Medicinal Cannabis for Sleep & Insomnia.
Do you suffer from a lack of sleep? You’re not alone! Trouble sleeping is one of the top three reasons our patients come to us for help.
Sleep is essential for our health since many of our bodies’ processes are being healed and repaired when we get some shut-eye. When we don’t get enough sleep, this can lead to an increased risk of mental and physical health conditions.
Unfortunately, many life stressors can get in the way of getting a good night’s sleep. While typical treatment includes medications, more people are choosing natural alternatives to use, like CBD.
There are many reasons why your sleep may not be optimal. For some of our patients, their sleep difficulty is linked to health issues, such as anxiety or pain, which impairs their ability to rest. This lack of sleep can then make these symptoms even worse, and the cycle is never-ending.
We understand how disruptive to your life this is. From seeing hundreds of patients across the country, we have seen extreme cases of sleep dysfunction improve with the use of medicinal cannabis.
Can CBD Oil Help Sleep?
A lack of a restful night’s sleep can be very disruptive. Some people find that while they can fall asleep easily, they either cannot maintain that sleep during the night or they wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed.
If this sounds like you, then the good news is CBD oil and medicinal cannabis can help!
CBD oil can help promote a more restful sleep at night, helping you wake up feeling more refreshed. It can also help maintain a deeper sleep as well.
Can CBD Oil Help Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes difficulty in falling asleep. This condition can be caused by stress, anxiety, emotional worries, jet lag, night shift work schedules, among many other factors. Insomnia can be acute or chronic and is generally defined as chronic when it occurs at least three times per week for over three months.
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Lying awake for several hours unable to fall asleep
- Feeling tired throughout the day
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Not feeling well-rested when you wake up
Several treatment options are available for insomnia such as medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), supplements, and lifestyle changes (e.g reducing caffeine intake after 12 pm).
What causes Insomnia?
Determining how insomnia arises in individuals can be complicated, but several factors often contribute. These include mental factors, like anxiety and stress disorders, alongside physical characteristics, such as physical illness or pain (1).
All of these can disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle of the body, negatively affecting your sleep schedule. Many traditional insomnia treatments are harsh or even dangerous for long-term use.
Luckily, CBD is a natural alternative that has been shown to ease many of these symptoms.
Anxiety and stress
Anxiety is often a cause of high stress levels. Similarly, anxiety can worsen stress symptoms, leading to a negative feedback loop (2). This can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, resulting in health conditions, like insomnia.
The good news? CBD can be useful in the fight against anxiety and stress. CBD’s anti-stress properties may help calm a racing mind and a rapid heart rate.
Researchers have found that the calming effects of CBD are felt almost immediately, compared to antidepressants, which often take weeks to take effect (3).
Many studies have also linked CBD use to lowered cortisol levels, a stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, this can result in high blood pressure, reduced energy levels, and poor sleep quality. Alongside this, high cortisol levels are also associated with increased anxiety and depression risk due to cortisol’s interaction with several brain receptors (4).
On top of all this, CBD’s calming effects are seen to be long-lasting and well-tolerated. This contrasts with traditional anti-stress or anxiety medication, which works to mask symptoms but can come with many side effects.
Physical illness and pain
Physical illness and pain throughout the body can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. Both of these symptoms make it hard to fall (and stay!) asleep. CBD is emerging as a promising treatment to ease pain due to illness.
What is interesting is cannabis has always been used for medicinal purposes. In fact, one of the earliest recorded uses of cannabis was for arthritis (5)! In NZ, about 1 in 6 people live with at least one type of arthritis, making it a relatively common condition (6).
Luckily, there is some evidence to suggest that people with anxiety who use CBD reported pain relief and, because of this, improved sleep (7). The cause of this lies in CBD’s unique anti-inflammatory properties, which affect how the body’s receptors respond to inflammation and pain.
Most of the research using CBD for pain has been related to nerve damage. Researchers have investigated other forms of CBD oil application in addition to oral and found that topical application is also useful. After determining how effective CBD is for pain when applied to the skin, neuropathic or nerve damage pain was decreased (8).
How Does CBD Oil Help With Insomnia?
While research has shown CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system as the main reason pain and anxiety levels decrease, most studies are still inconclusive. The research on CBD and insomnia is still relatively new, and most researchers agree that more research on CBD is needed before we can fully understand its impacts on sleep.
However, what researchers know is that CBD’s interaction with the body eases many of the root causes of insomnia. The endocannabinoid system is involved in a lot of body processes, including mental health. This relationship is so strong that many researchers have pointed out individuals with mental health disorders with damaged or altered endocannabinoid systems (9).
CBD can interact with endocannabinoid system receptors to reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, or pain.
How Should I Use CBD Oil for Insomnia?
The rise in popularity of CBD products worldwide means a massive range of options is available for purchase. CBD oil is a great CBD product option due to its portable nature and fast-acting effects.
If you are concerned about using CBD for the first time or whether CBD is the right choice to treat your insomnia, talk to your doctor or one of our specialists. They will assess your particular body composition and sleep needs to determine if CBD is a good option for you. This is important, as many factors, like your body chemistry, will affect how the CBD works.
For many of our patients, we find that adding in some THC to their night time routine can also work very well. When this is taken orally, it does not cause a high and is very helpful in helping people feel relaxed and sleep. Both good things when trying to get to sleep!
The best advice is to use CBD oil or THC oil just within 30 – 60 minutes prior to going to bed. This allows sufficient time for it to be absorbed and to take effect.
Does CBD Oil Have Side Effects?
CBD oil and medicinal cannabis products are very well tolerated and safe to use.
However, because our bodies are so different, some side effects may be experienced even though CBD is generally well-tolerated. These include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and diarrhoea (11). Talk to a health professional if you want to know more about any of these side effects.
What Is The Evidence?
Cannabis undoubtedly affects sleep. Since ancient times, people have used cannabis as a sleep aid. There are countless anecdotes of cannabis causing sleepiness and also multiple studies indicating the potential of both THC and CBD to help induce sleep and therefore combat insomnia.
- In one study, researchers looked into the effects of CBD on a range of neuropsychiatric disorders. The results showed that CBD was able to reduce the anxiety scores of 79% of patients and improve sleep scores by 66%.
- In one 2018 survey of 1,000 adults using cannabis, 74% of survey participants stated that they use cannabis for sleep, with 84% of them reporting that it helps.
- One study on healthy insomniacs showed that THC significantly decreased the time it takes for them to fall asleep over a six week period. THC was also shown to help decrease the number of times participants woke up throughout the night.
- In a 2017 review of the available scientific literature, CBD was reported to potentially be helpful for treating REM sleep behaviour disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness.
For some people, CBD oil alone is sufficient to aid in helping get to sleep, sleeping deeply and staying asleep. For others, a little night time THC can be more effective. When taken with the CBD, there is little risk of developing a dependence and having side effects.
If you haven’t been responding well to conventional insomnia treatments, then we encourage you to speak to us about using medicinal cannabis and start your journey with us.