It’s well understood that sleep plays an integral role in everyday life – it helps the body recover and directly impacts one’s productivity and overall health and wellbeing.  Yet studies indicate a decline in average sleep duration (and an increase in reported sleep disorders).  In fact, according to the CDC, more than a third of adults in the U.S. are getting less than the 7 hours of recommended sleep.

In consideration of the novel coronavirus and how the pandemic disrupted many aspects of daily life across the globe (economic, health, and social consequences), as well as the increase in stressors and demands we face to do more and more in less time, it’s not surprising to see significant impacts on our sleep.

Dealing with Sleep Deprivation

Aside from the estimated 70 million Americans suffering from chronic sleep problems, getting less than the needed amount of sleep (i.e., sleep deprivation) is an ongoing concern for many of us and has been linked with numerous health problems, including the following:

  • Memory Issues (both short- and long-term)
  • Weakened Immunity (more likely to get sick)
  • Memory, Concentration, and Problem-Solving Issues
  • Risk for Diabetes (inadequate sleep increases insulin resistance, impacting blood sugar levels)
  • High Blood Pressure and Risk of Heart Disease
  • Weight gain (due to hormone imbalance and slower metabolism)

There are a myriad of behavioral strategies and general steps for helping support one’s sleep, such as:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, heavy meals, bright lights, and electronic devices before bed
  • Undergo a sleep study or work with a professional
  • Find outlets for managing stress and anxiety, like exercise and meditation
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (set alarm for same time each day)

In addition to the generally recommended sleep strategies, it may be worthwhile to investigate the use of some of the hemp-derived products that are now flooding the market, particularly CBD (or cannabidiol).

Although the cannabis sativa plant (also known as cannabis or hemp) has long been used for medicinal and recreational purposes, interest in the health benefits of cannabinoids like CBD has grown tremendously in recent years, largely due to the Farm Bill of 2018 that legalized hemp and hemp-derived substance.  This growing interest is giving rise to both more research to study the effects of CBD on the brain and body, and more CBD-containing products being developed and sold by companies.

So, if you are one of the millions of people who have trouble sleeping, continue reading for an overview of cannabinoids and how they work, and why CBD may be an effective option for promoting sleep.

Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids, first discovered and isolated in the 1950s, are naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis, each containing unique properties and benefits.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is just one the 60+ active chemicals (or cannabinoids) present in the hemp plant and is the second most prevalent cannabinoid after THC (or Tetrahydrocannabinol).  Both THC and CBD are found primarily in the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant, but unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, meaning it doesn’t alter your cognitive state. 

While it’s still not completely understood how cannabinoids work, we know that they interact with the endocannabinoid system (or ECS) – the prime regulatory network that is interconnected with other vital systems in our bodies.  The ECS is a complex cell-signaling system made up by a vast network of cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system.  As cannabinoids like CBD are introduced into your system, they bind to these receptors and affect essential body processes in various ways by signaling that the ECS needs to act.

To put it simply, the endocannabinoid system helps the body maintain a stable and healthy internal environment by regulating all biological processes (like appetite and sleep).

CBD and Sleep

Although CBD has been deemed safe for use in a report from the World Health Organization, and scientific evidence supporting the use of CBD for anxiety and sleep continues to grow, it is important to note that research is in its infancy and more long-term studies are needed.

With that being said, preliminary research suggests CBD can help with sleep disorders like insomnia, REM sleep behavior disorder, excessive daytime sleepiness disorder; studies also indicate better sleep quality, fewer sleep disturbances, or decreased time to fall asleep in people taking cannabis/cannabinoids in general.

There’s also evidence that CBD can be helpful in managing anxiety, showing that CBD has a calming effect on the nervous system. 

Additionally, CBD may also decrease anxiety and pain, which can both interfere with restful sleep; sleep may be improved by reducing these symptoms.

CBD is a amazingly complex cannabinoid and its interaction with the endocannabinoid system needs to be deeply researched to reveal its full potential.  It’s also important to note that cannabinoids affect everyone differently and the experiences you have with CBD are dependent on your endocannabinoid system.

WHAT CBD PRODUCT IS BEST FOR ME?

CBD is readily obtainable in most parts of the United States, but its actual legal status is confusing and depends on different factors, such as whether the CBD comes from hemp or marijuana.  For example, CBD products derived entirely from industrial hemp are currently legal in all 50 states.

There are many ways to ingest CBD and countless CBD products to choose from. CBD is ideal for health applications since it does not cause an intoxicating high; this can also help put you at ease as you experiment with new CBD products and larger doses.

CBD products typically fall into five main categories:

  • CBD oils
  • CBD pills/capsules
  • CBD vapes (including things like dabs and wax concentrates)
  • Topical CBD creams
  • CBD edibles (including CBD gummies)

Standard CBD oils (i.e. the ones that you drop below the tongue and then swallow) remain the most common form of CBD consumption, and is the form generally recommended to newbies. 

Taking CBD appears to be generally safe, but research into its long-term effects is limited. Also, because CBD is mostly available today as an unregulated supplement, it’s difficult to know exactly what you are getting.

Determining the most effective way to take CBD and the right amount to support sleep will require more studies, or trial and error by the consumer.

If you decide to try CBD, talk with your doctor — if for no other reason than to make sure it won’t affect other medications you are taking.

September 14, 2021