Most individuals who want to use CBD for sleep are looking to cure some form of insomnia. Although cannabis has shown some promise in treating sleep apnea, the progress hasn't been substantial enough to include an entire section based on our research.
Lots of people think that smoking THC is what will get you to snooze faster, but cannabis's relationship to sleep is more complicated than that.
While it's true THC is going to make you more drowsy than CBD is, certain strains of THC-dominant cannabis that are popularly (and technically, incorrectly) called sativa strains have been reported to increase alertness in individuals.
Even so, CBD-dominant strains of cannabis used in studies have shown that most people feel more energy on CBD. They have also shown that many people sleep better after consuming CBD.
So if THC and CBD are shown to both increase alertness and induce drowsiness, what gives?
That's what we're talking about in this article. You'll learn how the endocannabinoid system helps to modulate sleep, how THC and/or CBD work to improve your sleep, and which cannabinoid you should start with depending on your situation.
Insomnia: Symptom or Syndrome?
Much of the time, insomnia is a secondary or tertiary effect of another underlying illness. It's difficult to distinguish between insomnia as a symptom of some other ailment, or if it's the primary condition affecting the body.
The circular relationship between anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, emotional disruption, and overall physical malaise makes it hard to pinpoint 'symptom zero' with any confidence.
The easiest case is if you've recently experienced an event in your life that you can trace back to lack of sleep. If your inability to fall asleep seems to arrive out of nowhere, consider if you've been experiencing any of the above symptoms (anxiety, depression, etc.) for an idea of where your insomnia may have originated.
For example, a lot of people have a hard time falling asleep when they're in pain, worried, or otherwise experiencing discomfort. Making sure to address the underlying causes of your insomnia is important for effectively treating it. Luckily for us, cannabis is known to effectively treat almost all conditions that cause insomnia, including pain, depression, PTSD and anxiety.
In fact, even innocuous, every-day life events can cause you to experience enough stress during the day to affect how well you sleep at night. The same goes for a head that hits the pillow still whirling from the days events, or tomorrow's obligations.
If you believe your insomnia is not a product of another stressor in your life, you can still bring your body back to balance with cannabis. In severe cases, it's unrealistic to think that cannabis alone will be enough.
You'll have to put into practice some techniques to help control thoughts that spin out of control, your fear-based beliefs causing latent tension, and excessive rumination.
Now let's go over how cannabis plays a part in modulating sleep, and how we can use our endocannabinoid system to help us get quality rest.
The Research: Sleep & The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is of central importance in modulating the induction and the quality of sleep.
For example, this study demonstrates that "the EC system actively regulates cortical up-states and important features of NREM sleep such as its duration and low frequency cortical oscillations."
In another study, doses of 40, 80, and 160 mg of CBD were compared to both a placebo and 5 mg nitrazepam in 15 insomniac volunteers. According to scientists, "subjects receiving 160 mg cannabidiol reported having slept significantly more than those receiving placebo; the volunteers also reported significantly less dream recall; with the three doses of cannabidiol than with placebo."
To be honest, more research needs to be done to pinpoint specifically how cannabinoids act upon human chemistry to help us sleep better. The research done so far has shown promise, but no concrete mechanisms have been identified.
This means it's up to each individual user to do his or her own experimentation with using CBD for insomnia. What we can say for certain is that thousands of individuals have reported getting more and better sleep after integrating cannabis into their sleep routine.
THC & CBD: How These Cannabinoids Help You Sleep
THC and CBD are so different, how could they both contribute to better sleep?
Observational evidence from users shows that THC has an initial stimulating effect until it's metabolized. The metabolites seem to be more sedating than the THC itself. Varieties of THC-dominant cannabis that producers call 'cannabis indica' tend to have the most success with sedation.
CBD, on the other hand, has been proven to promote wakefulness. However, in people who have high levels of stress or anxiety, CBD helps them relax and eventually get a better night of sleep. In individuals who are already alert, CBD seems to increase this alertness.
According to studies, CBD plays a modulating role on the therapeutic effects of THC. The synergy between THC and CBD has led us to believe that both compounds should be present to get the best results: THC to sedate, and CBD to modulate.
With that said, low-THC CBD products have been effective at helping patients sleep when they are already sleep-deprived. It's a safe bet that if you eliminate the anxiety and external stressors in your life, only a few days of CBD should be enough to restore your original, healthy sleep cycle.
In summary, THC helps sedate people directly, while CBD works more indirectly by helping your body achieve a balance and homeostasis free of the anxieties and stresses that keep you awake at night.
How CBD Compares to Modern Medicine
The best that modern medicine has been able to do for people having trouble sleeping has not been impressive. The options to date are:
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax)
- Sleeping pills (Ambien)
- Opiates (Oxycontin, Vicodin)
- Antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac, Wellbutrin)
Needless to say, all of these have potentially serious side effects. The first three are definitely addictive with a risk of fatal overdose.
None of them are incredibly effective at consistently providing users with a good night of uninterrupted sleep without major side effects. Many times, it's less risky for people to take their chances with insomnia (although this is a gamble we don't recommend taking given how important sleep is to your health).
Cannabis, on the other hand, has no major side effects and no risk of a fatal overdose. Additionally, cannabis won't cause a rebound of insominia or anxiety when treatment ends. You may begin having trouble sleeping again, but it won't be with the redoubled intensity that coming off of one of the pharmaceuticals above would induce.
All in all, we recommend using CBD for sleep issues over prescription drugs any day of the week. It's proven to be just as effective, if not more effective in some cases, than taking pills (not to mention other forms of self-medication like alcohol and cough medicines).
Now that we know cannabis (along with mental training) is your best bet for relief from insomnia, I'm going to give some pointers for getting the most out of your medicine.
Tips For Treating Insomnia With Cannabis
Now let's talk about actually taking cannabis for insomnia. There are a few factors how successful your treatment will be. We've already talked about how cannabis can have varied effects on a person's ability to fall asleep.
The finicky nature of cannabis in treating insomnia makes it that much more important to take every advantage you can get. Here are a couple of tips that, if followed, can give you a leg up in successfully using CBD for sleep disorders like insomnia.
CBD Dosing For Sleep
Now let's talk about actually taking cannabis for insomnia. There are a few factors how successful your treatment will be. Whether or not your end-result resembles a good night's sleep will depend heavily on your dosage.
This dosage is going to depend on weather you've chosen a THC-dominant strain, CBD-dominant strain, or a strain with an equal ratio of both THC and CBD.
Most people reading this are going to want to stay away from THC's intoxicating effects, so I'm going to focus a little more on CBD dosing. If you're taking a strain with THC in it, you're less likely to run into dosing problems unless you take too much. Too much THC can have a stimulating effect. Stay in the realm of 5-15 mg of THC about 45 minutes before bed. The THC can be in a medicine by itself, or with CBD in a proportional ratio.
Now, if you're taking CBD to help your insomnia, your job is a little more difficult. Everyone is different, so take the following observations with a grain of salt:
- Try taking a high CBD tincture or edible during the day to reduce background levels of stress and anxiety to see if that helps you sleep better at night.
- Try not to take CBD after 5 P.M., especially if you're relatively rested that day.
- Take a CBD product that's specifically formulated to help you sleep (follow packaging directions that usually tell you to take it before bedtime).
- While the studies above have observed that 40-160mg of CBD can help insomniac's sleep, we recommend starting with a much smaller dose to begin with. Depending on your body weight, start with between 2 and 7 mg of CBD and titrate up from there.
As I mentioned before, the clinical studies done vary in delivery method, dosages, and type of cannabinoid used (plant vs. synthetic), so the most we can say for sure is that people with insomnia can find relief with cannabis (THC or CBD) if they're diligent about monitoring their reaction to specific dosages, and if their patient enough to do the experimentation it takes to get it right.
Strains, Cannabinoids & Terpenoids That Support Sleep
As mentioned earlier, if you're going to go with THC-dominant cannabis, going with an 'indica' strain is going to give you the best chance for falling asleep faster. Beyond the strain, cannabinoid concentrations are going to be your next concern.
THC & CBD are the major cannabinoids that almost everyone familiar with cannabis knows. We've already gone over the affects of THC and CBD on your sleep, but what about other cannabinoids?
Another cannabinoid, CBN, has been shown to have strong sedative effects. Actually, CBN isn't actually a cannabinoid. It's a product of the degradation of THC via time, exposure to light, or heat. Nevertheless, it still interacts with the body and acts as a cannabinoid in and of itself.
Additionally, the terpenes myrcene and linalool in combination may improve sleep, as they've been identified as been light sedatives (Cannabis Pharmacology). You can find these terpenes in strains that are 'Purple' like Grape Ape, or and strains that have 'Kush' in the name like Hindu Kush or Bubba Kush.
So, if you can find medicine with a high CBN content and/or made from the above mentioned strains, jump on it.
Best Delivery Methods For Sleep Disorders
As you probably already know, there are many ways for you to delivery your medicine. In this section, we're going to give you our opinion on the best delivery methods for sleep, based on research and anecdotal/observational evidence.
For staying asleep and increasing the quality of your sleep, we recommend going with an edible, a tincture, or some sort of inhalation method.
The reason we recommend going with these methods is as follows:
- Edibles last longer, and the effects are stronger, helping you stay asleep.
- Tinctures are easy to find, come in all kinds of concentrations, and can be easily titrated to find the right dose.
- Inhalation products act instantly and are also easy to titrate, however, they don't last as long. If it's pain keeping you up at night, I'd go with an edible instead.
In the next section, I'm going to recommend products for each of these delivery methods specifically made for helping people sleep.
Recommended Hemp/CBD Products for Insomnia
Because the inability to sleep has become one of the biggest reasons anyone goes looking for CBD products, manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and have created lines of CBD products made just for helping you fall and stay asleep.
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