Experts tell us a good night’s sleep is critical for overall well-being and ensures you feel rested and have energy for the next day. Effective sleep also contributes to memory formation, repairing of muscles and tissue, and helps to prevent illness. Unfortunately, a great many adults suffer chronically with not being able to fall asleep or to stay asleep. While there are many possible causes for this problem, there are two primary contributors to periodic or chronic insomnia: anxiety and body pain. And while many people who have trouble sleeping look to the wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids that are available, cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming an increasingly popular—and more importantly, natural—approach for sleeping better.
How Does CBD Work in the Human Body?
To begin to understand how CBD aids sleep, it is important to learn how it works in the human body. In the early 90s, researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which plays a role in maintaining certain body functions, such as mood, appetite, immunity responses, metabolism, memory, sleep, and regulating circadian rhythms—essentially homeostasis, or balance in the body.
Within the ECS is a network of cannabinoid receptors—including the two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2—in the brain and central nervous system. CBD works by interacting with a vast collection of cells and receptors throughout our bodies that make up the ECS. The ECS is made up of three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules made by your body. Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far: anandamide (AEA) 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
These endocannabinoids help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them in order to signal that the ECS needs to act.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system.
- CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells.
Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor and the resulting effect depends on where the receptor is located, and which endocannabinoid is bound. For example, some endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain, while others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body is experiencing inflammation.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function. There are two main enzymes responsible for this:
- Fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA.
- Monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG.
How Does CBD Aid Restful Sleep?
Research suggests that the cannabinoid CBD may interact with specific receptors, potentially affecting the sleep/wake cycle. CBD reduces anxiety, which can be helpful in reducing sleep difficulties and improving sleep quality. CBD may increase overall sleep amounts and improve insomnia, according to research. CBD has been shown to reduce insomnia in people who suffer from chronic pain.
Research on the effects CBD has on sleep disorders is still preliminary. Some people who use CBD for chronic pain report sleeping better. Currently, it is unclear whether these patients sleep better because of the pain relief or because CBD directly affects their sleep.
Insomnia and CBD
People who suffer from insomnia have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night. This disorder affects daytime wakefulness, ability to concentrate, and mood. Because of their history of poor sleep, people with insomnia may suffer from anxiety about getting inadequate sleep, which can then increase sleeplessness at night—a vicious cycle of anxiety and insomnia that can cause many more significant problems down the road.
Anxiety and CBD
While not a sleep disorder itself, anxiety can contribute to poor quality sleep, insufficient sleep, and sleep disorders. Because CBD calms the nervous system, early research indicates that CBD can be used to treat anxiety-related disorders successfully and naturally. Given the potential positive outcomes of CBD treating anxiety, it is believed that CBD may also help reduce the anxiety associated with insomnia.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and CBD
In REM sleep behavior disorder, patients verbalize and make aggressive movements during their rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. The disorder is most common in older patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
In a limited study of patients with Parkinson’s disease, CBD helped manage the REM sleep behavior disorder symptoms. Before taking CBD, the patients experienced disorder symptoms 2–7 times per week. After taking CBD, the symptoms occurred 0–1 per week. Although further studies are necessary, these initial results suggest CBD as a possible treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Disorder and CBD
Those who have excessive daytime sleepiness disorder struggle to stay awake during typical daytime hours. One possible solution for waking up on time and staying awake and alert may be CBD. Initial research shows that CBD functions as a wake-inducing drug. However, other studies suggest CBD functions as a sedating drug. Further research is needed to determine what doses and methods of CBD use may impact wakefulness and sleepiness.
How to Pick the Best CBD for Sleep
Purchasing a high-quality CBD product is essential. Because CBD is identified as a dietary supplement and not a medication, it is currently not regulated by the FDA for safety and purity. As a result, there is little in the way of regulations in place and unfortunately, there are many contaminated products on the market. So if you are looking at a cheap CBD product in your local gas station, you will want to reconsider until you have more information on the safety, efficacy, and purity of that particular product.
So, how can you be sure you are purchasing a quality product? The proof of the purity and potency of a CBD product lies in the lab analysis conducted. Any product you purchase should have a corresponding independent lab analysis that details the components contained along with the levels of each component. Additionally, while many companies only test for potency, the product you choose should indicate in the lab analysis that no pesticides, fertilizers, metals, or other contaminants are present. Regular users of CBD products should also ensure they do not include extra sugar, colors, or additives. Always be sure to do your research and evaluate the source of your CBD product before purchasing.
What Is CBN and How Is It Different from CBD?
While the amazing benefits of using CBD are becoming increasingly common knowledge, considerably less well known is another highly beneficial component, a cannabinoid called cannabidol (CBN). CBD and CBN are two of more than 100 types of natural cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. CBN is created by the aging and break down of the THC “psychoactive” component. It is about 25% less effective than THC and in lower doses does not provide a psychoactive effect. CBN has been found to be particularly helpful in the relief of inflammation and in helping to achieve a more restful sleep. Both CBD and CBN tend to bind with the CB2 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in the central nervous system functions, one of which is sleep. Together, CBD and CBN are a very powerful duo for sleep and inflammation.
How Can Natural Harmony Help?
Our Natural Harmony Sleep Formula is a 3:1 ratio of CBD and CBN—it contains no THC. Each dropper carries 30 mg CBD and 10 mg CBN. Together these two components provide a powerful sedative, without a foggy head the next morning. About 30 minutes before turning in for the night, simply hold the oil under your tongue for 20–30 seconds, then swallow. We recommend taking our Natural Harmony Sleep Formula every night before bed for two weeks, then adjust your dose and timing based on how you feel.
What Else Should I Know about Using CBD?
Always consult your doctor before you begin taking a supplement or make any changes to your existing medication and supplement routine. This is not medical advice, but it is information you can use as a conversation-starter with your physician at your next appointment.
“Best sleep I have had in years, and I can move in the morning.”
“I slept all night without shoulder pain.”
Jennifer Beach is owner at Natural Harmony, a 100% organic, vegan, non-GMO CBD company based in Connecticut. Visit us every Saturday from 10–4 at Velvet Mill, 22 Bayview Ave, Stonington, CT, or shop online. Experience the purity and quality of our Natural Harmony Sleep Formula by visiting our online store at: www.naturalharmony.life.