In the United States, an estimated 50 to 70 million people suffer from a sleep disorder of some type. That amounts to 1 in 5 people. The people suffering from these disorders try many methods to achieve a good night’s sleep but usually fall short. In the past few years, people have started using CBD – also known as cannabidiol – to help them.
Before they tired CBD, these people had sought out numerous options to alleviate their issues to help them get a good night’s sleep. Some may have tried holistic approaches to sleep. Some experts suggest physical exertion such as jogging or other types of exercise. Others suggest something calming like yoga or meditation. And while these may work, they aren’t foolproof.
Many people with sleep issues will start at their local drug store for some over-the-counter sleep aids. The active ingredient in these sleep aids usually fall into 1 of 3 categories:
- Diphenhydramine (sold under common brand names like Compoz, Nytol, Sominex, and Sleepinal)
- Doxylamine (sold under brand names such as Unisom, Nighttime Sleep Aid)
- Antihistamines (usually with another ingredient – sold under brand names like Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Advil PM, and NyQuil)
And while these over-the-counter solutions may work for many, some may need something more powerful to help them sleep. When this happens, many seek out medical advice.
In many cases, doctors can be sympathetic to the patient’s plight and simply issue a prescription for a sleep aid without much prompting. Among the common prescription medications for sleep are (the generic names are in parentheses):
- Ambien (Zolpidem)
- Dalmane (Flurazepam)
- Desyrel (Trazodone)
- Doral (Quazepam)
- Elavil (Amitriptyline)
- Halcion (Triazolam)
- Lunesta (Eszopiclone)
- ProSom (Estazolam)
- Restoril (Temazepam)
- Rozerem (Ramelteon)
- Silenor (Doxepine)
- Sinequan (Doxepin)
- Sonata (Zalepon)
However, there are issues with these drugs. First, some of the drugs prescribed are “off-label” meaning that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t approve the drug as a sleep aid. Trazodone, Amitriptyline, and Doxepin aren’t sleeping pills at all, but antidepressants that have been known to have a side effect of causing drowsiness.
Second, the FDA in 2007 issued a warning for several of the drugs listed above. First, some were determined to cause allergic reactions in some people. Second, the drugs were causing people to perform actions like walking and driving while sleeping after taking the medications. The warning stated:
“In December 2006, FDA sent letters to manufacturers of products approved for the treatment of sleep disorders requesting that the whole class of drugs revise product labeling to include warnings about the following potential adverse events:
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) and angioedema (severe facial swelling), which can occur as early as the first time the product is taken.
- Complex sleep-related behaviors which may include sleep-driving, making phone calls, and preparing and eating food (while asleep).”
Because of the side effects and the off-label prescribing of antidepressants, many looked for an alternative. And that’s where CBD stepped in.
CBD and THC Explained
For those of you not familiar with CBD, it is a molecule found within a cannabis plant. Now you may ask “isn’t cannabis marijuana?” The answer is that some types of cannabis are marijuana and some aren’t.
It comes down to scientific classification. As humans, we’re all primates. But so is a chimpanzee. While we have several similarities in our genetic makeup, we’re most assuredly not the same.
The same goes for cannabis. Cannabis generally recognizes 3 strains. These are Indica, Sativa, and Ruderalis. The plant most associated with marijuana is Indica. Indica usually has the highest amount of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the psychoactive ingredient that gives a person the euphoric “high” during and after consumption.
Sativa usually has a low amount of THC and usually has a high amount of CBD. Most Sativa is known commonly as hemp. In order for a cannabis plant to be legally grown and processed under US federal law, the THC content must be below 0.3%.
Both CBD and THC are 2 of 113 identified cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds that act on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the bodies of humans and most animals. These compounds act on cells in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors work with the central nervous system to regulate physiological and cognitive processes in the body.
So what does all that mean? It means that the compounds in cannabis, namely THC and CBD, affect a number of processes in your body. This includes sleep.
If you’ve ever observed a person that’s smoked marijuana either in person, on TV, or in a movie, you’ll notice that the person has generally “mellowed out”. Sometimes you’ll even see a person that has smoked enough marijuana to get extremely tired or just completely falls asleep.
This is due to the cannabinoids in marijuana and the ECS in the person’s body working to send signals to the brain to sleep.
But you don’t have to consume marijuana to get this effect. You can get the same effect from consuming the CBD from the cannabis plant, specifically, the non-psychoactive version of cannabis, hemp.
Causes of Sleep Issues
You can imagine that with 1 in 5 people in the US suffering from sleep issues, that a variety of reasons could be the culprit.
The root causes of sleep issues can differ from person to person, but in the end, sleep disorders cause a person to natural circadian rhythm (the body’s natural “time clock”) to be altered to affect natural nighttime sleep.
Five factors that can cause sleep issues are:
- Physical – The person has an illness or condition that affects a person’s sleep. This can be as simple as pain from the issue or more complicated such as systemic issues.
- Medical – The result of a treatment of medication that can affect the sleep cycle.
- Psychiatric – A disorder such as depression or anxiety that causes a person to get a lack or even too much sleep.
- Environmental – Physical barriers to sleep. The person may have issues with noise or light that affects their ability to sleep properly
- Chemical – The person is consuming substances that are affecting sleep. These could include caffeine, stimulants, alcohol, or illicit narcotics.
While those factors are the overarching issues that people experience with sleep problems, other factors can play a role as well. For example, a person’s genetics can certainly be a cause of sleep issues. A few years ago, scientists discovered a gene called HLA-DQB1 that can play a role in the sleep disorder narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes a decreased ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Many sufferers will experience constant sleepiness and fall asleep at random times during the day without any control over the situation.
Another factor that can affect sleep is a person’s job. People who work night shifts or have a shift that varies can throw off their circadian rhythm. In addition, jobs that require travel over multiple time zones can also cause sleep issues as these people rarely have time to adjust to their new time zone before having to go to another one. Jobs that are known to have these type of shifts include airline pilots, flight attendants, police officers, firefighters, entertainers, and military personnel.
Daylight savings time/standard time can also play a role in a person having sleep issues. Many times, a person may not be able to recover until standard time returns (or vice versa).
Issues with this have resulted in many legislators crafting bills to end the practice, with some states, like Massachusetts, even researching the possibility of changing time zones.
Sleep issues among the elderly are very common. Some have issues with no sleep and some with sleeping too much. These can be brought on by medications, environment, and just the aging process in general.
The Benefits of CBD for Sleep
The study of CBD and its effects on the human body are still in its infancy. This is because of laws around the world that painted hemp in the same broad stroke as marijuana.
Luckily, this has changed over the last few decades and scientist are realizing that CBD has some amazing benefits.
One aspect of CBD is the ability for it to make a user relax. Issues like anxiety or stress can prevent a person from getting normal sleep. By reducing these factors CBD breaks down those barriers of stress and anxiety that allow people to fall asleep. In addition, it allows most people to sleep longer without interruption, giving CBD users quality, restful sleep sessions.
Another function of CBD is the ability to reduce pain, especially in patients that have chronic issues. In many cases, these patients that suffer from chronic pain have issues with insomnia. And the insomnia keeps them awake longer, causing them to feel more pain. CBD with its relaxing properties as well as its pain relieving properties can help these patients in achieving restful sleep.
For those who suffer from daytime sluggishness due to sleep issues, smaller doses of CBD has been known to help stimulate those who take it. This helps later when the person tries to sleep as they have exerted a lot of energy during the day, allowing them to feel drained at the end of the day so they can achieve restful, normal sleep at night.
CBD is also helpful in achieving REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement. REM is the deep sleep that people need to feel rested. It allows a person to vividly dream and allows the body and the brain to effectively rest. During this type of sleep, the eyes will move back and forth rapidly under the eyelid.
Lack of REM sleep can cause anxiety, irritability, hallucinations, aggression, appetite changes, and affect the ability of the body to regulate temperature.
REM issues can be a result of many health issues. Among the more common conditions that are known to affect REM sleep are Parkinson’s disease and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In these cases, CBD can reduce any pain caused by the afflictions and relax the patient to achieve REM sleep.
Another benefit of CBD has recently been discovered. The British Journal of Pharmacology published a study that shows that CBD can play a role in the production of new brain cells. The process known as neurogenesis has been studied for decades in the search of helping people with brain damage repair or replace damaged cells. The 2015 study concluded that “Pharmacological targeting of the cannabinoid system as a regulator of neurogenesis may prove a fruitful strategy in the prevention or treatment of mood or memory disorders.”
Using CBD for Sleep Issues
When using CBD for sleep issues, there are a few factors that you should take into account.
First is the dosage. In most cases, people take CBD as a tincture and administer the oil under the tongue with an eye dropper. Some may vape the CBD. Other options may include edibles and pill form. Regardless of the method, it’s important to understand the dosage. In most cases, you can take 1mg to 6mgs of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight. If you are just starting out, it is best to lean to the low side of this measurement. This is not because of any danger to you. You can’t overdose on CBD, but it can cause excessive drowsiness. The purpose is to get a good night’s sleep, but too much will make you want to sleep all day as well.
Next, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you shouldn’t take CBD without talking to your doctor.
If you have Parkinson’s disease, consult your doctor before using CBD. While CBD can help, too high of a dose can actually increase issues with tremors and muscle control.
Finally, if you are taking other medication or supplements, then you also need to speak with your doctor before adding CBD into your regimen.
A list of medications and supplements that may cause issues for you include:
- Medications metabolized by the liver
- Jamaican Dogwood
- John’s Wort
- S-Adenosyl methionine (SAM or SAM-e)
Because of the recent change in laws in the United States, CBD has experienced an explosion in people adding the product to their health regimen.
Many of these people are experiencing some sort of sleep issues (either standalone issues or as a result of another health issue). These people are finding relief in CBD that they haven’t found in synthetic pills and other homeopathic methods.
While the research is new on many aspects and benefits of CBD, existing studies have shown that CBD is effective in helping people sleep. And unlike the sleep, a prescription medication such as Ambien provides, CBD provides a natural sleep as opposed to the medicated zombie-like effects of synthetic sleep aids.
You can certainly start a CBD regimen on your own, but it’s always best to talk to your physician first. He or she can navigate your CBD dosage to improve your health issues and avoid any complication that may arise with other medications or supplements you may be taking.