From stressed-out parents to night owls, there are millions of people all around the globe who suffer from insomnia. With an estimated 30% – 35% of American adults showing symptoms of insomnia, medical experts are calling it an epidemic. In the morning we’re tired, and at night we can’t sleep – many of us know the feeling. It could be boredom, stress, or in some cases too much exposure to cell phone and computer screens.
Oftentimes, even with proper nutrition and diet, physical activity, and living the average lifestyle, many people are still faced with a few long nights of insomnia and early morning fatigue. But, there is good news, and it comes in the form of the cannabis plant. With mountains of testimonials and supporting medical research, cannabis-derived CBD has been found to be effective in treating symptoms of insomnia.
Because of the unique benefit of this compound, some people are now faced with an ironic concern; if CBD aids in helping you to fall asleep, does it make you sleepy? And if it does, will it affect the mindset during the day? As part of this article, we are going to explore what insomnia is, how CBD can help in treating insomnia, and what medical studies have found.
Overview of Insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that impacts millions of people all around the world. It’s a complicated condition, but in short, those who suffer from insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The effects can be incredibly devastating. Those who suffer from insomnia usually experience one or more of the following symptoms; low energy, lethargic, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, mood disturbances, and difficulty concentrating. A general feeling of unwellness is experienced both physically and mentally is common.
Insomnia is often characterized based on its duration. Acute insomnia often occurs because of life circumstances (for instance, after receiving stressful or bad news, or when you can’t fall asleep before an exam), and it’s usually brief. There are many people who may have experienced this kind of passing sleep disruption, and it’s usually resolved without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia refers to disrupted sleep that happens at least three times per week and typically lasts for at least three months. There are a variety of causes of chronic sleep disorder. Shift work, changes in the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, other clinical disorders, as well as certain medications, can lead to long-term patterns of insufficient sleep. Chronic insomnia can be comorbid, which means that it’s linked to another medical or psychiatric issues. But it is often difficult to understand this cause and effect relationship.
Insomnia can affect anyone and any age, but it’s more common in adult females when compared to adult males. It can undermine work and school performance, as well as contributing to depression, irritability, anxiety, obesity, memory problems, concentration problems, reduced reaction time, and poor immune system function. There are certain people who are more likely to suffer from insomnia. These include; travelers, the elderly, shift workers, users of illegal drugs, pregnant women, menopausal women, and those with mental health disorders.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Insomnia
While CBD has proven to be effective in alleviating the symptoms of insomnia, how it actually works to do so is probably very different to how you imagined. Rather than administering sedative effects like THC or a sleeping pill would, CBD fights insomnia at the source.
At the root of today’s epidemic of insomnia is not some contagious sickness or genetic disorder. It’s the same thing behind high blood pressure, cancer, and many other illnesses. Any guesses about what this “thing” is? If you guessed stress, then you would be right.
With the increasing demands of employers, technology, and the economy, along with unhealthy lifestyles and skyrocketing health conditions, stress levels are at an all-time high. While regular levels of stress may cause mood swings and minor headaches, prolonged stress has been connected to serious health conditions like anxiety, cancer, high blood pressure, and, of course, insomnia.
So how does CBD help to relieve stress? In basic terms, stress is the result of how a particular person responds to a situation. While there are various factors behind how a person responds to a situation, the process of responding is, in fact, a psychological process which occurs in the brain.
A normal, healthy brain has functions in place that manage how we react to stressful situations. But, if there’s not much going on in the brain, or if it’s off-balance, the brain will become overloaded, and this function won’t work properly.
This is where CBD comes into play. Each of our bodies produces their own cannabinoids, which form part of what is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for regulating many physiological processes, such as appetite, mood, pain perception, and sleep. CBD works by interacting with the bodies ECS and its receptors. Studies have shown that when CBD interacts with these receptors, there’s an improvement in cognitive function, and the brain is able to respond to stressful situations more effectively. This results in the negative behavioral output being mitigated, as well as the stress-cycle being negated.
Essentially, by improving the brain’s ability to respond to stressful situations, CBD aids in alleviating current stress levels, and also serves as a preventative measure against future stress. Ultimately, this is how CBD helps to treat insomnia.
To summarize, we know that CBD interacts with a few different receptors, chemicals, and other chemicals found in the brain. These interactions cause changes in the activity of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other cells found in the brain and body. It is through these interactions that CBD seems to be able to affect many of the body’s functions from pain perceptions, sleep-wake cycles, and emotional regulation to seizures, and inflammation.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Insomnia
Michael Breus, who serves as a board-certified sleep specialist and clinical psychologist, explained in a 2017 HuffPost article that there is a good deal of research that suggests that CBD can be useful for rest. Studies have found that CBD could increase overall sleep amounts, and reduce insomnia. In addition, CBD has been found to improve sleep in those people who suffer from chronic pain.
Gretchen Lidicker, who is the author of a CBD oil lifestyle guide, stated that while studying CBD is very difficult due to legal issues that surround cannabis, there has been studies that indicate that CBD could be a helpful antidote to insomnia and anxiety.
Most of these studies point to the ability that CBD has to interact with GABA receptors and serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin plays an important part in anxiety and mood, and GABA is well-known as the main “inhibitory” neurotransmitter, which means that it helps to calm excess activity in the brain, and also promotes relaxation. Benzodiazepines – which are a type of anti-anxiety drug – target the GABA receptors.
Lidicker noted that one particular study done on humans and published in a journal called Neuropsychopharmacology found that CBD could help with public speaking-induced anxiety. She also mentioned a clinical trial that was conducted at a hospital in Massachusetts, in which researchers were administering 10mg of CBD per day for a month in order to test the effects it has on those patients who suffer from anxiety.
So how does CBD compare to various other sleep supplements such as melatonin? Lidicker says that while she believes that melatonin is great, it has a completely different impact on the brain and body. CBD seems to help with sleep due to its anti-anxiety properties and how it promotes relaxation. However, melatonin directly signals to the body that it’s evening and therefore time to sleep by increasing the naturally occurring levels of melatonin that are already in the body.
This explains why melatonin will make you sleepy and might help with jetlag, but won’t help with the underlying stress and anxiety that causes insomnia in the first place.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Insomnia
Surprisingly, CBD can help you both stay awake and fall asleep. In small doses, CBD reduces daytime sleepiness stimulates alertness which is essential for your sleep-wake cycle. In larger doses (more than 150mg) CBD reduces sleep interruptions and increases the total sleep time.
These days there is a staggering increase in the number of people who are seeking natural alternatives to prescription sleep aid. Some prescription drugs such as Valium can possibly be habit-forming and may destroy your liver over time. The unnatural sleep that is induced by sleeping pills can leave you feeling less than refreshed and sometimes groggy in the morning. CBD, on the other hand, is natural and has no adverse side effects.
How to Take CBD for Insomnia
There are multiple ways that you can use CBD for treating insomnia. Here are the most popular:
- Tinctures: CBD oil can be taken in a tincture which contains the CBD in an oil. Tinctures generally have a lower amount of CBD per dose, but they are still an effective means of getting relief from sleep disorders. For easy ingestion, you can simply drop the tincture directly under the tongue and allow it to dissolve before you swallow it. If you don’t enjoy the taste, you can add the tincture to a beverage.
- Capsules: Capsules can be taken together with any other supplements of vitamins as part of your daily regime. However, one thing to keep in mind is that capsules will take longer your body to fully absorb and digest, meaning the effects will take longer to kick in. If you’re using CBD capsules to help you sleep, you will need to take them well before going to sleep so that your body will have enough time to process them.
- Vape oil: Another good way to take CBD is inhaling or vaporizing it. If you have a vape pen, you just need to buy some CBD vape oil, and you would then use it the same way you normally would. Vaping is one of the fastest ways to feel the effects of CBD, which makes it very helpful.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Insomnia
If more restful sleep is what you are after and you’ve already tried prescription pills and over-the-counter medications, then you might want to think about adding CBD to your nighttime regime. You are bound to be in dreamland faster than you can get the words “I can’t sleep” out. While more scientific research is certainly needed to determine how exactly CBD works to treat insomnia, studies thus far have shown some promising results.