Cannabis and Cannabidiol (CBD) along with a handful of other cannabinoids, can be used as natural remedies for combating insomnia. Positive research evidence has compelled increasingly more people to turn to cannabis and CBD for insomnia relief. While these compounds have significant sedative effects, they can also be used to combat pain, fatigue, and anxiety which are factors that can cause or worsen insomnia. Since the long-term effects of these compounds have not been comprehensively elucidated, it is advisable to stick with moderate dosages and to consult with your doctor should insomnia persist for more than a month.

According to the American sleep association, close to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. [1] Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder, and it affects about 1 in 3 adults in the short term. Insomnia may present as difficulty in falling asleep or difficulty in remaining asleep during the night. It may also show as an early morning awakening where the affected person cannot sleep.

Traditionally, insomnia is managed using sleeping pills (sedative-hypnotics) which unfortunately may cause dependence if used over extended durations. [2] For example, benzodiazepines such as valium and Ativan may cause drowsiness and help one to fall asleep. However, they are not recommended for long term use.

Consequently, insomniacs are constantly in search of safer methods for dealing with insomnia. Can cannabidiol (CBD) and medical marijuana help with insomnia?

While CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in hemp (under 0.3%) and cannabis, marijuana refers to cannabis which has higher amounts (over 0.3%) of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). In this article, you’ll learn how cannabis and CBD can help deal with insomnia.

Let’s get started.

Cannabis Versus CBD for Sleep

Cannabis refers to the flowers, stems, seeds, and dried leaves from a Cannabis Sativa plant with high amounts of THC. Cannabis plants in most cases have higher THC and lower CBD. On the other hand, CBD refers to a non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced in both hemp and cannabis plants.

Current research indicates that both THC and CBD have sleep-promoting benefits. Recent studies have shown that acute administration of THC will reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and lessen the active (REM) phase of sleep associated with vivid dreams. [3]

CBD, on the other hand, has also been linked to sleep-promoting properties. One study showed that high doses of CBD (up to 160 mg) are likely to increase the duration of sleep. [4] However, a different study (2019 case series) showed that CBD’s sleep-promoting effects are only short-term. [5]

Using CBD and CannabisTo Combat Insomnia

CBD and medical marijuana can address insomnia in a couple of ways, as outlined below:

CBD Reduces Anxiety

Anxiety is a significant cause of insomnia. If not well controlled, anxiety may cause the following problems that are related to insomnia:

  • Problems falling asleep
  • Unexplained tiredness after waking up
  • Daytime drowsiness

Research shows that CBD can help manage anxiety-induced insomnia. Moreover, it reduces incidences of panic attacks at night. [8] Furthermore, the study showed that CBD is well tolerated. Remember to start with low dosages as you work your way up until you find that sweet spot that lulls you safely to sleep.

CBD and Cannabis as Sedatives

When you are experiencing insomnia, the goal is to find a product with sedative effects to make you fall asleep quickly. The levels of the stress hormone cortisol are usually high in the morning. But for people who have insomnia, their cortisol levels are high at night. Hence this leads to increased wakefulness at night.

Different studies have shown that CBD can act as a sedative by lowering cortisol levels. This means that also your wakefulness time during the day will be increased. But according to Scientists, more research still needs to be done on the sedative properties of CBD. Other studies have also demonstrated THC’s sedative properties. [3]

CBD and Cannabis as Pain Relievers

Pain is a great contributor to lack of sleep and insomnia, especially chronic pain that will keep you tossing and turning on your bed every night.  A 2018 review by Frontiers in Pharmacology showed that CBD and THC have significant pain-relieving properties. [9]

Side Effects of CBD and Cannabis

The side effects of CBD and cannabis may vary from individual to individual. This is affected by several factors such as body fat percentage, age, metabolism rate, and one’s unique physiology. That’s why it’s advised you start with low dosages so that you can know how your body will react to cannabis.

Here are some common side effects to anticipate:

  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite. The changes in appetite can either be positive or negative
  • Damages your sense of time
  • In extreme cases, you may experience breathing problems

How to Manage Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms

There will come a time that you might need to take a break from cannabis. While it is entirely safe to withdraw from CBD at any time, withdrawing from cannabis (just like one’s withdrawal from other regular habits such as coffee) may cause some terrible withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Problems getting sleep
  • Anxiety and weakness
  • Restlessness and sweating
  • Stomach pain and nausea
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability and headaches
  • Feelings of depression
  • Nightmares

Here are some tips to help you deal with cannabis withdrawal symptoms:

  • Adopt a healthy diet that includes fruits, proteins, and vegetables to increase your energy.
  • Create an active lifestyle. Try exercising three times a day. This will remove toxins from the body and boost your mood.
  • Drink lots of water. Preferably two liters of water every day or more. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks.
  • Look for support from either your family or friends. You can also try support group therapies or outpatient rehabilitation programs.
  • Get outside and enjoy some time in nature!

Can cannabis and CBD help with insomnia?

Cannabis and CBD can help you deal with insomnia by relieving fatigue, pain,  and anxiety. When these are underlying causes for insomnia, CBD and cannabis will be of great help. Cannabis and CBD also have sedative effects that may also help deal with acute insomnia. However, they should not be used as a long-term solution for insomnia. While CBD may lose effectiveness over time, THC may cause unwanted side effects. Be careful about withdrawing cannabis treatment for insomnia abruptly. This is likely to trigger nightmares and worsen symptoms of PTSD.

References

  1.     American Sleep Association. Sleep and sleep disorder statistics. Retrieved from https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-statistics/
  2.     WebMD: Understanding the side effects of sleeping pills. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/understanding-the-side-effects-of-sleeping-pills
  3.     Schierenbeck, T., Riemann, D., Berger, M., & Hornyak, M. (2008). Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: cocaine, ecstasy, sleep duration, and marijuana. Sleep medicine reviews, 12(5), 381–389.
  4.     Zhornitsky, S., & Potvin, S. (2012). Cannabidiol in humans-the quest for therapeutic targets. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 5(5), 529–552.
  5.     Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041.
  6.     WHO (2018). CBD Critical review report. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
  7.     Jacobus, J., & Tapert, S. F. (2014). Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain. Current pharmaceutical design, 20(13), 2186–2193.
  8.     Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J 2019;23:18-041.
  9.     Vučković, S., Srebro, D., Vujović, K. S., Vučetić, Č., & Prostran, M. (2018). Cannabinoids and Pain: New Insights From Old Molecules. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 1259. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.01259



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