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If you’ve ever been frustrated by insomnia or even not been able to fall asleep as soon as you’d like, you recognize how desperate you can get when attempting to find a solution. Melatonin, warm milk and counting sheep just don’t cut it. That’s why some insomnia sufferers have turned to CBD, one of the key medical cannabinoids found in cannabis.

One of the oft-cited studies showing that CBD can help with sleeplessness came out in 2013, when researchers wanted to investigate CBD’s, “wide spectrum of action, including effects in the sleep-wake cycle.” They found that the total percentage of “sleep significantly increased in the groups treated with 10 and 40 mg/kg of CBD compared to placebo.”1

A less direct link can be made for CBD’s therapeutic effects for those dealing with chronic pain and depression. The reasoning goes like this: If CBD helps a patient manage that pain or anxiety, their sleep will benefit as a result. Such a conclusion may not be as simplistic, depending on the person’s condition severity.

Can CBD can help combat sleeplessness?
So how does CBD affect our sleep? Mary Brown, founder and CEO of cannabis consulting group SMJ Consulting, explains that CBD has been shown to interact with, among other receptors, the GABA and serotonin receptors in the brain. “GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for calming down the nervous system. Many sleep issues stem from anxiety and depression so the relationship of CBD with these receptors can have a positive impact on a person's ability to get better rest,” she says.

Brown offers a vital word of caution though. She notes the complexity of human chemistry involving endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids and terpenoids “is so great that we really can't make blanket statements that CBD helps with sleep for everyone, as it simply is not true for all. In fact, many patients report that CBD gives them a burst of energy. Finally, the response to CBD for sleep is largely dose dependent. Current studies have supported the notion that lower doses of CBD can provide increased energy and higher doses can have a more sedative effect.”

Also, recent research has found that CBD doesn’t assist those with sleep apnea, which obstructs air flow into the lungs. A report in April 2018 states that sleep apnea, “should be excluded from the list of chronic medical conditions for state medical cannabis programs.”2 

The report’s author, Dr. Kannan Ramar, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, says limited pilot studies has given physicians little evidence that CBD could benefit sleep apnea patients. When asked about other studies pointing to CBD’s efficacy in combatting sleeplessness, Dr. Ramar says “many of those studies are methodologically flawed and essentially we need more data.”

What it may come down to is separating hype from reality, which is becoming a challenge in the CBD market globally. Many companies claim a wide range of health benefits from administering CBD, but serious R&D needs to occur before those claims can be backed up by hard data.

Brown says, “Personal success with CBD (and other cannabinoids) is dependent on a variety of factors unique to each human's individual chemistry. It is my hope that with the growing interest in the ‘safe’ cannabinoid, CBD, that the public will become educated on the wide therapeutic potential of ALL cannabinoids.” 

  1. "Effects of acute systemic administration of cannabidiol on sleep-wake cycle in rats." https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269881112474524
  2. "Medicinal Cannabis and the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29609727

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