flavor—CBD capsules tend to be a better option. They come in pre-measured doses of CBD and are more portable than CBD oil and are taste-less because the capsule material doesn't have a flavor.

CBD capsules tend to hold dry ingredients such as ground whole hemp flower or CBD isolate. One of the drawbacks of capsules is their size—you need a larger pill to hold the ingredients for higher doses, which isn't an easy pill to swallow.

Softgel capsules offer a better solution to this. They hold CBD oil in a flexible gelatin capsule that's fast dissolving and much smaller.

You can always find capsules and softgels in a range of strengths—but they're not always the most versatile because you can't customize your CBD doses with capsules, which leads us to the next popular CBD product.

3. CBD Gummies

CBD gummies combine hemp extract in a gummy candy formula. They come in premeasured doses and you can cut them into smaller pieces to reach more precise doses.

One of the downsides of CBD gummies is that many of them available online come in high-sugar artificial candy formulas, which aren't the most healthy options.

When shopping for CBD gummies for sleep problems, look for natural sugar options and clean ingredients. Taking too many sugary treats before bed will have the opposite effects on your ability to fall asleep because it spikes your blood sugar and puts you in an excited state, especially if you're trying to reach a high CBD dose.

4. Hemp Tea

Hemp tea is the most natural way to enjoy the health benefits of CBD without smoking the flower.

Simply steep your tea for 5-8 minutes in boiling water to release the cannabinoids from the flower. It can also be combined with other sleep-promoting herbs such as chamomile, which contains compounds that support anxiety and sleep [2].

The trouble with the hemp flower is that it has a low bioavailability. Cannabinoids are hydrophobic and many of the active compounds end up getting destroyed by the gut and the liver before it makes it into the bloodstream.

To make the most of your hemp tea, make sure your hemp tea comes from a strain of hemp with a high CBD content and take it after dinner to help with digestion and to improve its absorption.

One study found that CBD and THC are best absorbed with a meal than in a fasted state [3]—this applies to gummies, oil, and capsules too—but because hemp tea isn't a concentrated form of CBD like the other products, it's even more important that you do what you can to make the most of the mg of CBD in your cup.

5. CBD Smokables

CBD smokables like vapes or rolled hemp cigarettes are many people's favorite ways to enjoy the benefits of CBD to support relaxation without feeling the intoxicating effects of THC.

The benefit of smoking CBD is that you feel the effects of CBD within minutes and it bypasses the destruction of your digestive system and liver, making it the most potent delivery method compared to ingestible CBD products.

The downside to smokables is that you can't get accurate doses of CBD—and the fact that smoking isn't ideal for many people as it can cause lung irritation.

What Does The Research Say About CBD As a Sleep Aid?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a unique compound in that it affects many people differently depending on their genetics, lifestyle factors, method of consumption, and doses. Some people find CBD to help with attention and wakefulness, while others use it for relaxation to promote proper sleep.

More research is needed to understand the complexities of cannabinoids and their therapeutic targets in the sleep wake-cycle, but here's what we found about how CBD may potentially improve sleep in the scientific literature.

1. CBD Supports Relaxation

One of the top reasons people experience sleep issues is due to stress and anxiety as racing thoughts can make it impossible to fall asleep. CBD's potential to decrease anxiety may help to improve sleep overall in individuals.

CBD is undergoing a lot of research for its potential as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) compound to support severe forms of anxiety-related disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) [4].

We'd like to highlight that more research is needed in this space, and there are currently no FDA-approved CBD products on the market to support stress disorders or improve sleep, but this early research is promising.

It's believed to support relaxation in two ways:

  1. Increasing levels of the body's main endocannabinoid, anandamide—AKA the "bliss molecule" [5]
  2. Increasing GABA activity in the brain—the brake pedal to the stress response [6]

If you've ever had a restless night due to stress, then you know that finding ways to decompress to reduce your anxiety scores such as meditation, massage, therapy can also help with your sleep quality.

2. CBD May Support Comfort In The Muscles

Acute injuries and chronic pain is a top reason for many people's sleep disturbances. Even if you somehow manage to fall asleep, sudden movements can stimulate the central nervous system, waking up again with no chance of calming down.

Many people use CBD for pain—although the compound's effects on the pain response has yet to be thoroughly medically reviewed.

CBD is believed to support comfort levels in a few ways:

  1. CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting cytocines that signal the inflammatory response, which can decrease swelling and pain at the site of soreness [7]
  2. CBD may have interactions vanilloid receptor sites, which are involved with temperature sensation and pain signals to the brain [8]
  3. CBD's relaxing and mood-enhancing potential through GABA receptor can help minimize the sensation of pain [4].

Chronic Vs. Short-Term Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects people chronically or temporarily. Chronic insomnia is diagnosed if someone struggles with poor sleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer. It may suddenly disappear and then reappear for long bouts of time.

In serious cases of chronic insomnia, prescription sleep medications may be advised by your doctor. But many people don't like using them as they come with a list of undesirable side effects. Most doctors will turn to lifestyle changes from diet, exercise, and stress management techniques before prescriptions.

Short-term or acute insomnia is brief stints of trouble sleeping—it's often linked with stressful life events or a change in routine, but it tends to resolve on its own.

1. Sleep-Onset Insomnia (SOI)

One common sleep disorder is sleep-onset insomnia. This occurs when a person has difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night. Often, people with this condition find that they can only fall asleep after hours of trying.

While there are many treatments available for SOI, managing its underlying causes is often the most effective approach.

Sleep-onset insomnia can be caused by many things, including stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and medication side effects. SOI can also be another symptom of another sleep disorder such as restless leg syndrome (RLS) or obstructive sleep apnea.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and see what treatment options are available to you. There are also some self-care measures you can take to help promote better sleep habits.

2. Sleep-Maintenance Insomnia (Difficulty Staying Asleep)

Sleep maintenance insomnia is characterized by being able to fall asleep, but waking up several times during the night staring at the clock, effectively disrupting your ability to get deep, restful sleep.

It's difficult to pinpoint the cause of sleep-maintence insomnia as it can come from stress, eating certain foods, or medication. If this persists long-term, you should seek advice from your doctor

Signs You're Not Getting Quality Sleep

Eight hours of sleep each night is the general guideline for adults, but some people need more sleep than others.

If you're not getting quality sleep, there may be some telltale signs that indicate your body isn't getting the rest it needs. Understanding these signs can help you get the quality sleep you need to stay healthy.

Aside from feeling sluggish and tired throughout the day, here's what you should look for:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor short-term memory
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Clumsiness

If this sounds like you, take a closer look at your current lifestyle habits and stress levels to see if there are adjustments you can make to your routine before you reach out to a professional or CBD products.

How Are People Using CBD To Improve Poor Sleep

It's no secret that CBD is among the most discussed wellness compounds. And while there's still a lot to discover about its effects on the endocannabinoid system and sleep, it hasn't stopped people from turning to online products to help them improve their sleep scores.

Let's have a look at some of the ways CBD may help to promote sleep.

1. Taking CBD Before Bed 1 Hour Before

CBD isn't a sedative drug, so don't expect it to knock you out right away. People who use CBD for sleep will take it up to an hour before their desired bed time to help their minds and body relax and prepare for rest.

Alongside taking your CBD, you may want to implement some recommended sleep hygiene practice such as limiting your caffeine intake in the afternoons, reducing screen time, and keeping a cooler temperature in the bedroom.

2. Take Higher Doses Of CBD

As we've discussed earlier, the effects of CBD are dose dependant. CBD seems to have much more relaxing and sleep promoting effects at higher doses (upwards of 50MG).

Find a product with a high CBD potency, indicated on the label of MG of CBD. To reach higher doses without getting expensive, you want to find a CBD oil that can help you reach 50MG doses without taking the entire bottle, which is why we recommend looking at high potency CBD oils, gummies, or capsules.

3. Full Spectrum Or Broad Spectrum CBD

Experts believe that CBD works best alongside other hemp's naturally occurring phytochemicals. So when shopping for a CBD product look for full spectrum or THC-free broad spectrum—these types of hemp extracts contain other cannabinoids and terpenes that improve the absorption and effect profile of CBD.

You also want to make sure that when shopping for CBD, you can access third-party lab tests to ensure that the product contains what's promised.

4. Take CBD Consistently

The key to seeing the benefits of CBD comes from taking CBD consistently.

It may take several weeks for the body to become accustomed to the supplemented cannabinoids for it to exert its full set of effects. If you're still not seeing the benefits of CBD for your sleep quality after two weeks, you may want to increase your dose or try another product type.

Safety And Side Effects Of Using CBD: Can CBD Oil Be Used Long-Term?

CBD oil is considered safe for most people, and there hasn't been any reports of individuals reaching life-threatening toxic doses—but that doesn't mean it's completely without adverse effects.

Most of the dangers of taking CBD products come from the poor regulation of the market, which is why it's so important to shop for CBD from reputable brands that can provide a third-party test result to indicate its safety.

Most people who have a negative experience with CBD report taking excessive doses. Sometimes the body isn't equipped to handle high doses right away and it takes time to your ECS to adjust. Doing this can lead to uncomfortable side-effects from dizziness, nausea, upset stomach, and lethargy.

The Bottom Line: Is CBD An Effective Night-Cap?

Some people say that CBD helps them fall asleep and stay asleep, while others find that it doesn't seem to help at all. Insomnia is a complex sleeping disorder with many underlying causes. Its treatment and management are largely dependant on the underlying cause.

There are still a lot about CBD and its interactions with the endocannabinoid system that are yet to be investigated, but that hasn't stopped natural wellness seekers from using CBD products to help with relaxation and sleep.

If you're looking to use CBD to support your sleep, make sure you trust the source of CBD and you carefully consider your doses. While CBD is considered a generally safe compound, taking too much at once can lead to a bad experience.

To learn more about the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids, you can find more articles like this on our blog. Or you can sign up to our Insider Scoop for industry news delivered to you with exclusive promotions on your favorite CBD and wellness products.

Resources:

  1. Murillo-Rodriguez, E., Carlos Pastrana-Trejo, J., Salas-Crisóstomo, M., & de-la-Cruz, M. (2017). The endocannabinoid system modulating levels of consciousness, emotions and likely dream contents. CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-CNS & Neurological Disorders), 16(4), 370-379.
  2. Adib-Hajbaghery, M., & Mousavi, S. N. (2017). The effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality among elderly people: A clinical trial. Complementary therapies in medicine, 35, 109-114.
  3. Stott, C. G., White, L., Wright, S., Wilbraham, D., & Guy, G. W. (2013). A phase I study to assess the effect of food on the single dose bioavailability of the THC/CBD oromucosal spray. European journal of clinical pharmacology, 69(4), 825-834.
  4. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 825-836.
  5. Papagianni, E. P., & Stevenson, C. W. (2019). Cannabinoid regulation of fear and anxiety: an update. Current psychiatry reports, 21(6), 1-10.
  6. Bakas, T., Van Nieuwenhuijzen, P. S., Devenish, S. O., McGregor, I. S., Arnold, J. C., & Chebib, M. (2017). The direct actions of cannabidiol and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol at GABAA receptors. Pharmacological research, 119, 358-370.
  7. Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2020). Antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. Antioxidants, 9(1), 21.
  8. Costa, B., Giagnoni, G., Franke, C., Trovato, A. E., & Colleoni, M. (2004). Vanilloid TRPV1 receptor mediates the antihyperalgesic effect of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol, in a rat model of acute inflammation. British journal of pharmacology, 143(2), 247-250.

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