- Insomnia is a disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep by keeping you awake or waking you following a short period of sleep.
- Roughly 30 percent of all American adults have experienced insomnia, and 10 percent of those have severe enough insomnia to disrupt daily activities.
- CBD may relieve conditions that contribute to insomnia while it also acts as a sleep aid.
We have all been there: you drag your tired body into bed, ready for a good night’s sleep, only to stare at the ceiling for what feels like forever. Or you wake up hours before your alarm goes off and cannot get back to sleep. Maybe you stay in bed, stubbornly determined to fall asleep, or maybe you get up and clean the kitchen until you feel tired again. Maybe you are one of nearly 9 million Americans who use prescription sleep aids. Integrating CBD with other lifestyle practices may help you get the restful sleep that your body craves and needs.
Insomnia makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up feeling rested. Although everyone is different, adults generally need about seven hours of sleep each night for optimal functioning the next day. Many adults experience acute insomnia, which can last a few days or weeks, and many suffer from chronic insomnia, which lasts a month or longer. Lifestyle tweaks can help people get sleep habits back on track for better rest.
Insomnia can be a side effect of medications or of other conditions, such as sleep apnea or chronic pain. In many instances, not falling or staying asleep is the result of one of these common factors:
- STRESS. When you have a lot on your plate, it can be difficult to turn your brain off at bedtime. That makes it challenging to get a good night’s sleep. Combine that with grief or depression and you have a recipe for chronic insomnia.
- FLUCTUATING SCHEDULE. If your work schedule is ever-changing or you change time zones, you may be disrupting your circadian rhythm—the internal clock that guides your sleep–wake cycle.
- BAD HABITS. Sometimes you get in the way of your own circadian rhythm by taking late naps, using your bed for work, binge-watching shows, or scrolling through social media. Keeping a regular sleep schedule and turning off electronic devices several hours before bedtime can help.
- LATE-NIGHT SNACKS. Eating too close to bedtime means you have less time for digestion before lying down. Some people who eat late at night experience heartburn or other physical discomfort, which interferes with sleep.
- CAFFEINE. Consuming caffeine in beverages and foods too close to your bedtime—which is defined as within about five hours but can vary widely among individuals—can have a detrimental impact on the quality of your sleep. Interestingly, there is a genetic component to caffeine metabolism. Some people can consume caffeine at late hours and have zero issues with sleep; for others, any amount of caffeine gets in the way of sleep.
A REAL PROBLEM
Without enough sleep at night, your whole day suffers—from your mood to your work to your relationships. Sleep deprivation can also be hazardous to your health and the safety of others.
- Drowsy driving accounts for 1,500 deaths and 40,000 more injuries in the United States each year.
- Sleep deprivation experienced by doctors plays a part in the 100,000 hospital deaths caused by medical error.
- Getting fewer than five hours of sleep a night can increase your risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease, all of which can have fatal consequences.
- In fact, insufficient sleep is considered a public health epidemic.
Obviously, sleeplessness is the main symptom associated with insomnia. That can mean a few different issues, such as:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Waking too early in the morning
- Not feeling rested after sleeping
- Feeling sleepy during the day
Insomnia can also lead to:
- Depression or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Making mistakes
- Having accidents
- Feeling stressed about sleep
Who Is at Risk?
Individuals with fluctuating schedules or a stressful day can experience a few sleepless nights. Biological factors can also increase your risk of developing chronic insomnia:
- AGE. Changes in sleep patterns and health as we age make insomnia more likely in older adults.
- GENDER. Hormonal shifts can trigger insomnia, making women more likely to experience it. The discomfort of PMS or pregnancy can keep you awake, as can the night sweats and hot flashes of menopause.
- MENTAL HEALTH. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD can make your mind race at night and interrupt your sleep.
- PHYSICAL HEALTH. Sometimes sleep is the remedy needed for pain, such as a headache, and yet pain can keep you up at night. If that pain is related to a chronic health condition such as multiple sclerosis, the risk of insomnia increases.
The CBD Answer
For insomnia, many cannabis clinicians recommend cannabis with THC, even a small amount. For individuals who do not have access to medical marijuana in their states, a CBD supplement at higher doses may help to encourage regular and restful sleep. Cannabis may also help with chronic inflammation and pain, which can interfere with the quality of sleep.
HOW TO USE IT
For most individuals, CBD has a biphasic response. In terms of insomnia, that typically means that lower doses stimulate and higher doses sedate. You will need to find your specific CBD sweet spot for encouraging sleep. Caveat: If you are taking any medications, be sure to consult a qualified healthcare professional before incorporating CBD into your sleep hygiene routine.
WHY IT WORKS
The endocannabinoid system is intimately involved with sleep. The endocannabinoids that we make fluctuate with the circadian rhythm. Cannabis with THC or whole plant CBD may tackle insomnia by:
- REDUCING PAIN. If pain keeps you up at night, cannabis may reduce the inflammation that is causing the pain, taking the edge off to allow you to get some shut-eye.
- RELIEVING ANXIETY. When stress and worry keep you awake, CBD can reduce anxiety to help lull you into sleep.
CBD VERSUS OTHER TREATMENTS
When you have spent one too many nights lying awake in bed, you may ask your doctor for a prescription sleep aid. Many have disturbing side effects and are not meant to be used long term. On the other hand, CBD may help you reset your sleep cycle and could relieve underlying issues such as anxiety and inflammation.
Natural Partners for CBD
Integrating CBD with sleep-promoting habits can ensure quality rest:
- MAKE IT SACRED. Turn your bedtime into a ritual of relaxation that gets your body used to nodding off at the same time every night. Like babies, adults need sleep routines, too!
- HAVE A CUP OF TEA. While caffeine is a late-night no-no, relaxing with a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea made with soothing ingredients such as chamomile can encourage shut-eye.
- USE RELAXING ESSENTIAL OILS. Lavender and pinene are two terpenes that encourage relaxation and sleep. Certain cultivars of cannabis feature these chemicals.
- MEDITATE. Adding a meditation practice to your daily routine at any time of the day can promote sleep.
- SLEEP IN A DARK, COOL ROOM. Sleep is more deep and restful when the sleep setting is darkened and the temperature is cooler.
- KEEP THE ELECTRONICS OUT OF THE BEDROOM. The television is no longer the only electronic device invading the bedroom. Watch out for cell phones, laptops, tablets, book readers, and who knows what else may be on the electronic horizon—all of which interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm.
- CONSIDER TARGETED SUPPLEMENTS. Several supplements can be helpful in sleep promotion. The mineral magnesium can help with falling asleep, and the amino acid glycine can help with staying asleep. Melatonin, which is a hormone produced by the body that aids with sleep–wake cycles, can be taken as an occasional supplement.
Top Insomnia Triggers As You Age
You are more likely to develop a sleep disorder as you get older, and there is good reason for that. Your circadian rhythm has to contend with changes in:
- Sleep patterns. Although you still may need seven hours of sleep, you might begin to naturally need to fall asleep earlier and wake earlier. Your sleep may also be a little restless, making you more likely to wake easily in the middle of the night.
- Activities. Most people are less active as they age, which can negatively impact sleep. And the less active you are, the more likely you are to take a sleep-disrupting nap.
- Health. Overall health can certainly affect how well you sleep. For example, some health conditions result in nocturia, or urinating at night. These conditions include urinary tract infections and prostate enlargement.
- Medications. Insomnia is a side effect of multiple medications that are commonly prescribed to individuals as they age.
From The CBD Oil Miracle by Laura Lagano. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.
Photography by Alyson Brown