The use of cannabinoids (CBD) for sleep isn’t a recent development. For centuries cannabinoids were used by Chinese and Indian cultures to treat various ailments including sleep conditions. Even in the U.S. doctors were prescribing Cannabis Sativa (CBD) for patients up until the 1930’s. Then in 1970 Cannabis was listed by the federal government as a Schedule 1 substance making it illegal to possess. At that point no Cannabis derivatives were used legally until California passed Proposition 215 in 1996 permitting the use of medical marijuana. Now that hemp derived CBD is legal in all 50 states the floodgates have opened and CBD is being peddled as a cure-all for sleep disorders as well as many other physical maladies.
What Defines a Sleep Disorder?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sleep disorders are conditions that result in changes in the way that you sleep.” Sleep disorders may include such bothersome behaviors as altered sleep-wake cycles, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulty staying asleep.
Sleep deprivation has many detrimental health consequences such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. Since sleep affects your health and quality of life it’s imperative to achieve restful, deep sleep.
The Theory Behind CBD and Sleep
Sleep is regulated by more than a few brain structures, neurotransmitters, and neuromodulators. Within our bodies are lipids called endocannabinoids that control activity in the brain. Endocannabinoids are made by your body and are like cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids exist in your body even if you have never used cannabis.
“The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system,nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind.” Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System, Bradley G. Alger Ph.d.
Endocannabinoids bind mainly to cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, and regulate several brain functions, one of which is said to be sleep. Cannabinoids produce most of their effects by activating the CB1 receptor. Experts aren’t certain exactly how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but they do know that it doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the way THC does. Instead, the theory is that they work by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down. Others believe that CBD binds to a receptor that hasn’t been discovered yet. Still, most CBD promoters claim CBD will help with sleep problems. But, if all of the current information about the endocannabinoid system is true, CBD doesn’t have a major impact on sleep because it isn’t completely certain that it binds with CB1 receptors that regulate sleep.
Does CBD Help with Sleep?
There isn’t a wide body of current scientific research available regarding CBD and sleep. Of the few scientific studies available it appears CBD helps more with any anxiety or pain that inhibits sleep rather than inducing sleep. For instance, the conclusion from a study of 103 out-patients from a wellness center in Colorado:
“These results demonstrated a more sustained response to anxiety than for sleep over time. Patient records displayed a larger decrease in anxiety scores than in sleep scores. The sleep scores demonstrated mild improvement.”
In another study it was suggested that CBD may cause mental sedation and therefore aid with falling asleep. The only other sleep study published which showed some interesting results included administering CBD combined with THC. However, even if THC was legal in all states, which it isn’t, there is some research that shows THC reduces REM sleep,the kind of sleep that is restorative.
Anecdotal or Scientific Proof?
For now, it appears as if the CBD sleep connection may be purely anecdotal, that taking CBD relaxes the mind and eases pain to help the body get ready for sleep. Research on cannabis and sleep has not yet been fully explored and so far has returned mixed results. Even so, if you’re seeking articles that say CBD gives you a good night’s sleep, you’ll find a whole heap of them, but beware, they’re mostly written by the very people who are trying to sell you CBD.
The good news is CBD as a form of treatment appears to have no major complications and low overall risks for those taking it for the short term. So with anything you purchase for your health make certain you check out CBD companies beforehand, read reviews, ask questions, and be satisfied they’re legitimate.