As if these symptoms aren’t bad enough, chronic insomnia and other sleep disturbances that cause you to have restless nights for days or weeks can impact your overall health. Prolonged sleep loss can negatively affect everything from your mental health to your risk of accidents and errors to your risk of developing chronic conditions — not to mention your quality of life.
The good news is that people with insomnia and other sleep disturbances — as well as researchers and physicians — are finding hope in cannabidiol, or CBD, to help promote quality sleep. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid molecule produced by cannabis.
If you are struggling to get a restful night of sleep, you’ve probably tried a variety of home remedies and maybe even cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches relaxation and sleep hygiene techniques. But although these treatments may be helpful for some people, they don’t work for everyone.
As a result, many people with sleep disorders such as insomnia often turn to prescription or over-the-counter medication. Although sleep medication may be effective in the short-term, it is not usually recommended for long-term use. Plus, sleep medications can cause side effects, such as daytime sleepiness, grogginess, confusion, and clumsiness. Some sleep medications also may be habit-forming.
Studies suggest that CBD may be a natural, effective alternative to over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications. Anecdotal evidence and research also show that CBD may eliminate unpleasant and possibly dangerous daytime side effects associated with pharmaceutical sleep disorder treatment.
For example, one animal study showed that rats who received CBD showed an increase in total sleep time. Conversely, it also produced an increase in sleep latency — meaning that it took longer for the rats to fall asleep — during the “lights-on” period of the day. These findings suggest that while CBD may promote sleep, it may also promote increased daytime alertness.
Another study in rats showed that CBD also induced alertness, which suggests that CBD could be useful in treating sleep disorders that cause excessive daytime sleepiness.
Although research shows that CBD increases daytime wakefulness and alertness in rats, it also may help regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. This could mean that using CBD may promote improved performance during daytime hours, and as a result, also improve nighttime sleep.
REM sleep behavior disorder causes people to physically act out during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. REM sleep causes increased brain activity and dreams that can sometimes be very vivid.
Most people develop a normal type of paralysis during REM sleep that prevents them from physically acting out their dreams, but people with REM sleep behavior disorder remain able to move around. This can cause disturbed sleep, which can lead to daytime sleepiness. Sometimes, REM sleep behavior disorder can lead to sleepwalking or other movements that cause injury to the person with the REM sleep behavior disorder — or their sleeping partner.
CBD may help reduce REM sleep, as well as movement that occurs in people with REM sleep behavior disorder. Two separate studies on rats found that CBD decreased REM sleep and a review of studies on CBD and sleep found that “CBD may hold promise for REM sleep behavior disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness … “
Research also has shown that CBD is effective in treating anxiety-related insomnia and sleep disturbances, which can sometimes be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other anxiety disorders. Anxiety-related sleep disorders may cause nightmares and racing thoughts that may make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
CBD may be an effective treatment for anxiety-related sleep disorders because it interacts with the brain indirectly during a process called modulation, promoting relaxation and alleviating anxiety.
A study of a ten-year-old girl with PTSD showed reduced anxiety and “… a steady improvement in the quality and quantity …” of sleep after CBD use — without the “major side effects” she experienced after using pharmaceutical medications.
Research has shown that CBD may provide effective treatment for other conditions — such as chronic or acute pain, seizure disorders or PTSD and other anxiety disorders — which also may cause a decrease in the quality and quantity of sleep.
Many people who use CBD to treat other conditions report that, in addition to experiencing improvement in specific symptoms, they also experience improved sleep.
Research supports this conclusion, with one study showing that patients who used CBD to treat a condition that causes chronic pain, such as multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathic pain, cancer pain, or rheumatoid arthritis, reported notable improvements in sleep quality.
Despite research that shows that CBD promotes daytime wakefulness and alertness, many CBD users who suffer from insomnia report that taking CBD a few hours before bedtime results in a restful night of sleep. Other patients report relief of symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, which also can cause significant disruption of sleep.
Although more research is needed to fully understand how CBD affects nighttime sleep and daytime wakefulness, many people who have sleep disorders are experiencing life-changing results after using CBD.