A good night’s rest is critical to our health. It affects everything from cognitive and motor function to our immune system, vulnerability to disease, and longevity. Yet, most people don’t get enough of it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three American adults don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.
What exactly is “enough sleep”?
The CDC published that statistic using seven hours of sleep per day as the standard—an hour less than what some sources consider to be the minimum for quality shut-eye.
A Consumer Reports survey found that 80 percent of Americans say they have trouble sleeping at least once a week, and other statistics find that even more struggle with this foundational element of good health. While plenty of organizations have published statistics using slightly different controls, the unanimous finding is that most Americans are missing out on some serious Z’s.
Work and family demands, caffeine intake, concurrent health conditions such as anxiety—the list goes on—can all hinder our natural sleep cycle, not to mention sleep-specific conditions such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
The market is full of prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs used to treat sleep issues, ranging from mild to severe. Sometimes, however, the side effects can outweigh the benefits of such treatments.
While certain medications may achieve the desired night’s sleep, reported side effects include difficulty waking up, feeling groggy throughout the day, difficulty concentrating, increased or decreased appetite, dependence, headaches, digestive issues, and more.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural, non-habit-forming alternative to sleep medications. Because it strikes the desired balance between a good night’s rest and waking up feeling energized, CBD is becoming a popular and effective tool to combat sleep issues. In doing so, it relieves the stressors on your body that stem from those issues, such as decreased productivity, mental acuity, and overall wellness.
The Sleep Cycle: Where Does CBD Fit In?
To pinpoint how CBD affects sleep, it’s helpful to first look at the different stages of our sleep cycle.
The human sleep cycle consists of four stages: three stages of Non-REM (NREM) sleep, and REM sleep (Stage 4). Stage 1 of NREM sleep is the lightest stage, and sleep continues to deepen through Stage 3 NREM. Stage 3 NREM is characterized by delta waves, or slow waves. It’s the most restorative stage of sleep. Awakening or being aroused from sleep is the least likely to occur during Stage 3. Finally, REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, is the “dreaming stage,” when brain waves are more active than in Stages 2 and 3 and awakening can occur more easily. REM is Stage 4 and precedes our body waking up.
Studies have found that CBD increases the time it takes to get into Stage 4 REM sleep, thus elongating our restorative Stage 3 sleep. Research substantiates this direct connection between CBD and sleep. A 2017 review in Current Psychiatry Reports reported that CBD interacts with receptors and chemicals in the brain that regulate the body’s daily sleep/wake cycles, while many other studies note the connection between CBD, the human endocannabinoid system, and how the two work together to promote healthy sleep.
There’s also a proxy effect. CBD has proven to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and pain, which are two major inhibitors to quality sleep. Therefore, improved sleep is a built-in benefit of using CBD to treat interrelated conditions.
I Thought CBD Was Energizing?
Here’s where dosage comes into play. Researchers have studied a range of CBD doses, from 10 mg up to 1300 mg, and measured the impact of varying amounts. High doses of CBD (150 mg or more), can be sleep-inducing, while lower doses tend to stimulate alertness. There is no “high” associated with CBD; rather, it enhances the way your body uses its own natural receptors, signals, and hormones.
Of course, it depends on each individual’s unique biochemistry and personal preference to determine the right dosage for an optimal sleep/wake cycle. If you’re interested in trying CBD to enhance your sleep/wake cycle, you’ll want to look for a full-spectrum product, which provides the appropriate dosage and quality.
The Power of CBD (And Quality Sleep)
Sleep, right there with food and water, is crucial to physical, emotional, and mental health. Poor sleep quality negatively impacts your body’s performance, causing it to take longer to recover from exercise, increase your appetite (especially for “comfort” foods), make it difficult to focus and problem-solve, cause mood swings, and in general make you feel worse.
CBD has been used as a therapeutic supplement for centuries due to its calming, sleep-inducing, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects on the body. But it wasn’t until the last century that scientists started identifying individual cannabinoids. They went on to study over 80, and today CBD is the most researched of those due to its broad range of benefits.
A growing body of research has been devoted to CBD as a sleep aid. The findings? CBD may improve REM sleep abnormalities in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, and even REM behavior disorder in people with Parkinson’s Disease (a disorder that causes people with Parkinson’s Disease to act out physically during REM sleep to the point that they risk injuring themselves).
In general, CBD enhances our sleep/wake cycle so that our body receives quality rest—and as a result, quality waking hours.
According to another Consumer Reports survey, about 10 percent of Americans who tried CBD said they used it to help them sleep, and the majority of those people said it worked. So if you’ve tried sleep medications to no avail, or haven’t tried anything to help resolve sleep issues, CBD is natural, safe option. Devoid of negative side effects, it instead adds other health benefits on top of improved sleep.