Most people hear “insomnia” and equate it with an inability to fall asleep, but this isn’t the full picture. There are actually several types (temporary, acute, chronic) and patterns (onset, middle-of-the-night, middle, and terminal/late) that are all part of the complex insomnia spectrum. We won’t delve into the roots of insomnia here, but we do plan to run a more comprehensive piece on sleep disorders in the near future. Not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, at whatever time of night, can be debilitating and make it hard for people to concentrate and function throughout the day.
With approximately 60 million adults in the United States battling this sleep demon, it’s no wonder that both over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids are big business. They’re also dangerous and habit-forming. Today, somewhere around 10 million Americans use sleeping pills regularly. Unfortunately, there’s also been a steady uptick of ER visits related to the use of zolpidem (the active ingredient in Ambien)—a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that this number doubled in just five years, between 2005 and 2010. Perhaps most disturbing is the number of people on sleep meds who have suicidal thoughts related to their drug use.
If you’ve been following CBD’s rise to greater public awareness, you’ve probably heard that it has calming, anti-anxiety effects. (If you’d like to know more on this, check out “Anxiety and Stress.”) But can it beat the sleeplessness blues?
THC (and specifically the indica variety of marijuana) is usually the first cannabinoid associated with soporific effects, but CBD absolutely has sleep benefits, too, without getting you high. At higher doses (160-600mg), CBD functions like a natural sedative, aiding in both falling and staying asleep. Its anti-anxiety effects carry over to sleep as well, calming those who suffer from persistent rumination that interferes with their ability to get quality rest. In addition, CBD’s power as an analgesic can indirectly benefit those who have trouble sleeping due to chronic pain.
We’re not just riffing here—research has been very positive. Many animal studies indicate CBD can positively affect anxiety-induced insomnia, and can increase total sleep duration at higher dosages. The clinical studies that have been done on humans thus far confirm these results. One such study tested 15 insomniacs by giving them a placebo or a dose of 40mg, 80mg, or 160mg of CBD. According to the researchers: “160 mg cannabidiol significantly increased the number of hours the subjects slept, and all three doses decreased dream recall, which could be the consequence of less sleep interruptions during the night’s sleep.” Other studies have also shown CBD to be helpful in improving REM sleep abnormalities.
An interesting note: In smaller doses, CBD actually can help to keep you alert during the day and minimize daytime sleepiness—which in turn is beneficial in restoring balance to your sleep/wake cycle.
We’re not about to make grandiose statements about how CBD is an insomniac’s (literal) dream in a bottle, but in summary, CBD has indeed been proven to help combat insomnia. At higher doses, it has sedative effects, while lower dosages bring about a greater sense of calm, which can help tame the ruminating, anxious thoughts that keep many insomnia sufferers awake at night. And CBD’s pain-relieving properties can also help sleepless pain sufferers finally get some proper shuteye. The best part? You can get it without a prescription, it will never put you in the ER, and it’s non-addictive. At the very least, it’s a healthier, safer sleep aid. So… maybe it’s time to trade up and swap that bottle of Ambien for a bottle of CBD?