Good sleep is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, and cannabis products have been helping people sleep for centuries. Poor sleep can be caused by a number of issues, like insomnia, narcolepsy, or sleep apnea. So now, as industrialized hemp and CBD become legal at a federal level, consumers are reaching for natural cannabis products to help them get the rest they need. Historically the product most reached for to use as a sleep aid has been marijuana. This is because THC has been found to help encourage good sleep , but does CBD have the same effect? How does it compare?
CBD vs. THC
Let’s start off by discussing the differences between CBD and THC. THC is the cannabinoid compound found in marijuana plants that makes the user feel intoxicated, most often met with a feeling of euphoria or deep relaxation. Marijuana and THC are still considered illegal in most states across the U.S. and are illegal federally.
CBD, on the other hand, is another type of cannabinoid compound that can be found in hemp plants. It does not cause any sort of intoxication and is legal federally. CBD in the United States comes primarily from industrial hemp plants, which were legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp plants are federally regulated to not contain more than 0.3% THC, a level so low it poses no threat of intoxication. A recent survey of 72 adults found that two-thirds of participants claimed CBD improved their sleep and anxiety after a month of use .
Choosing the right CBD for Sleep
It seems with every day that passes, CBD hits more and more mainstream outlets. You’ve likely seen it everywhere, from your local grocery store to the pet groomer. CBD is making a name for itself in regards to its therapeutic benefits. Society is paying attention. But how well does it work for something like sleep, that is essential to the overall health and well-being of people everywhere? A recent survey found 10% of respondents used CBD oil as a sleep aid, with most of them claiming it worked well for their purposes . However, as a whole, there are very few scientific studies on the benefits of CBD as a sleep aid.
There are also several factors to consider when investigating CBD for sleep. First, CBD contains a terpene called myrcene. This particular terpene is known to act as a sedative  and is a powerful addition to cannabidiol (CBD). An interesting fact to note is that myrcene has been used for centuries as a sleep aid, mostly in the form of hops which also contain high levels of the terpene (more on that later).
Another factor to consider is the type of CBD being used to assist in sleep. If a consumer decides to use a CBD isolate, they will be missing out on the added benefits that comes with using a more inclusive CBD product, like broad or full spectrum CBD oil. The products that are listed as CBD isolate will have all other cannabinoids and terpenes removed, leaving only pure CBD. While this might be an excellent product for many other uses, it may not be the best product for someone looking for relief from sleep conditions.
Benefits of CBD
There is a very special process called The Entourage Effect that happens only when all cannabinoids and terpenes are allowed to exist together and aid each other in their processes, bringing maximum relief to the user. If even one of those compounds is removed, the beneficial results will be lessened . Since there are more than a few of these other cannabinoids and terpenes that have been found to have benefits that encourage good sleep, taking a product that does not include them could be a waste of money.
Some research has shown that the success of CBD as a sleep aid comes directly from its success as an anti-anxiety therapy. One particular case studied psychiatric patients who were having a difficult time dealing with anxiety and were therefore experiencing sleep issues. When adding CBD to their normal treatment, anxiety in the patients decreased by 80% in the first 30 days, with almost 70% of the participants improving their sleep overall . These are strong numbers that go a long way to show the power of CBD in sleeplessness, especially as it relates to stress and anxiety.
Because it’s such a powerful remedy for stress and anxiety, CBD users often find themselves falling asleep more quickly than they are able to without the supplemental aid. It has also been shown to be helpful for those struggling to fall asleep because of pain, PTSD, or nervous system conditions as the cannabinoids help relieve the troublesome symptoms .
Other Natural Sleep Remedies
If you’re really looking to naturally boost the power of CBD, there are some natural remedies that can be combined with CBD products in order to increase the effectiveness. Some of these natural sleep aids also contain important terpenes that are found in cannabis, but in much higher concentrations than what CBD offers. Adding these to a CBD routine can greatly increase the efficacy of each product.
- Hops: Commonly known for their use in beer to produce the bitter flavor, they are actually the female flowers of the hop plant. Hops have a long history of being used in herbal medicine for a variety of ailments, including as a sleep aid. Funnily enough, this discovery came after field workers who tended hop crops would often fall asleep on the job. Centuries later, however, there is now scientific evidence to prove that hops have sedative properties, mostly due to bitter resins and the terpene myrcenol .
- Chamomile: One of the oldest medicinal plants in the world, chamomile has long been used for a number of ailments. Chamomile flowers are typically dried and used in a tea for pain, inflammation, and sleep disorders. Like cannabis, chamomile contains a number of beneficial terpenoids and flavonoids .
- Lavender: Yet another plant that has been used medicinally for centuries, lavender has a long history of treating infections, burns, and of course sleep conditions. Lavender oil is typically used as a topical treatment and research has shown it to be beneficial in treating insomnia, particularly in females and young adults .
- Valerian Root: Another ancient medicinal plant, valerian root has been used by generations of people to promote relaxation and improve sleep. While it’s flowers were used to make perfume, it was the root of the valerian plant that held all the therapeutic benefits. Valerian root holds a variety of beneficial antioxidants that have been shown to help people treat those suffering from insomnia. One such study found participants reported falling asleep 36% faster and that their overall time in a deep sleep increased during the 14 days they took valerian .
- Melatonin: This is actually a hormone from the pineal gland in the middle of the brain that is produced naturally by the body. As you might have guessed, it’s purpose is tightly bound to our ability to sleep. Melatonin regulates our body’s response to light, being released by the pineal gland when it’s dark . You’ve probably heard the best way to fall asleep is by limiting the amount of light you’re exposed to around bedtime? Melatonin is the reason for that. Melatonin supplements are available over-the-counter, but you should check with your doctor before adding it to your treatment plan.
- 5-HTP: Much like melatonin, 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally-occuring compound in our bodies, in particular, an amino acid. Our bodies use 5-HTP to produce serotonin, which sends signals between nerve cells. When serotonin levels get too low, often people will suffer from depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. For sleep, the added serotonin gets converted to melatonin, which then helps regulate the sleep cycle. A recent study showed that 5-HTP helped reduce the time it took to fall asleep, increased the duration of sleep, and improved overall sleep quality .
As with any new treatment, please consult your doctor before adding a new medication to your routine, even if they are natural remedies. It is always important to have that consultation so your doctor is fully aware of what changes to your regimen are being made, and be able to give you recommendations in regards to dosage and frequency.