Hemp is a marvelous plant. It is a variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant, also known as industrial hemp. Due to its unique properties, it can make everything from a hemp pillow to CBD sleeping tea. Unfortunately, as the popularity of hemp-derived products increases, so does confusion. Part of this confusion comes from the misuse of specific terms. For example, some use CBD and cannabis interchangeably. Although related, they are not the same.
CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is an important ingredient in cannabis and the hemp plant. Cannabis is another name for marijuana. So although you will find CBD in cannabis (marijuana), there isn’t cannabis (marijuana) in CBD. You can see how this can get confusing!
Though there are several differences between the two, the main difference is that CBD is often derived from a hemp plant, where marijuana is derived from a “sister” cannabis plant. Both plants are the same species, but with some differences. Further, CBD will not give a person a “high” feeling, where cannabis can. That high or buzzing feeling from marijuana is from THC, which is another component. Because CBD does not give this high feeling, it is legal in all 50 states; however, some areas do have restrictions. For example, in some places, it is only permitted when it is 100% derived from a hemp plant (which it most often is).
You have likely already seen CBD in a number of products. For example, many skincare lines, smoothies, and teas contain CBD. This is done by extracting the cannabidiol from the plant. This oil may be removed in different ways such as heat, pressure, friction (by hand), olive oil, a solvent, or supercritical CO2. This results in a pure and potent form that can be added to various products.
If you are new to the world of CBD, you may question all the hype. If you’ve asked yourself why CBD is so popular and what the benefits are, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll explain how CBD works, and more importantly, how it affects your sleep.
What are the benefits of CBD?
There are plenty of benefits to CBD, and with an increasing amount of research on the topic, scientists are discovering even more. People use CBD for different things, depending on their needs. Here are some of the most common benefits to CBD:
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Alleviates symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments (e.g., vomiting, nausea, and pain)
- Relieves pain (e.g., fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain)
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves skin and reduces acne
- Prevents neurological disorders
- Reduces resting blood pressure
- Prevents diabetes
- Reduces symptoms of PTSD
- Improves sleep
Although many of these uses aren’t FDA approved, plenty of studies have found CBD to be effective and safe to use. So far, the FDA has approved CBD to treat epilepsy in a drug called Epidolex. Although the process has been slow, many expect a lot more medications and FDA-approved uses to be added to the list.
How does CBD affect the brain and body?
Cannabinoids interact with proteins and cells in your brain and body. More specifically, it affects your brain and body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system. In the late 1980s, millions of government dollars were spent in an effort to prove that marijuana caused brain damage. As you can imagine, they didn’t find what they were looking for. Instead researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system consists of neurotransmitters and cell receptors that maintain homeostasis. The two primary receptors are CB1 and CB2. They extend throughout your entire body but are heavily concentrated in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
The job of the endocannabinoid system is to communicate between these different systems as well as control biological functions such as sleep, temperature, mood, pain, pleasure, and immune response. It’s balancing it all, keeping all systems in check.
CBD stimulates this endocannabinoid system to produce its own cannabinoids. It acts through various receptors and ion channels which provide multiple benefits for health and wellness. For example, a high concentration of CBD will activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which provides an anti-anxiety effect. It also binds to TRPV1 receptors that function as ion channels. As a result, it mediates pain perception, body temperature, and inflammation. Ultimately, CBD affects multiple molecular pathways providing therapeutic effects.
How does CBD affect sleep?
One of the most common uses of CBD is to aid in sleep. One study compared the use of 160 mg of CBD to a placebo and found that CBD increased sleep duration. CBD affects sleep by targeting the issues of sleep troubles like anxiety and high cortisol levels.
CBD may be an effective remedy for insomnia. Research has found that those with insomnia have higher cortisol levels at night, where those without insomnia have the highest levels in the morning. When cortisol levels are high, it makes it difficult to fall asleep and can cause a person to wake up several times throughout the night. CBD can combat this, acting as a sedative.
A 2019 study examined this and found that nighttime cortisol levels decreased when participants took CBD. As a result, sleep improved. In addition, they found that even a small amount, between 25-175mg, could reduce anxiety, and higher doses could improve sleep.
When sleep troubles are caused by anxiety, CBD can help. According to Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., the clinical director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at Michigan Medicine, “there’s evidence that CBD can help manage anxiety. If someone’s anxiety is creating their sleep problem, a CBD product may benefit them”.
It can also help those with REM sleep behavior disorder. Those who have this sleep disorder make aggressive movements and verbalize during their REM stage of sleep. It is commonly associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In a small study, four individuals with Parkinson’s disease who also had REM sleep behavior disorder were given CBD. Before receiving CBD, they experienced symptoms 2 – 7 times a week. After taking CBD, this was reduced to 0 – 1 times a week.
Another review looked at clinical trials regarding the use of cannabinoids for sleep in 2019. This review found that CBD and THC may improve sleep quality, reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, and decrease sleep disturbances.
All of these studies used different dosages and means of taking CBD, but the results remained similar. Experts believe that people react differently to dosages. For example, some people may require a higher dose than others to receive sleep-inducing benefits.
How do I take CBD?
The dosage and form of CBD that you take will depend on what you are using it for. If you are taking CBD for sleep, a great option is to have a CBD sleeping tea before bed. Tea is already a part of many people’s bedtime routines, and when you add CBD, these benefits will be enhanced. A CBD sleeping tea is a blend of tea leaves with CBD oil. They can come in various flavors depending on the tea leaves used, such as chamomile, lavender, or herbal blends.
If you have insomnia or other serious sleep disorders, you should first contact your doctor. However, if you are looking to improve sleep quality or have trouble winding down after a busy day, a CBD sleeping tea can help you get a better night’s rest. Generally, you can feel the effects within 10 minutes that will last throughout the night. These sleepy teas have a lower dose of CBD, typically between 5 – 25mg. Often they consist of water-soluble CBD, so you can achieve the benefits by drinking it.
There are other methods as well, like taking CBD oil directly. This can be applied under the tongue and swallowed. There are also edibles, often in the form of a gummy candy that contains CBD. These can aid in sleep as well, but some people don’t like the taste these items have.
Vaping CBD extract is another option. Using a vape pen or vaporizer, the CBD extract is heated and inhaled. Although you can receive the benefits of CBD, there are additional risks involved with vaping, making it a less desirable option.
Topicals like lotions and serums may contain sleep-inducing ingredients like CBD, lavender, and chamomile; however, minimal studies have looked at the effectiveness of these items when it comes to sleep.
Is CBD safe?
CBD is considered safe with only some side effects. These side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, and fatigue - which isn’t bad when you are using it for sleep! Due to its strong safety record, it is available over the counter or online. Though safe, if you are taking other medications such as blood thinners, you should speak with your doctor or pharmacist first. .