Sleep is the best medication.
If that age old saying does not capture the true essence of sleep, then this one by Thomas Dekker should:
Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.
The trouble is, while some people fall asleep almost rhythmically, many struggle for it.
If you are an insomniac, for whom pure, restful sleep has itself become a distant dream, I may have a solution for you:
CBD for sleep.
In this post I will cover the science of sleep and how sleeplessness affects your health and general quality of life.
I will then discuss why the cannabis plant extract – CBD has emerged as a hot remedy for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Let’s dive right in:
Should Sleeplessness Be Such a Big Deal?
I will be blunt – without good quality sleep, it is impossible to achieve optimal health.
Good quality sleep is as central to health as is exercise and proper nutrition.
In fact, poor sleep quality or outright sleep deprivation will lead to many negative outcomes for your health. Let’s look at some of these before proceeding:
1. Poor Sleep Can Cause Obesity
People with good sleep habits tend have better control over how much they eat.
This ability to regulate your calorie count is a function of the healthy balance between two appetite hormones:
Ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates our craving for food. While leptin has the opposite effect, being the hormone that suppresses appetite.
As you can imagine, both these hormones are important, but they also need to keep in a healthy balance.
If leptin hormones are overactive, there are chances you will end up starving yourself.
Conversely, too much activity for ghrelin hormones mean you eat more than you need to, which causes you to grow fat and overweight. Both these outcomes come with their own set of health risks.
To paint a picture of how grave the obesity problem is in Canada:
The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates the percentage of obese adults in Canada at 64%. This puts Canada among the world’s most obese countries.
At 60%, obesity prevalence is not much better either for Canadian children.
In economic terms, Obesity Canada says the epidemic costs the Canadian economy around $7 billion each year. The figure will rise to $9 billion by 2021, according to estimates.
Weight gain can also lead to potentially chronic and fatal health conditions:
2. Sleeplessness is a Strong Risk Factor for Stroke and Heart Disease
Excessive body weight, or obesity, itself is a major risk factor for heart disease.
This study found that obese adults aged between 40 and 59 have as high as 85 percent chances of developing a cardiovascular disease. This is in comparison to same age adults carrying normal body masses.
Younger people are also at as much risk of heart disease if they don’t keep their weight in check.
So poor sleep quality can, though indirectly, increase your risk of developing a heart disease.
Obesity is also cited as a leading cause for another chronic disease:
3. Heightened Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is marked the body’s inability to control blood glucose levels because it can’t use insulin or produce enough of it.
Insulin converts blood sugar into energy.
Common symptoms of the condition include sweating, anxiety, confusion, slurred speech, and headaches. In the more serious cases effects include loss of eyesight, kidney disease, nerve damage, heart attacks, and stroke.
Genetics is one of the leading causes of Type 2 Diabetes.
But, while hereditary, you can limit your chances of developing the disease by taking better care of yourself. In other words, being careful about your lifestyle choices is a good way of protecting yourself.
Which brings us to the other leading cause of Type 2 Diabetes:
Poor lifestyle choices leading to uncontrolled weight gain, commonly known as obesity.
So a person following a poor diet and who does not sleep well has a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, whether the condition runs in the family or not.
In Canada, Type 2 diabetes prevalence is growing.
As of 2015, there were a total of 3.4 million sufferers in the country, which is 9% of the population. The number will grow to 5 million by 2025, representing 12.15 % of the Canadian population.
Good Sleep Quality Generally Leads to Good Health and Well-being
Poor sleep quality carries obvious health risks, leading to premature death in some cases.
On the flip side, good sleep habits have great benefits for your health and general well-being:
Improved immune system function: This study found people who get less than seven hours of sleep are three times more likely to catch a cold than those who get eight hours of sleep.
A responsive immune system will mean better protection to external threats to your health.
To put this into perspective, less than four hours of sleep can lead to a 70 percent reduction in cancer preventing immune cells.
Better concentration and productivity: According to another study, lack of sleep has the same effect on brain function as alcohol. When medical interns subjected to work hours beyond 24 hours were studied, results showed they made 36% more serious errors.
For cognition, there is proof that good sleep improves memory and enhances problem solving skills in both children and adults.
Much of what you learn, through practice and theory, is assigned to memory in the REM stage. This is a deeper stage of the sleep cycle that you can only get to after several hours of sleep.
Better physical health and enhanced athletic performance: Studies show that inadequate sleep of six hours and less reduces reaction times for athletes.
Shortened sleep is also shown to affect accuracy and impair motivation and focus in sports people.
Why is this the case?
Well, it is during the deep sleep stages that your body repairs muscles and tissues and gets to rejig the immune system.
It is, thus, easy to understand why adequate sleep leads to a decreased risk of injuries. This leads to longer playing careers.
Better cardiovascular health: During sleep your body automatically starts to reboot your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
We can then deduce that poor sleep habits will have very negative effects on your cardiovascular health. This raises your risk for hypertension and cardiac arrests.
So, though usually overlooked, adequate, good quality sleep is important for good health. But what exactly is good quality sleep?
To understand what quality sleep is, let’s talk about the sleep cycle:
Decoding the Sleep Cycle
Sleep isn’t a mere shutdown of the body lasting six to eight hours while your body rests and recharges after all the exertions of the day.
The fact is quite a lot happens when you hit the sack to catch those zee’s.
In basic terms, though, the sleep cycle breaks down into four stages. Each cycle lasts between 90 and 110 minutes, with individual stages lasting between five and 15 minutes.
The interesting part is the cycle isn’t always linear. You can get from stage one to three, and then from there back to stage two and then onto stage four.
We want to explain the sleep cycle better. To do that, I will break the cycle down to its stages:
Stage 1 – Light Sleep
This is the first, light sleep stage. You will feel drowsy, drifting in and out of sleep.
Stage 1 sees a slowing down in both eye movement and muscle activity. You will also feel sensations of falling followed by sudden muscle contractions.
In this stage, lasting up to seven minutes, you are relatively alert and can be woken quite easily.
Stage 2 – Fairly Light Sleep
In this stage slower brain waves get even slower, with just the occasional burst. These occasional rapid bursts in brain wave activity are known as sleep spindles.
Here, the heart rate drops, too. Eye movement stops completely and the body’s core temperature also starts to drop.
As all this happens the body readies itself for deep sleep. If you are only looking to catch a short ‘power nap’ to recharge your batteries during your lunch break at work, you will not want to sleep beyond this stage.
Stages 3 – Deep Sleep (for the body)
This marks the start of the deep sleep stage.
Now the body is less responsive to outside stimuli and it gets harder to wake a person.
In this stage, very slow brain waves, known as delta waves, are inter spaced by smaller, slightly faster waves. You will experience no eye movement nor muscle activity at all.
Common characteristics of this stage include sleep walking (for those prone to it). Also common here is sleep talking, night tremors, and – for the younger ones, – bed wetting.
Stage 4 – Deeper Sleep
This, as is stage three, is the deep sleep stage. Only in this stage, brain wave activity is now dominated by delta waves.
You will have now sank deeper into sleep, where it gets even harder to wake. If you do wake, you will likely feel disoriented.
Now, this is an important stage where your body gets much of the rest it needs. Your body starts to repair tissues and muscles and gives your immune system a much needed power-up.
It is in stage four that all those stiff muscles are loosened, aches healed, and your body re-energizes for the next day.
If your job demands much physical exertion, this stage of the sleep cycle is very important for you.
Wait, what about the brain?
Stage 5 – REM Sleep
This is the dream stage, when your brain is most active.
Importantly, it is the stage where the brain processes all the information you absorbed during the day and assigns it to memory.
The REM stage, is marked by Rapid Eye Movement, hence the name. Note that eyes, despite the rapid movements, remain closed.
Breathing will be fast, shallow, and irregular. You will also record a higher heart and blood pressure.
It takes an average of one and half hours to get to the REM stage.
You will spend up to an hour in this stage, and even longer as the night progresses. This explains why most dreams take place in the hours before you wake in the morning.
For artists, athletes, and students who practice a lot, in the hopes of getting better at their craft, it is in this stage when all those repetitive actions are committed to memory. This is why quality, deep sleep is so critical.
So we now agree that adequate, good quality sleep is essential for your physical and mental health.
We must also now agree that you must do all you can to get better sleep, and to treat any condition or correct lifestyle choices that may be depriving you of sleep.
And for this we are suggesting CBD therapy:
Why CBD is Such an Effective Remedy for Sleeplessness
CBD is one of over 100 active compounds in cannabis that can affect the human body in multiple ways. It has the same effect on our immune response system as the endocannabinoids that naturally occur in our bodies.
By triggering receptors in our endocannabinoid system, CBD can influence how our bodies respond to pain, stress, mood, appetite, and SLEEP.
Unlike another active compound in cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is not psychoactive.
This means CBD will not induce that feeling of being stoned that makes cannabis such a draw for recreational and illicit drug users.
What is interesting in this instance is that THC, because of its sedative effect on the brain, can help in inducing sleep.
The trouble is in knowing how much is enough to get you drowsy. Because, in the event that you over-medicate, you may end up getting high and overactive, which won’t help you fall asleep.
CBD Addresses the Pains and Anxieties That Keep You Awake at Night
The reason CBD is so effective in addressing sleeplessness is it deals with its causes.
Yes, for other conditions, CBD ensures relief by controlling and reducing the severity of symptoms.
But for insomnia and other sleep disorders, CBD helps treat the actual condition for which the inability to fall and stay asleep is a symptom. This is the most effective way of treating any condition.
Even where the underlying condition is only partially treated, you can be confident the insomnia itself, as a symptom, will usually have been addressed.
Insomnia is Usually a Symptom of Another Disorder
Sleep disorders come in different forms.
But, these are commonly lumped together as insomnia, which, in simple terms, is the difficulty in falling and staying asleep.
It is also important to distinguish between insomnia-like sleeplessness and lack of sleep caused by actual deprivation. While it is clear that the causes of the two are different, the effects are largely the same.
If your sleep problems are due to deprivation, then giving yourself more time to sleep should be the first thing to do.
You may not even be struggling for sleep. But you will still want to improve the quality of your sleep, ensuring it is more restful and restorative for the mind and body.
In that case, we will suggest CBD supplementation.
However, if your problems stem from an inability to fall or stay asleep, then a more guided CBD therapy is what you need. In this situation it is important to also start involving your doctor.
You may now be asking:
What Does Research Say About CBD as an Insomnia Remedy?
To start, available research proves that CBD helps to modulate sleep patterns.
In one study conducted on Wistar rats, acute administration of CBD increased total sleep time. That same acute, 40 mg/kg dose of CBD increased REM sleep latency during light hours.
Sleep latency is the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after lying down.
In this case a heavier dose of CBD increased the time it took the rats to get to the REM stage, which is the last stage of the sleep cycle.
This may seem disadvantageous. But the effect is also that the body spends longer time in the third and fourth stages of the sleep cycle. As we have learned, this stage is where the body gets to truly rest and restore, repairing muscles and tissue, and rebooting the immune system.
So, if you work a night shift and have to sleep during the day, CBD medication should help you get better sleep.
More Stabilized Non REM Sleep Stages
As we discussed above, the length of time the body spends in the third and fourth stages of the sleep cycle is important for its physical restoration.
But, for better learning and a sharper memory, it is equally important that you also spend enough time in the REM stage as you sleep.
A joint study by the US National Institute of Health and NorthEastern University sought to investigate the effects of sleep on the endocannabinoid system.
The study produced some important findings:
Modulating the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids that occur naturally in the body led to an increase in sleep stability in the stages preceding the REM stage of the sleep cycle.
The implication is your chances of sleeping through are higher with CBD administration. Normally it is in the earlier, NREM stages of the sleep cycle that people wake easily or struggle to stay asleep.
This means your chances of sleep through the important REM stage improve significantly with CBD medication because the preceding stages are much more stable.
Right, onto the business end of this guide:
How to Use CBD for Better Sleep
This is the part that excites me the most. The reason is I get to draw from my own experience using CBD.
I am a keen triathlete and been searching for a natural supplement to help me recover after practice and competition. This is how I discovered CBD.
Actually, I turned to CBD at the urging of my wife, who now uses several CBD infused beauty products.
Sarah also works a very stressful job, which has affected her sleep quality. She says CBD has helped her sleep better.
She also encouraged her dad to use CBD medication for pain in his arthritic knees. He has found great relief from it.
My muscles are less stiff, I am fitter, and now practice longer than before. My wife is less anxious, sleeps better, and wakes up feeling more rested than before.
OK, let’s talk about CBD administration:
After extraction, CBD can be made into capsules or expressed in an oil.
The extract can also be infused into different edibles like gummies and drinks, and into all manner of cosmetic products.
Gummies Produce a Slower Release of the CBD Extract
As gummies and other edibles need to be processed through the digestive system, it takes longer for the CBD to absorb into the bloodstream.
If you are using CBD gummies as a sleep aid, you will want to medicate one and half hours before you hit the sack. This gives the CBD enough time to take effect.
As a sleep aid, I have found CBD gummies work best for me. Maybe it is because of the chewing, which is a casual way of administering therapy.
CBD Oil Provides Faster Acting Relief
CBD oil sprays and tinctures absorb faster than gummies. This is why many prefer them for pain relief.
For better sleep, you can consider taking a bath and applying a CBD-infused lotion or massage oil before bed. This works especially when you don’t have long to wait while the CBD takes effect.
If you find the CBD is instead making you more alert and energetic than normal, the dose may be too small. That dose will, in fact, work great when taken before a workout, study, or work assignment.
Increasing the dose may calm and relax the mind and help you sleep faster.
CBD Topicals are Great for Pain Relief
I have talked about CBD’s great quality of addressing the issue behind your sleep struggles.
None deprive people of sleep more than pain. This could be pain from an injury or a chronic condition.
CBD topicals like creams and balms have been found to work great on sore, arthritic knees and other physical pain. Rubbing the ointment on the affected area will help relieve the pain and allow you to get some much needed sleep.
After a strenuous workout at the gym or sports practice, a generous application of a CBD body cream will also get rid of muscle aches and stiffness.
Consult Your Doctor Before Taking CBD Capsules for Chronic Pain Relief
Growing numbers of people are turning to CBD to relieve pain from many chronic conditions.
For some of these conditions capsules provide faster relief and will be preferred over oils, gummies, and topicals.
After pain relief, another benefit is you will also get better, more stable, and longer sleep.
But the advice here is to consult your doctor so they can do a proper examination and prescribe the right dosage for you.
Will You Try CBD to Get Better Sleep?
As we have said before, CBD will not fix bad sleep habits.
Your body could be aching and feeling beat all the time, and you are struggling to concentrate simply because you have not been allowing yourself enough time to sleep.
An easy fix is to change your sleep habits. Don’t stay up too late, either working or watching television.
But if merely falling asleep is a struggle for you, I would urge you to give CBD a try.
I hope you found this CBD for sleep guide helpful. I have a lot more helpful information to share on how to use CBD for health and wellness.
I draw quite a bit of this knowledge from my own family’s experience using CBD in various forms. So be sure to check back here for more guides. Also check the homepage for CBD product recommendations.
Until next time, here is to deeper and more restful sleep.