Humans have long used the cannabis plant for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Compounds called cannabinoids in the plant are responsible for the effects on the brain & body, and the two most abundant of these are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Many clients come to Flowerz looking for help in improving their quality of sleep. The great news is that research is continuing to show us that cannabinoid therapy may help. Certain cannabinoids have shown through studies the ability to benefit our sleep-wake cycles, decrease nightmares, lessen the conditions that interfere with our sleep, and assist in actually falling asleep.
Depending on what sleep disorder one is suffering from, or what sleep benefit they are looking for, there are 3 main cannabinoids that have been studied for their sleep-enhancing qualities. Those cannabinoids to be discussed here are CBD, THC, and CBN.
Before we go on, let’s get into some background information and understanding.
Researchers discovered that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in maintaining certain body functions, such as mood, appetite, sleep, and regulating circadian rhythms. Within the endocannabinoid system is a network of cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. The two primary receptors identified are CB1 and CB2.
Cannabinoids attach to these cells and have various effects. As far as how they may affect sleep, research indicates that the cannabinoid CBD may interact with specific receptors, potentially affecting the sleep/wake cycle.
Additionally, CBD may also decrease anxiety and pain, which can both interfere with restful sleep. By reducing certain symptoms, it’s also possible that sleep may improve.
CBD is not a naturally sedative molecule. Research has shown that high quantities may have “sedative-like qualities”, potentially due to the effect on cortisol levels. So why is it that you might have heard from a friend that CBD helps them sleep?
There are two great reasons for this.
CBD has therapeutic properties that have the potential to mitigate symptoms that interfere with sleep. It also has the potential to improve sleep-wake cycles leading to an increase in the percentage of total sleep overtime.
Among the several researched properties, CBD may benefit as an anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. The anxiolytic properties of CBD may help to improve sleep by mitigating anxiety or stress-induced insomnia. Stress induces a sleep-related feature known as rapid eye movement (or REM) sleep rebound, this is an increase in REM sleep during the nightly sleep cycles. People experiencing REM sleep rebound may spend more time in REM than they would during a night of normal, healthy sleep.
Cannabinoids and Inflammation
Inflammation is a root cause of autoimmune disorders including arthritis, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), crohn’s disease, and others – all which have an effect on body clock function that can lead to sleep disorders. A study by Northwestern found in mice this link between inflammation and what controls the body clock. By limiting this inflammation, we may lessen the effects on our body clock functions and have more restful sleep.
A study in 2005 showed that people reporting insomnia symptoms are at least 3 times more likely to have a chronic painful physical condition. These events may then become cyclical in that pain may disrupt sleep and sleep deprivation can increase pain perception. In the majority of animal studies, CBD has been known to exert analgesic effects; co-administering with THC may provide more benefit to this therapeutic action.
Our circadian rhythm aligns our sleep and wakefulness with day and night to provide stability in restorative rest that enables increased daytime activity. Low doses of CBD may be associated with wakefulness to help our focus and cognition during the day. Studies show that therapeutic levels of CBD administration may increase total sleep time and decrease frequency of arousals at night – leading to an increase in total percentage of sleep overtime.
In comparison to CBD, THC has shown in studies as having an affect on mental and physical sedation, even in low amounts. THC also has positive therapeutic benefits that may lead to better sleep.
Nightmares are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often resulting in this being considered a “treatment-resistant” condition. Initial research has shown the benefit cannabinoids can have in managing nightmares linked with PTSD. A study with military veterans and prison inmates receiving Nabilone, a synthetic form of THC, found a reduction in nightmare presence and intensity. This increased participants’ hours of sleep per night.
Just as mentioned with CBD, THC is also beneficial for mitigating pain-induced insomnia or wakefulness. When it comes to pain studies and medical cannabis with significant THC content, benefits consistently show moderate to high symptom management of chronic pain.
A normal amount of apneic events in a healthy individual is about 4 per hour while asleep. Sleep apnea is the most prevalent form of sleep-disordered breathing in the United States and a number of animal and human studies have been conducted to examine cannabinoids as potential therapeutic alternatives to continued positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which are currently being utilized.
THC shares properties of the endocannabinoid Oleamide, which benefits apneic events. Results in one animal study showed that both the endocannabinoid Oleamide and the exogenous cannabinoid THC reduced apneic events, suggesting therapeutic promise for those who suffer from sleep apnea.
CBN and Sleep
If you are new to CBN, this is a cannabinoid that is created as THC ages.
It has been observed that there is a correlation between aged cannabis and sleepiness, therefore CBN was previously linked to sedation. However, there may be more to it than the CBN itself. What limited research there is, has shown that CBN alone does not provide sedating effects. However, the combination of THC and CBN has been researched to promote sleepiness.
What also may be adding to the sleepiness as a result of taking CBN, are the sesquiterpenes that are left behind as cannabis ages. These may be naturally more calming than the monoterpenes that evaporate over time. Neurologist Ethan Russo explains that in aged cannabis, monoterpenes begin evaporating after the live plant is cut from its growing medium as they are lighter in weight. Pinene is a monoterpene example. Once monoterpenes have evaporated, sesquiterpenes are left behind due to being heavier in weight. These terpenes are naturally more calming, such as nerolidol and caryophyllene oxide.
As well, just as with CBD and THC, CBN has its own therapeutic benefits. For example, in a rodent study, CBN was shown to reduce arthritis-related inflammation.
CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and known as CBD oil. But it can be a little complicated. CBD may be extracted from either the marijuana or hemp plant, which are both strains of the Cannabis sativa plant. But they are harvested differently. Hemp comes from the seeds and stalks of the plant, which contains less THC than marijuana.
Because the THC content in CBD oil may vary, depending on the state it’s sold, there may be restrictions. For example, in some states, CBD oil is sold legally if all of the THC is removed. If CBD oil still contains THC or other cannabinoids, it may only be sold in states that have legalized marijuana use.
Depending on the laws in your state, you may need a doctor’s prescription for CBD oil. But laws continue to change quickly, so in the near future, it may be different.
CBD oil can be placed under the tongue. It may also be infused in different products including the following;
- Edibles: Various types of edibles infused with CBD oil are available including gummy bears, cakes, and cookies. Edibles usually list the concentration of CBD in milligrams.
- Vaporing: CBD extract can be used in a vaporizer or vape pen. As the extract heats up, it creates a vapor that is inhaled.
- Tinctures: CBD also comes in tinctures. A few drops of the liquid can be added to drinks.
CBD oil is available in different concentrations. Since research is ongoing, the exact dose to treat sleep issues may not be fully known. It might take some trial and error to determine what works best.
Because there are so many different ways to ingest CBD, there are tons of CBD products to choose from. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are the CBD products we recommend to try if you want to improve your sleep.
There is a lot to consider when starting cannabinoid therapy but, as always, a Flowerz specialist is here to help with your questions. Contact us today by emailing [email protected]