If you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 30 percent of Americans complain about experiencing disrupted sleep from time to time; around 10 percent of them experience functional impairment during the day because of it. Widespread though they may be, insomnia and other sleep disorders continue to be poorly understood—and treatment options are often mediocre at best. In fact, it is often said that insomnia can’t be cured but can only be treated.
In terms of treatments for sleep disorders like insomnia, however, the options throughout human history have mostly left a lot to be desired. Lifestyle changes can sometimes help, and many people swear by alternative therapies like acupuncture and meditation. Not surprisingly, medications are often prescribed to help people to sleep better; unfortunately, however, many of them act merely as band-aids and don’t actually address whatever underlying issue that may be at play.
Lately, a great deal of promise regarding the treatment of sleep disorders like insomnia has been found in research surrounding cannabidiol. Better known as CBD, this compound of the cannabis plant is increasingly being turned to as a more natural way to improve overall sleep. Read on to learn more about CBD for sleep, including studies regarding the efficacy of the compound and the types of CBD products that are currently available.
CBD and Sleep: An Overview
How has a compound of the cannabis plant emerged as one of the most promising treatments for sleep disorders like insomnia? To understand this, you need to understand the mechanisms by which CBD may affect various causes of disordered sleeping. Due to the long-time criminalization of the cannabis plant, there has been a dearth of research into how CBD affects sleep directly; that is starting to change, however, and we now have a handful of studies that have produced intriguing results.
As far as how CBD may affect the various causes of disordered sleeping, there is a bit more research out there. Various studies and reviews of the literature have shown potential links between the compound and things like PTSD, which can provoke anxiety that disrupts one’s ability to sleep; pain, which can make it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep; sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome; and even stress, which is oftentimes the primary culprit behind issues like insomnia.
The Pathophysiology of Sleep
To understand the ways in which CBD can be used to improve sleep and to potentially treat sleep disorders like insomnia, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what sleep is. Even though all people sleep, many have little to no understanding of the processes that are at play. Even after years of extensive research, a lot of mystery shrouds sleep and how it works, but more is being learned all of the time.
According to myvmc.com, sleep is defined as a state of reduced awareness, responsiveness and movement. A cyclical phenomenon, the typical night’s sleep for a human being consists of intervals of what are known as rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep, and non-rapid eye movement sleep, or NREM sleep. People typically experience anywhere from four to six cycles of these types of sleep. NREM sleep tends to occur for longer intervals later in the night while REM sleep tends to occur in shorter spurts during which people are easier to rouse.
What prompts people to become sleepy enough to fall asleep? This is largely dictated by what is known as the circadian rhythm, the process by which our body stays in tune with the external environment. Throughout the day, as the period since which NREM has occurred increases, the drive to fall asleep does too. From a physiological standpoint, specialized cells in the retinas of the eyes provide input to the brain; as a result, melatonin, a chemical that induces sleepiness, is secreted by the pineal gland. Unfortunately, a variety of things can inhibit this crucial release of melatonin, including the use of medications like benzodiazepine, a class of hypnotics, and NSAIDs like ibuprofen. As many people know all too well, caffeine can also interrupt this process in a profound way.
Insomnia: An Overview
Although researchers are still uncertain about many aspects of sleep, it is clear that the phenomenon plays a key role in regulating a dizzying array of biochemical, psychological, neurological and physiological processes. If sleep is so crucial to our well-being, however, why do so many in today’s world struggle with it?
Common Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can occur for a variety of reasons that span a number of different areas. Some examples of common causes of insomnia include:
- Medical – Insomnia can be a symptom of an underlying medical issue. These include endocrine disorders like hyperthyroidism; gastrointestinal problems like acid reflux; neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease; nasal or sinus allergies; asthma; arthritis and chronic pain. Sometimes, it is caused by an underlying sleep disorder like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. Other times, psychological disorders like depression and anxiety are to blame.
- Lifestyle – Sometimes, a person’s lifestyle triggers bouts of insomnia that may be acute, or short-lived, or chronic. Examples of this include choosing to sleep in late at random times, which can throw off the circadian rhythm; working late evenings, which confuses the sleep-wake cycle; taking long naps in the afternoon; and shift work, which often involves working overnight some of the time and during the day at other times.
- Foods and substances – As most people are well aware, consuming certain foods, drinks and other substances can wreak havoc on the sleep-wake cycle and can even result in acute or chronic insomnia. The best-known example of this is caffeine, which can remain in the system for upwards of eight hours at a time. However, substances like alcohol and nicotine are often also to blame for sleepless nights. Even consuming a heavy meal close to bedtime can negatively impact one’s ability to fall and stay asleep.
Symptoms of Insomnia
As noted previously, insomnia can be acute, or short-lived; in such instances, it is most often triggered by life circumstances and eases up as things change. It can also become chronic, or ongoing. Chronic insomnia is defined as experiencing disrupted sleep for at least three nights out of the week over a period of at least three months.
Whether acute or chronic, insomnia can wreak havoc on a person’s health and well-being. Examples of the most common symptoms of insomnia—other than being unable to get a good night’s sleep—include:
- Low energy – Without getting a healthy night of sleep, a person is apt to feel sapped of energy even right after waking.
- Fatigue – Since the body’s ability to refresh and recharge itself is interrupted, physical fatigue is a common symptom of insomnia.
- Mood disturbances – Insomnia can trigger the onset of mood disturbances like anxiety and depression.
- Poor performance – People who suffer from insomnia often began to experience problems at work, school or with handling their other responsibilities.
- Difficulty concentrating – Without regular, healthy sleep, your ability to concentrate is drastically diminished during your waking hours.
Current Treatments for Insomnia
Considering how widespread insomnia is in modern society—many medical professionals even regard it as an epidemic—it is amazing to realize that very little progress has been made in terms of effectively treating it. Of course, a great deal of promise is being shown regarding the use of CBD; to understand why this development is so exciting, it helps to consider today’s best treatment options:
- Medical treatments – A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications are available for the treatment of sleep disorders like insomnia. The latter category includes hypnotics like benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepines and a class of drugs that is known as melatonin receptor agonists. These medications tend to cause a number of unpleasant side effects, causing people to essentially choose between the lesser of two evils.
- Non-medical treatments – Because using medication to treat insomnia can be so tricky, many doctors and specialists encourage sufferers to attempt non-medical treatments first. These include psychological techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, as well as behavioral techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and meditation. Another approach, stimulus control, involves cultivating a connection between the bedroom and sleep; patients are encouraged to remove TV sets from their rooms, for example, to make the room strictly a sanctuary for getting shut-eye.
Studies Suggest That CBD May Help to Treat Sleep Problems
Although very little research has been performed thus far regarding how CBD affects sleep, numerous studies through the years have shown a possible link between the compound and various causes of sleep problems. Here are a few examples:
Neuropharmacology – January 2012 – Better Sleep for Sufferers of PTSD
In the paper “Effect of cannabidiol on sleep disruption induced by the repeated combination tests consisting of open field and elevated plus-maze in rats,” which was published in the journal Neuropharmacology in 2012, researchers studied the potential effects of CBD on people who were experiencing sleep disturbances caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The outcome of the study was promising, with the paper concluding that, “CBD effectively blocked anxiety-induced REM sleep suppression” in patients, suggesting that it could be a means of achieving more restful sleep for people who suffer from the condition.
Journal of Psychopharmacology – January 1993 – Decreased Anxiety for Public Speaking
In this older study, which was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 1993 under the title, “Effects of ipsapirone and cannabidiol on human experimental anxiety,” researchers investigated the effects of two compounds, including CBD, on the anxiety that people often experience when engaging in public speaking. Four separate groups of 10 subjects each were provided with placebos and with 300 mg of CBD. The paper concludes that “CBD decreased anxiety after the SPS test”—scientific jargon that essentially means that the compound appeared to lessen anxiety in those who had to speak in front of a group.
Journal of Opioid Management – July 2013 – A Potential Alternative to Opioids for Pain Relief
In “The Analgesic Potential of Cannabinoids,” which was published in the Journal of Opioid Management in 2013, researchers investigated the pain-relieving effects of CBD as a “much-needed alternative” to opioids. More than ever, of course, the U.S. in mired in a serious and ever-increasing opioid epidemic. People who experience chronic pain often struggle to sleep, but using opioids for long-term pain relief isn’t a viable option for a number of reasons. The study concluded that compounds like CBD appear to represent an alternative to harsher medications and noted that animal studies have been especially intriguing in this regard.
Sleep Medicine – August 2017 – Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome
This more recent study, which was conducted by researchers at Bordeaux Hospital University and published in Sleep Medicine under the title, “Cannabis for restless legs syndrome: a report of six patients,” revealed a potential link between the use of CBD and a more restful sleep for people who suffer from RLS, or restless legs syndrome. Researchers reported that “sleep quality improved significantly” for patients who received CBD, and they theorized that it could be thanks to CBD’s pain-relieving properties.
The Journal of Neuroscience – November 2010 – The Connection Between the Endocannabinoid System and Stress
In “Functional interactions between stress and the endocannabinoid system: from synaptic signaling to behavioral output,” which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2010, researchers investigated the relationship between the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS, which reacts to compounds like CBD, and stress. The study notes that the ECS appears to play an important role in regulating the effects of stress, citing the “importance of endocannabinoid signaling at multiple levels as both a regulator and an effector of the stress response.” Since stress is a common culprit behind sleep problems, this study strongly suggests that CBD may provide relief by helping to dampen the body’s reactions to stressful stimuli.
The Science Behind Why CBD Might Help
Now that you know a bit more about how sleep works and the most common causes of sleep disorders like insomnia, you are better prepared to understand why CBD appears to hold such promise for treating such issues. Like THC, another, better-known compound of cannabis, CBD is a cannabinoid. In addition to being introduced to the body through methods like vaping and sublingual oils, CBD—and other cannabinoids—are also produced naturally by the human body. These compounds strictly interact with a network of receptors in the body that is collectively known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
There are different types of cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors, which are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, impact things like pain perception, motor function, stress response and memory. CB2 receptors, which are distributed around the peripheral organs of the body, are core components of the cardiovascular system, the immune system and the muscular system. The most important takeaway here concerning CBD and the ECS is that the compound enables the ECS to provide relief for dozens of conditions ranging from anxiety to stress to insomnia.
Studies Show Promise Regarding CBD and Sleep
More recently, clinical studies have been performed to more specifically investigate the relationship between CBD and sleep disorders like insomnia. In “Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature,” which was published in Current Psychiatry in April 2017, researchers concluded that “CBS may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia,” noting that CBS appeared to be beneficial in studies regarding sleep apnea, REM sleep behavior deviance and other issues. In a paper titled “Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol,” published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 1981, insomniacs who were given 160 mg doses of CBD were reported to have slept “significantly more” than those who received placebo doses.
Experience the Potential Therapeutic Benefits of CBD for Sleep and Insomnia with CBGenius
If you have trouble getting a restful night of sleep and would rather not subject yourself to the potentially significant side effects of prescription medications, it may be time to discover the potential benefits of using CBD for sleep. As the cannabis plant continues to shed it criminalized status across the U.S.—CBD is now decriminalized in all 50 states—numerous CBD products have hit the market. Unfortunately, however, finding a source that is both high in quality and reasonably priced is a major challenge. At CBGenius, we don’t just produce and distribute a wide range of quality, affordable CBD products like vapes, creams and bath bombs—we also strive to educate the public about the potential benefits of CBD, and we are dedicated to helping people to investigate potentially safer, more effective alternatives to common treatments for sleep disorders like insomnia. Visit our website to learn more about our products and about the amazing promise that CBD holds for the treatment of a myriad of conditions.