CBD for Insomnia
Up all night? You’re not alone. Sixty million other Americans have trouble sleeping, too. In fact, insomnia is the most common of all sleep disorders. A whopping third of the population complains of sleep trouble (probably because they’re not getting their 7-9 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation). But, only 10% of the population have what’s considered persistent and chronic insomnia, 40% of which are likely due to a psychiatric condition. For these insomniacs, every day means waking up feeling like they never slept at all. Just 24-72 hours of no sleep, for the average person, results in decreased motor function, focus and concentration problems, and in more extreme cases, hallucinations. Worse, the problem compounds as time goes on (one of the triggers for sleeplessness is a lack of sleep itself), creating a vicious cycle that, over time, can lead to other health problems.
People experiencing insomnia say they have at least one of the following:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Problems staying asleep
- Waking too early
- Unrefreshing sleep
Over time, these bouts of insomnia can lead to other undesirable symptoms, including:
- Mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating
So, doctors will often make a clinical diagnosis of insomnia if these criteria apply:
- Sleep difficulties that happen at least three times per week
- This goes on for a minimum of three months
- This is causing a person distress
- This person can’t function at school or work
There are lots of different sorts of sleep disorders. The most common include:
Sleep apnea can impair your breathing as you sleep (common among those with obesity, sinus trouble, etc)
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by discomfort, tingling, or pain in the legs that gets worse at night and is only relieved by movement
Circadian rhythm disorders are when one’s sleep patterns and internal clock is off
Parasomnias entails abnormal activities while sleeping such as walking, talking, and extreme nightmares
Excessive daytime sleepiness is when persistent drowsiness occurs during wakeful times either narcolepsy or another medical condition.
The type of sleeplessness you experience matters in determining the cause of your insomnia.
Short-term insomnia can last for a few days or weeks, and may be caused by:
An upsetting or traumatic event
Changes to your sleep habits
Chronic insomnia lasts for at least three months and is often related to another problem or a combination of problems, including:
Medical conditions which make it harder to sleep, such as arthritis or back pain
Psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression
Substance use and abuse
People with certain risk factors are more likely to have insomnia, and they include:
- High stress or distress caused by a life event
- Emotional disorders, such as depression
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Changes in working hours, or night-shifting
- Hormone changes such as menopause
- Gender (insomnia is more likely to affect women than men)
- Certain medical conditions, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease
There are both pharmaceutical, and non pharmaceutical treatments for insomnia. Your doctor can help guide you to what works best and is most effective for you.
At home treatments include:
Sleep hygiene training can help change disruptive behaviors inadvertently impacting your sleep. The NSF’s recommendations are many, but include:
Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime
Exercising each day, if only for ten minutes—but not before sleep
Minimizing the time spent on your bed not sleeping (such as watching TV)
Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medications such as antihistamines like Diphenhydramine/Benadryl, herbal formulations, melatonin, and others
Natural sleep aids like warm milk, herbal tea, and valerian root (see: CBD below)
If your insomnia persists even after OTC medications and improving your sleep habits, your doctor may go on to help you get to the bottom of your sleep troubles. This could mean:
Diagnosing and treating an underlying condition whether chronic pain, anxiety, sleep apnea, a psychological disorder, etc.
Prescription sleep medications that your doctor prescribes to promote or help extend sleep, a few of which are:
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Halcion (triazolam)
- Trazodone (Desyrel)
- Estazolam (Prosom)
However, not all sleep aids are right for everyone. Sleep medications can have serious side effects, especially long term, and tend to get both overused and abused. It’s important to talk to your doctor before starting yourself on any OTC medication, drug, or supplement.
New, alternative therapies for insomnia include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends this as a treatment for persistent and chronic insomnia in adults.
CBD and other plant cannabinoids are showing much promise for treating insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep-related disorders (though CBD taken with THC has been shown to improve sleep better than using CBD alone). The jury is still out on effectiveness but at least one double-blinded crossover study found that CBD did not hurt or disrupt the sleep-wake cycle of patients taking high doses.
CBD and Insomnia
Research and Scientific Evidence
Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review
Sleep disorders, including insomnia, are a serious problem for many adults. Insomnia is very often caused by high stress, mood disorders, depression, hormonal changes and other mental and somatic ailments. The standard method of treatment is the use of prescription drugs, which unfortunately cause many side effects, and even a strong addiction. In the search for alternatives, interest began to be expressed in how CBD and other cannabinoids affect the condition of our sleep. In 2020, a systematic review of studies and articles on the effectiveness of the treatment of psychiatric disorders with cannabis was published.
An interesting discovery was made in a study published in 2013, which examined the long-term safety and tolerance of using CBD/THC spray in relieving pain and ailments in patients with advanced stage of cancer. The results showed that the use of this spray resulted in a gradual reduction of perceived pain, which led to less fatigue. In this case, it has been noted that cannabinoids can work in two ways: they reduce pain, which facilitates falling asleep, and their sedative and anxiolytic effects are partially mediated by serotonergic activity.
Cannabis and its cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, for the treatment of insomnia have proven to be a promising alternative to prescription drugs. However, whenever we are faced with a serious disorder, you should consult your doctor and jointly develop a treatment process using cannabis products.
Treating insomnia symptoms with medicinal cannabis: a randomized, crossover trial of the efficacy of a cannabinoid medicine compared to placebo4>
Chronic insomnia occurs in 6-15% of the population. People struggling with insomnia often use cannabis. Unfortunately, obtaining them legally may be difficult, so it is worth checking at what level we can assess the effectiveness of cannabinoid preparations in the treatment of chronic insomnia. Not many studies have been conducted so far, while those that have already been published show a significant improvement in sleep quality after applying THC and CBD separately or together.
A randomised, double-blind, controlled study for Sleep Research Society evaluated the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid formulation containing THC, CBD and CBN (ZTL-101) for the treatment of insomnia symptoms. In order to participate in the study, psychotropic, antidepressant and cytochrome P450 inhibitor drugs had to be discontinued. The initial clinical history at the screening visit was followed by a 2-week baseline period during which participants wore an activity monitor on their wrists and completed sleep diaries. The participants then went through a 7-day purification period and were randomly assigned to the groups. The preparation used included THC 20 mg/ml, CBN 2 mg/ml, CBD 1 mg/ml and naturally occurring terpenes. Of the 23 subjects, 52% received a double dose of ZTL-101 for 2 weeks and 69.5% received a double dose of placebo.
As many as 81% of the respondents taking the preparation ZTL-101 noticed a significant improvement in the quality of sleep. This is a promising result of the effectiveness of cannabinoids such as CBD, THC and CBN in treating the symptoms of chronic insomnia. This study points to a new direction for future CBD research.