WHAT THE RESEARCH IS SAYING
CBD has become the latest and greatest option for a wide variety of ailments like anxiety and pain, but does it work for those suffering from sleep disorders like insomnia? Studies on the benefits of CBD have skyrocketed since the Farm Bill Act was signed in 2018, but few studies have been centered directly around CBD and sleep aid.
Anxiety and sleep disorders are known to be directly linked, when your head hits the pillow and you can’t stop thinking about the things that are making you anxious, it can be very hard to fall into a quality sleep. A recent study done in The Permanente Journal by Kaisher Permanente Health Insurance Company studied 72 patients who used CBD to treat both anxiety and poor sleep. During the three month study researchers data showed that 66-79 percent of patients experienced an improvement in anxiety and sleep in the first month of taking various doses of CBD. After two months of CBD treatment 56-78 percent of patients reported an improvement in both sleep and anxiety. Overall results demonstrated that patients had a more sustained response to anxiety then for sleep, with sleep scores demonstrating a mild improvement. Though results were not as clear cut as the reduction in anxiety, patients did still report improvements in their sleep, especially in the first month. Scott Shannon, M.D. the study’s main author claimed that the link between reduced anxiety helped contribute directly to having a better sleep, as patients worried less about their sleep issues due to the lower levels of anxiety.
A study published in the journal of Medicines focused on 409 individuals who were dealing with insomnia. This two year study had patients rate their level of insomnia on a sale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most extreme, the average patient sleeping symptoms were rated at a 6.6 out of 10. The study used cannabis flower to test the effects it would have on improving the sleep of the patients. Within the cannabis flower there was on average 5.7 percent CBD and around 20 percent THC. Over the 2 years the study was conducted it showed a decrease in insomnia levels from the average 6.6 to 2.2, which is a 4.5 overall decrease. This shows a positive reaction of consuming cannabis flower to help deal with insomnia, with the result pointing towards the cannabinoids in cannabis as the main reason. The directl correlation in this study with CBD and sleep is not straightforward, as it is difficult to determine what cannabinoid was the main factor in the decrease in insomnia. The study does point to CBD as being much safer of an option then pharmaceutical sleep aids and THC as it safer and provides no psychoactive elements.
CBD has been known to help with specific sleep anomalies that happen during rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Before we fall into a REM sleep we first go through our non-rapid eye rapid eye-movement (NREM). We go through NREM sleep around 90 minute cycle before leading up to our REM sleep cycle. When we enter into our REM cycle that is when our brain wave activity increases and we begin to dream. When we are in our REM cycle, our limbs become paralyzed so we cannot move or act out during our dreams. This is different for people who suffer with Parkinson’s disease and REM behavior disorder, as their bodies do not become temporarily paralyzed and they are able to act out and flail during dreams. Studies have been done with doses of CBD ranging between 75-300 mg that show CBD had a substantial reduction in the REM sleep behavior disorder with no side effects. Where they concluded that CBD is able to control symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder.
The Science of CBD and Anxiety
It’s important we take a look into the science of CBD and how it effects anxiety. The studies that have been done surrounding CBD and sleep have pointed to the fact that CBD directly effects anxiety and stress which could very well indicate that a reduction in both anxiety and stress could result in getting a better sleep.
CBD is known to work with the CB1 receptor in our brains, leading researchers to believe this direct interaction between CBD and our CB1 receptor can alter our serotonin signals. CB1 receptors are located mainly in the brain and our central nervous system. CB1 receptors are important to having a healthy functioning brain and are one of the most important receptors within the nervous system. Depending on the specific section of the brain, CB1 receptors can moderate things like your memory, motor functions, pain management and mood. Serotonin is mostly associated with happiness but dysfunction can stem from low and high levels of serotonin. Serotonin contains around 14 receptors, one of them being 5-HT1A, this receptor is known to have the strongest role in the contribution to anxiety disorders. It is also known that CBD when consumed specifically binds to the 5-HT1A receptor. The popular anti-anxiety pharmaceutical drug buspirone also binds to the 5-HTIA receptors, just like CBD does, which points directly to CBD having a positive effect on helping deal with anxiety.
The human body produces natural cannabinoids, similar to ones found in THC and CBD. These natural cannabinoids are used throughout the brain and body in our endocannabinoid system. When we constantly stress ourselves out our endocannabinoid system can become dysfunctional. Taking CBD can help prevent overstimulation of our CB1 receptors, therefore boosting our body’s production of endocannabinoids, keeping it healthy and out of risk of becoming dysfunctional.
CBD is known for stimulating growth of neurons in our brains. Chronic stress can damage our neurons which results in our brains shrinking over time. Throughout our life our brain is capable of regeneration where we form new neurons, make new connections and grow our brains. CBD can help boost this process, which helps counterbalance the damage we do to our brains from chronic stress. CBD is known to encourage natural regeneration particularly in our hippocampus which controls our motivation, emotions, learning and memory.
Though more research is needed on CBD and anxiety, specifically more research on humans. It is becoming clear that CBD has a positive effect on helping humans deal with stress and anxiety. Therefore this contributes to falling into a proper sleep cycle as you are less stressed and have lower levels of anxiety while taking CBD. The direct correlation between the two aren’t studied enough, but the results are clearly point in the directly that dealing with things like anxiety can help contribute to sleeping better.
Should you try CBD for sleep?
CBD poses almost no side effects, with fatigue being the most common and that is exactly what you’re looking for if you want to fall asleep. There are a few things to consider if you are going to try CBD for sleep. CBD currently has more research pointing towards helping deal with anxiety then it does sleep, though as we’ve mentioned before, reduced anxiety makes it easier to sleep.
Taking CBD in the short term seems to be the best current approach. The longer you take CBD to help with sleep there is a chance CBDs effects become lower the more you use it. The study conducted in The Permanente Journal show patients sleeplessness improved in the first month, but was less effective in both the second and third month. It has also been suggested that once a person is not suffering from so sort of sleep dysfunction CBD may provide the reverse effects and make them more alert and awake.
Choose the right method to consume CBD. Vaping or smoking CBD might have an instant effect but taking CBD pills, CBD oils and CBD edibles might help with getting a prolonged sleep because the CBD releases slower into your system. It is recommended that if you are suffering from insomnia or having sleep issues you speak to your doctor first and foremost. Especially if you are already taking specific medications, as CBD may interact with them. It’s important to understand that CBD is in the infancy stages and further studies need to be conducted on a larger scale for the medical world to better understand the complete benefits of CBD and sleep. If you are going to use CBD to help with sleep, make sure to take it slow and move your way up in potency as time goes on.