Is CBD a Remedy for Sleep Disorders?
Just like many substances, food, lifestyle, genetics, life experiences, and other environmental factors, CBD can influence the quality of our sleep. We don’t know much about the correlation between sleep quality or duration, and the intake of cannabinoids under different conditions. Many people suffer from some kind of sleep disorder, and research labs are now trying to understand how the newly discovered cannabinoid system might play a role in the sleep-wake alternation.
A lot of individuals use cannabis as a sleep enhancer, and many of them have their own preferred varieties, methods and doses. CBD-rich strains are usually preferred, because they prevent the eventual fear-evoking effects of THC. Today, hemp extracts with a high CBD concentration and no THC content represent a safe, and often effective option for improving relaxation and sleep quality in adults, as much as kids, elderly, or pets.
A sleep disorder is a disruption in normal sleeping patterns. The most common type is insomnia, yet many other disorders can afflict our nights: Sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, nightmares or night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, grinding the teeth, and a few others. Sleep disorders can seriously affect our health and safety, since sleep deprivation decreases physical performance and alertness. Prolonged sleep disorders can also impair memory and cognitive abilities.
Millions of people suffer from insomnia and insufficient sleep. Most mild sleeping disorders could reduce or even disappear, simply by incorporating regular sleep habits and making some smart lifestyle changes. Anyhow, before surrender and fall in the sleeping pills trap, it might be worthwhile trying to understand if nature can help. Cannabis probably can.
The science of cannabinoids at nighttime
Back in mid-seventies, a study on patients with insomnia showed, that cannabis intake reduced the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and decreases the number of awakenings throughout the night (Cousens & DiMascio, 1973). That was confirmed by other studies by Schierenbeck, Riemann, Berger, Hornyak, both in 2008 and 2013. Other research found, that cannabis was able to ease the falling asleep process and to increase the duration of deep sleep. It was also clinically proved, that cannabinoids are effective against nightmares in military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder (Jetley, Heber, Fraser, Boisvert, 2015; Fraser, 2009). Cannabinoids’ ability to “suppress dreams” seems to be very effective with these kinds of syndromes.
Recently, a lab trial on rats also found, that a synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC was effective at attenuating seratonin-induced apnea by relaxing muscles in the chin and tongue. This result suggests possible treatments for dangerous sleeping apneas in humans. Though THC even in a controversial mode might enhance sleep quality, a recent study reports, that people with insomnia are more likely to use cannabis strains with significantly higher concentrations of CBD.
Energizing the day, sleeping the night
The action of CBD is not completely discovered, yet it looks obvious, that this cannabinoid has bifasic behaviour. At low doses cannabidiol is mildly alerting, probably also because it activates the same adenosine receptors as caffeine. This effect can be beneficial to prevent daytime sleepiness, which usually converts in restless nights. Conversely, at higher doses CBD acts as a tranquillizer and muscle relaxant, even if it can’t be properly described as a sedative. These apparently opposite effects of CBD could potentially help physicians in the management of sleep deprivation and excessive daytime sleepiness as well.
A study by the Department of Neuroscience and Behaviour of the University of São Paulo investigated the effects of cannabidiol on the sleep-wake cycle. Lab rats received injections of different amounts of natural CBD extract, and sleep recordings were made both during light and dark periods. This systemic acute administration of CBD increased mice’s total sleep time.
The same research centre found in another study, that CBD can help REM sleep behaviour disorder. This is kind of a scary disease, often associated with other neurological conditions, that makes the patient “respond” to his dreaming with kicks, punches, shouting, jumping out of the bed, and so on. These unpleasant and potentially dangerous behaviours are found significantly eased under controlled CBD subministration, especially in patients with neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson's disease.
Finally, one study found, that nearly half of the adult people freely purchasing medical cannabis at legal dispensaries in USA were using the herb to treat their insomnia. The majority of those people preferred strains with much higher concentrations of CBD than the average. (Belendiuk, Babson, Vandrey & Bonn-Miller, 2015).
CBD could be part of a comprehensive natural remedy
While science seems to prove, that CBD and THC may affect our sleep with different modes and intensities, some researcher is arguing, that the terpene content might play a significant role too. Chamomile, valerian, lavender, hops and many other herbs actually contain high concentration of terpenes also found in cannabis. Some of these terpenes have relaxing properties and might be included in a natural medical routine for sleep disorders. Cannabis extracts, such as CBD oil, naturally contain hundreds of these terpenes. Some of them can enhance cannabinoids’ efficacy due to the entourage effect.
How much legal, safe and non-psychotropic CBD could help with the various kinds of sleep disorders is not clear yet. All we can do is following science progress on that matter and check out reports by several patients with sleep issues who are experimenting with CBD-rich tinctures, oils, vapour or smoke. Many people treating their nighttime syndromes or mild diseases with CBD experienced a prompt and substantial reduction in the frequency of sleep disorders events without any side effect. Many cases indicate, that CBD is able to control the symptoms of sleep disorder, but once again no extensive clinical trial has been made available yet.