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CBD for Sleep and Insomnia: Is It Worth a Try?

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With the increasing tempo of modern life and the rise of hustle culture, sleepless nights have almost become something to brag about and be ‘proud of’. But those that are coming to terms with the consequences of poor sleep will quickly realise that fixing a messed up circadian rhythm and sleep schedule is everything but easy. If you have considered CBD to help you fall asleep, you are in the right place. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about CBD and how it can help you hit the pillow faster without the use of insomnia medication. 

The consequences of insomnia

According to the CDC, more than 35% of Americans sleep less than the recommended seven hours every night. Adults who had less than seven hours of sleep in a day were also more likely to report being obese, physically inactive, and current smokers compared to people who got seven or more hours of sleep in the same period. 

The repercussions of chronic sleeping disorders are numerous: stroke, asthma attacks, a weak immune system, heart disease just to name a few.

Because of that, it is obviously recommended that you get your sleep in order as soon as possible. The longer you go without a proper sleep schedule, the harder it is to get back on track and form good habits again. 

What is cannabidiol and is it safe?

Cannabidiol, or more commonly known as CBD, is a cannabinoid extracted from a hemp plant. It is a non-psychoactive compound, which means it will not cause impaired mental abilities or a feeling of being ‘high’. It is considered generally well tolerated and has a good safety profile by the World Health Organization, and while the research is still ongoing, CBD has shown promising results for treating pain, anxiety, and other health issues. 

How CBD helps with insomnia

There have been numerous studies that have confirmed the benefits of CBD for sleep, especially for anxiety-related sleep disruptions. The truth is that among all insomnia causes, stress and anxiety seem to be in the lead, and according to Deirdre Conroy, PhD, clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at Michigan Medicine, there’s evidence that CBD can be helpful in managing anxiety. If someone’s anxiety is the cause of their sleeping problem, a CBD product may benefit them.

Although it is not yet clear how exactly CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system, it is believed it mimics serotonin by binding with and activating your body’s 5-HT1A serotonin receptors. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression and anxiety, but the researchers have been faced with a paradox: high levels of serotonin usually mean wakefulness and a good mood. So, why is it that treating serotonin deficiency also improved sleep time and quality? 

The reason lies in homeostatic sleep pressure. You wake up fresh and rested, but as the day goes by you get tired, and sleep pressure rises. In simple words: to feel tired at night, you should have high levels of serotonin in the morning, so that you deplete your resources and your sleep pressure grows during the day, eventually putting you to sleep. 

Consequently, we can think of CBD not as a medicine that will make you sleepy, but as a tool to help you restore your sleeping patterns in the long run. 

A large retrospective case series about CBD and its effects on stress, anxiety, and insomnia found that ‘sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients (66.7%), but fluctuated over time. CBD was well tolerated in all but 3 patients.’ What we can take away from this is that although the research is still ongoing and we are missing some pieces of the puzzle, CBD can be helpful when trying to improve your sleep patterns while having very few and very mild side effects. 

How to use CBD for insomnia

There are several forms of CBD you can use. The simplest and most common is CBD oil. This product is extracted from the hemp plant and usually mixed with coconut oil. It comes in bottles with a dropper and you need to dose it according to your needs. It can be taken just as is sublingually or added into any food or drink. Some brands also offer them in different flavours to choose from. You can check out this article on the best CBD oil for sleep if you don’t know where to start. 

Alternatively, if you are not willing to measure the oil dose yourself, a good option is to try CBD edibles. These include soft gel capsules, gummies and other products that are infused with CBD. It is a practical and easy way of using CBD on the go.

Whichever way you go, we think CBD oil is worth a try if you are having trouble sleeping. There is good evidence the oil is helping people deal with sleep problems and chronic insomnia around the world, and we wouldn’t be nudging you in that direction if there were any major side effects to worry about. Remember: CBD is legal, safe, and non-psychoactive, so it is appropriate to use even for students and professionals that need a little help when hitting the pillow. 

Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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