Roughly 35 percent of Americans get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, and about 30 percent of American adults have symptoms of insomnia, In other words, for many people, sleep doesn’t come easy.
If you have problems with sleeping or struggle with symptoms of insomnia, you may have heard that cannabidiol (better known as CBD) could help you get a good night’s rest. We know that CBD has a variety of potential health benefits, including relieving the symptoms of anxiety and stress, which are often the root cause of many sleeping problems. But is CBD oil effective for helping treat insomnia, or could it make things worse?
Causes of Insomnia
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of insomnia is stress and anxiety. Worrying about work, health, finances and family can cause a great amount of distress, make your mind spin and make it difficult to fall asleep at night. Similarly, feelings of anxiety or even more serious disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder can cause insomnia, and things such as sleep apnea (periodic pauses in breathing) can all interrupt sleep.
In the long run, a lack of sleep can affect quality of life and lead to decreased performance, slowed reaction time and other mental disorders such as depression or anxiety that makes the situation worse. In some cases, long-term sleep deprivation can even increase the risk of physiological conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Can CBD Help You Sleep?
Although the scientific research regarding CBD for sleep is still in its infancy, with most studies thus far centering on animals, preliminary data shows potential for CBD oil as an effective natural remedy to help ease the symptoms of insomnia.
Scientists believe one of the main reasons CBD helps with sleep is because of how it interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) and helps us deal with stress and anxiety.
CBD and Anxiety
Because CBD has a balancing effect on the ECS, it may help modulate and maintain a state of homeostasis in the body. Additionally, CBD may also prevent the breakdown of anandamide (often referred to as the “bliss molecule”), one of the body’s major endocannabinoids synthesized in areas of the brain that are important in mood, memory, motivation and higher thought processes. Anandamide also exhibits both anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties, playing and important role in helping manage and reduce feelings and symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.
So, when our bodies are in a state of balance with an abundance of our own endocannabinoids, which produce states of heightened happiness, not only do we respond better to stressful situations, but we are also going to hit the reset button faster.
That is why using CBD for sleep could be particularly helpful for people who experience sleeping difficulties due to anxiety. In a recent study, scientists investigated the potential clinical application of CBD as a treatment option for anxiety and difficulties with sleep in a sample of 72 adults suffering from these issues. They found that within the first month, anxiety scores decreased in as many as 79.2 percent of the participants and remained steady throughout the duration of the study. Similarly, sleep scores improved in 66.7 percent of participants in the first month, though they seem to fluctuate over time.
CBD and REM Sleep
A compounding issue, many people have feelings of anxiety and negativity about the sleep problem itself, which creates a vicious circle: the less you sleep, the worse you feel, which causes less sleep, and so on. The reason for this is due to something called rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep for short.
REM sleep is the sleep stage that is thought to benefit learning, memory, physical and emotional health. Researchers have long theorized that REM sleep contributes to core features of cognitive dysfunction and anxious depression. A lack of REM sleep is therefore often associated with biased memory processing that can lead to negative self-judgements, anxiety and depression. In a recent review study, researchers found that CBD may not only have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia, but it may also promote REM sleep, reducing many of the negative psychological effects of sleep deprivation.
Should You Use CBD for Sleep Issues?
Ironically, many people actually take CBD to help them feel more alert and focussed. So how can you use CBD to help you fall asleep?
The secret seems to be in the amount of CBD you take. Although there is fairly little published research regarding serving sizes, what we do know is that it seems that higher doses of CBD have a calming effect, and lower serving sizes of CBD have a stimulating effect for the average person.
However, one aspect muddying the waters when it comes to measuring intake CBD for sleep disorders depends on whether the person has a normal sleep rhythm or a sleep disorder.
In an early study on the effects of CBD on sleep, researchers found that people who do not suffer from sleeping disorders required very high doses around the 600-mg mark to have a sedative effect. In contrast, participants with insomnia only needed doses of 150 to 160 mg to increase sleep duration and reduce disruption.
Because we all have an individual and unique physiological makeup, we all respond to natural remedies such as CBD differently. In addition, the severity of your symptoms and underlying reasons for your sleep problems also play a role in not only how much CBD you may need for symptom relief, but also how effective it would be for you.
If you are considering using CBD as a natural treatment option for helping you to fall asleep and relieve the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, start low and go slow. For sleep disorders specifically, start with a serving size of 40 mg, gradually working your way up to a serving size where you find relief with an effective serving somewhere between 150 to 600 mg.