Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis, which is a plant that’s commonly known as marijuana. From cannabis, we derive THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
While marijuana is still illegal in many states, cannabis derivates that contain less than 0.3% of THC (hemp) and CBD are legal and can be found in shops across the country. In fact, many people swear by CBD as a way to soothe health ailments—including poor sleep.
CBD’s impact on sleep, though, is a bit complex in nature; and not only that, but present-day research continues to find answers to how CBD impacts the body as a whole. Let’s break down what we know so far, and whether or not you should consider using CBD to help improve your rest.
Effects of Taking CBD
Research has revealed that CBD has a calming effect on the nervous system, altering moods by boosting serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps naturally regulate moods. When serotonin levels are balanced, people feel happier, calmer, more focused, less anxious, and more emotionally stable. In relation to sleep health, studies suggest that serotonin deficiencies have been linked to anxiety and subsequently, insomnia.
Unlike THC, CBD does not induce a feeling of being high—it actually reduces the psychoactive (mind-altering) effects of THC. The impact of CBD on a person is dependent on the amount taken. Low doses of CBD can be stimulating for the brain, while high doses act as a sedative.
How can CBD Help with Sleep Disorders?
Many studies suggest that a high dose of CBD before bedtime can help improve the sleep quality of those with chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, as well as many other sleep disorders. In one study, 80% of participants who used CBD as a treatment for anxiety reported lower anxiety levels within a month. Sleep also improved in more than 65% of participants.
Important to note is that anxiety and sleep disorders often go hand-in-hand: anxiety can lead to decreased sleep quality, while sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety. One sleep disorder that falls into this category is insomnia. Those with insomnia have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep, and anxiety can cause these symptoms to worsen. Typically, levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) peak in the morning, but those with insomnia experience heightened levels of cortisol in the evening hours, which can lead to increased anxiety about getting inadequate sleep and increase sleeplessness at night.
Another sleep disorder that has been found to be improved by CBD is REM sleep behavior disorder. REM sleep behavior disorder is often found in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients and involves symptoms such as aggressive movements and verbalizing during sleep. A recent study found that patients with REM sleep behavior disorder who experienced symptoms 2-7 times weekly decreased to 0-1 times weekly after being treated with CBD.
What Forms Does CBD Come In?
There are many different forms of CBD commonly available:
- Oral solutions
- Oral sprays that are applied under the tongue
- Oils and tinctures (drops)
- Vapes and vape juices that are used in a vaping pen
- Edible items (gummies, cookies, chocolates, beverages)
- Pills and capsules
- Topical creams, patches, gels, and ointments
While CBD comes in different concentrations, research is still ongoing. The exact dose to treat sleep issues isn’t fully known and may take some trial and error to determine the best dose for each individual user.
Before treating anxiety and sleep disorders with CBD, be sure to consult your doctor. CBD can react with other medications or supplements, hurting sleep rather than helping it. A healthcare professional, such as Dr. Dibra or Dr. Smith, will be able to provide you with more information on CBD.
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