Can CBD Help You Get More Shut-Eye?
By Keith Alban
Few experiences feel more frustrating than lying awake for hours at night, unable to sleep before a hectic day at work, a tough test at school, an athletic event, or a busy travel day. Millions of Americans rely on sleep medication to avoid that lethargic, foggy feeling that usually accompanies a poor night’s rest. Unfortunately, many of these remedies are habit-forming and can cause even more lethargy and fog, even with a good night’s sleep. Many over the counter sleep formulas contain toxic ingredients that knock you out into oblivion. It’s easy to become reliant on these formulas because they usually do work but come with a laundry list of potential side effects.
Toxic Ingredients in Sleeping Aids
Ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, dyes, propylene glycol, and other various noxious compounds are often part of the inactive ingredient list of many over the counter sleep formulas. As if that wasn’t enough, then you have unsafe compounds such as diphenhydramine HCL, doxylamine succinate, or some other ingredient that you can’t pronounce. Diphenhydramine can cause an array of problems in the human body such as blurred vision, delirium and psychosis (with higher doses), respiratory depression, headaches, tremors, and even tachycardia. All of these potential side effects tell us that this compound is quite toxic to the human body, especially at high doses.
There have been many reports of serious complications from taking over-the-counter sleep aids. Some people mix these sleep aids with medications, which is a recipe for disaster, literally. Prescription medications for sleep can have serious implications as well, especially over time. Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, and other prescription sleep aids can cause double vision, rapid heartbeat, abnormal body movements, nightmares, respiratory depression, and hallucinations. These are just a few of the acute, short term side effects. Long term use of Ambien can cause digestive problems, compromised motor coordination, slower response and reaction time, frequent headaches, muscle pain, difficulty concentrating and focusing, weakened memory, depression, and much more. (1)
This isn’t exactly the type of compound that should be relied upon to fall asleep every night. Deaths have been reported as well from time to time due to accidents occurring while on these medications and toxic reactions to the medication. Many of the deaths reported may be due to mixing these sleep aids with other substances, but these are powerful medications that don’t always act harmoniously within the body. If you decide to use medication or over-the-counter sleep aids, start out with the lowest possible dose that you need to get to sleep. It’s important to seek other solutions to this issue and only use them as a last resort.
Melatonin is one alternative that some people like because of its role in maintaining circadian rhythms and helping us feel tired naturally. When the lights are out and it’s time to fall asleep, our pineal gland starts producing melatonin. The problem is that the pineal gland is almost always partially or fully calcified at a fairly young age, so it may not be functioning ideally. Supplementing with melatonin can give some good health benefits and help many people fall asleep, but not everyone will react well to it. A percentage of melatonin users have reported feeling a bit drowsy or have strange dreams on melatonin. It’s best to start out in the 1-2 mg range to gauge your body’s reaction to it. The quality of melatonin may also vary from one company to another.
Another viable option that’s bursting onto the health and wellness scene is CBD or cannabidiol. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids that are found within the Cannabis Sativa plant species. Science is just beginning to scratch the surface of these unique compounds. CBD is perhaps the most heavily researched and highly revered of all the cannabinoids at the moment. There are several others like CBG, CBN, and many others that are within many full-spectrum extracts in trace amounts. There are many others that have great therapeutic value, but more research needs to be done to further understand their properties. THC has been the most well-known cannabinoid in the world for a long time because of its somewhat intoxicating effects.
Most CBD on the market is currently extracted from the hemp that is bred for high CBD and low THC levels. This allows it to be completely non-psychoactive and 100% legal to consume as long as it’s under the legal limit of 0.3% THC. CBD with other cannabinoids is able to influence and activate a variety of cell receptors safely and gently. We possess an endocannabinoid system that influences emotion, appetite, digestion, pain perception, immunity, sleep, inflammation, reproductive function, neuro-protection, and cognitive function. (2) CBD and other cannabinoids in full spectrum extracts engage the endocannabinoid system to help influence these different functions in the body. By no means does this suggest that all these systems of the body will suddenly improve in their overall functioning, which requires a more comprehensive approach.
How CBD Influences Sleep
When it comes to sleep, CBD may help to influence certain neurotransmitters like GABA & serotonin by interacting with their receptors. Serotonin and GABA play an important role in calming the mind & body so we can drift off into a peaceful slumber. CBD may also help in decreasing the expression of sympathetic neurons. These neurons are involved in the fight or flight response and can cause the secretion of stress based hormones. Not exactly what we want when getting ready to hit the hay. This isn’t a guarantee that CBD will put you to sleep, but it may influence certain factors that are important to unwinding and making it easier to fall asleep. (3)
One study with 72 people with high anxiety and poor sleep quality tested the usefulness of CBD supplementation. Within one month of use, anxiety scores were lower in 79% of the group and remained lower throughout the study. According to sleep quality parameters, 67% of the people in the study reported better sleep while using CBD. It’s unclear whether there were follow-ups done after supplementation ceased, but this is certainly a successful result for a safe and natural compound. (4) Further studies have highlighted examples of CBD providing some degree of relief to those suffering from insomnia and PTSD, although more studies are needed.
The ideal use of CBD for sleep should be as part of a multi-ingredient stack with other nutrients that can help with a good night’s rest. Relying on any one single nutrient for sleep may not be the best plan for short and long term results. Incorporating several nutrients such as low dose melatonin, honokiol, bioactive milk peptides (a patented extract sold), magnesium glycinate, hops, passionflower, and valerian should help improve overall sleep quality tremendously. This would help address a wide range of physical causes for sleep issues. Solid Green Remedies carries a product with melatonin and CBD combined into one tincture if interested. Using CBD with some of the other ingredients listed above may help to maximize the quality of sleep you get each night.
Dr. Joseph Maroon of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has conducted extensive research on the impact of different cannabinoids on the brain. He found that CBD may be one of the safest options for better sleep. Many people have used cannabis with THC for many years to fall asleep, but research shows that THC may actually decrease that amount of high-quality REM cycle sleep over time. Dr. Maroon found that beyond CBD’s positive impact on the brain, it may also help people that are experiencing sleepless nights because of chronic pain. For some people, CBD alone may be enough to improve sleep quality, but for others with more severe cases, other nutrients will be required.