Do you struggle to fall asleep at night, tossing and turning well into the early morning hours? Do you find yourself frequently waking in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are not alone. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey of over 4,0000 U.S. adults, 27 percent reported having difficulty falling or staying asleep most nights, while over 68 percent reported having trouble sleeping at least once a week.1 While many people turn to pills to induce sleep, sedative medications pose several significant health risks. Read on to learn why cannabidiol (CBD) is a promising natural alternative to sleeping pills for inducing restful sleep.
The Problems with Pharmaceutical Sleeping Pills
As any college student or new parent knows, sleep deprivation has distressing effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. Millions of sleepless Americans turn to pharmaceutical sleeping pills to induce sleep, hoping that these medications will ease their suffering. Benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sedatives (Z-drugs), SSRIs, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as Benadryl and Aleve PM are all used to induce sleep. However, few people are aware of the significant health risks posed by these drugs.
Mounting scientific evidence indicates that sleeping pills decrease sleep quality, or how well you sleep, and threaten your health in several ways.2
- Benzodiazepines reduce restorative deep sleep and sleep time. They can also cause dangerously shallow breathing and abnormal behaviors such a walking and driving while sleeping.3
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) fragment sleep architecture, or the basic structural organization of restful sleep, causing nocturnal awakenings and reducing deep sleep.4
- Long-term use of Benadryl, an OTC allergy medication that many people use off-label for sleep due to its side effect of drowsiness, is associated with an increased risk of dementia.5
- Non-benzodiazepine “Z-drugs” such as Ambien and Lunesta can cause next-morning drowsiness and confusion; this may explain why people taking Z-drugs are nearly twice as likely to be in a car crash as those who do not!6,7
Given the alarming effects of pharmaceutical sleep aids, there is a great need for natural, safer alternatives. CBD is one of the most promising compounds found to date for inducing restful slumber without causing the side effects characteristic of pharmaceutical sleeping pills.
How Does CBD Support Healthy Sleep?
CBD is one of over 100 compounds known as phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. Unlike its famous sister phytocannabinoid, THC, CBD does not cause a “high.” CBD supports healthy sleep by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of receptors and signaling molecules that regulate many aspects of our physiology, including sleep.8,9,10 CBD also interacts with a variety of non-ECS receptors, including GABA and serotonin receptors, which are also involved in the relaxation response and sleep induction.
The use of Cannabis for sleep was first mentioned in a Chinese medical text from 1200 A.D. The botanical formula produced from Cannabis flowers was called “sagacious sleep powder” (shui sheng san). The remedy was noted for its ability to induce a deep slumber free of any harmful effects.11
There are several mechanisms by which CBD may induce sleep:
- CBD increases circulating levels of endocannabinoids, including 2-arachidonoylglycerol and anandamide, which have been found to mediate sleep induction by increasing adenosine, an endogenous sleep promoter.12
- CBD and THC work together to lower core body temperature, which is an essential step in sleep initiation.13
- CBD may facilitate sleep by decreasing anxiety, a common cause of wakefulness and insomnia.14
- CBD relieves chronic pain, another common cause of insomnia and disrupted sleep.15
Through these mechanisms, CBD improves sleep quality, decreases sleep disturbances, and reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep at night.16 Unlike pharmaceutical sleep aids, research suggests that CBD does not adversely impact the sleep cycle.17
There is evidence to suggest that large doses of THC may decrease REM sleep, reduce deep sleep, decrease total sleep time, and increase sleep latency, or the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. CBD formulas low in THC may thus be most desirable for supporting deep, restorative sleep.18 Due to the limited bioavailability of CBD, high doses of at least 300 mg have been required to achieve sedative, sleep-inducing effects in scientific studies.17 However, by administering CBD with lipids, such as in a liposomal formulation, it may be possible to achieve sleep-inducing effects at much lower doses.
Healthy Bedtime Habits for Optimal Sleep
While CBD is excellent at calming the mind and easing the body into sleep, it works best when combined with healthy sleep-promoting habits.
To optimize your sleep, reduce your exposure to blue light from electronic devices and overhead lights one to two hours before bed by wearing blue-light-blocking glasses. Blue-light-blocking glasses promote sleep by preventing blue wavelengths of light from hitting the light-sensing cells in your eyes; blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals it is time for sleep. Wearing blue-light-blocking glasses before bed increases melatonin production by as much as 58 percent, indicating to your body that it is time for bed and reducing sleep disturbances.19,20
Optimize your sleep environment by keeping your bedroom completely dark at night. Remove sources of light such as digital alarm clocks and nightlights. A drop in body temperature of one to two degrees is essential for sleep induction; keeping your bedroom temperature at approximately 67 degrees facilitates this necessary body temperature reduction.21
Entraining your circadian rhythm, the roughly 24-hour cycle of processes within your body that regulates many aspects of your behavior and physiology also supports healthy sleep. Maintaining a consistent bedtime and waking time every day, allowing for 8-9 hours of sleep each night will dramatically enhance your sleep quality and your long-term health.
Last but not least, be careful with caffeine and alcohol not just right before bed, but throughout the day. The half-life of caffeine is 6 hours, and its quarter-life is 12 hours, meaning if you have a cup of coffee at 12 pm, some of that caffeine will still be in your circulation at midnight. If you already struggle with sleep issues, you may need to kick your caffeine habit or limit it to just the morning, to improve your sleep quality. In terms of alcohol, research indicates that alcohol significantly impairs sleep quality, so you may want to think twice about frequently imbibing before bed.
Liposomal CBD for Rapid Sleep Support
CBD is poorly soluble in water. This means that high doses of CBD are generally required to experience health benefits; this can pose a dilemma due to the high cost of CBD. Liposomal CBD offers a solution to this problem by enhancing the bioavailability of CBD, allowing you to experience benefits at lower dosages. Liposomal CBD also provides more rapid support for sleep than other natural sleep products due to its fast absorption and cellular uptake.22
Sleep difficulties may be common, but that doesn’t mean you need to suffer! On nights when sleep feels elusive, CBD can help you experience restful, restorative slumber, so you can get the rest you need to feel and perform your best come morning!
- Why Americans can’t sleep. Consumer Reports. 14 Jan 2016. https://www.consumerreports.org/sleep/why-americans-cant-sleep/.
- Carr T. The problem with sleeping pills. Consumer Reports. 12 Dec 2018. https://www.consumerreports.org/drugs/the-problem-with-sleeping-pills/.
- Guina J, Merrill B. Benzodiazepines I: Upping the care on downers: The evidence of risks, benefits, and alternatives. J Clin Med. 2018; 7(2): 17.
- Wichniak A, et al. Effects of antidepressants on sleep. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017; 19(9): 63.
- Benson D. Trouble sleeping? Experts say skip antihistamines. Baylor College of Medicine. 7 Oct 2013. https://www.bcm.edu/news/sleep-disorders/experts-warn-against-antihistmaines-sleep-aid.
- Brandt J, Leong C. Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs: An updated review of major adverse outcomes reported in epidemiologic research. Drugs R.D. 17(4): 493-507.
- Hansen RN, et al. Sedative hypnotic medication use and the risk of motor vehicle crash. Am J Public Health. 2015; 105(8): e64-e69.
- Murillo-Rodriguez E, et al. The endocannabinoid system modulating levels of consciousness, emotions and likely dream contents. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2017; 16(4): 370-379.
- Murillo-Rodriguez E. The role of the CB1 receptor in the regulation of sleep. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008; 32(6): 1420-1427.
- Mechoulam R, et al. Anandamide may mediate sleep induction. Nature. 1997; 389: 25-26.
- Brand EJ, Zhao Z. Cannabis in Chinese medicine: Are some traditional indications referenced in ancient literature related to cannabinoids? Front Pharmacol. 2017; 8: 108.
- Murillo-Rodriguez E, et al. Anandamide enhances extracellular levels of adenosine and induces sleep: an in vivo microdialysis study. Sleep. 2003; 26(8): 943-947.
- Boggs DL, et al. Clinical and preclinical evidence for functional interactions of cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018; 43(1): 142-154.
- Shannon S, et al. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J. 2019; 23: 18-041.
- Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008; 4(1): 245-259.
- Kuhathasan N, et al. The use of cannabinoids for sleep: A critical review on clinical trials. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2019; 27(4): 383-401.
- Linares IMP, et al. No acute effects of cannabidiol on the sleep-wake cycle of healthy subjects: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Front Pharmacol. 2018; 9: 315.
- Bolla KI, et al. Sleep disturbance in heavy marijuana users. Sleep. 2008; 31(6): 901-908.
- Ostrin LA, et al. Attenuation of short wavelengths alters sleep and the ipRGC pupil response. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2017; 37(4): 440-450.
- Perez Algorta G, et al. Blue blocking glasses worn at night in first year higher education students with sleep complaints: a feasibility study. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2018; 4: 166.
- Harding EC, et al. The temperature dependence of sleep. Front Neurosci. 2019; 13: 336.
- Zgair A, et al. Oral administration of Cannabis with lipids leads to high levels of cannabinoids in the intestinal lymphatic system and prominent immunomodulation. Sci Rep. 2017; 7(1): 14542.