When I hear someone complain of chronic pain, stress, or trouble sleeping, I ask them, “Have you considered trying CBD?” Of course, I'm no doctor, but the stats do not lie.
CBD has found popularity among casual users and researchers alike for its calming and regulating effects on the body, and the research backing up its effectiveness is wide-ranging. One area in particular where we see the ability of CBD to treat a wide variety of symptoms is insomnia.
How CBD Can Help You Sleep
Defined by the Mayo Clinic as "a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep," insomnia is complicated.
Not much is truly known about how our body regulates its sleep schedule, and with all the different causes, hormone imbalances, and lifestyle changes that can affect someone’s sleep, it can be difficult to pinpoint an effective treatment. Yet studies have shown that, over time, consistent doses of CBD can greatly improve a patient's sleeping patterns.
Read more >> 8 APPS AND PODCASTS TO HELP YOU SLEEP
In general, our body operates on circadian rhythms that regulate everything from our sleep schedule to our hormones to our blood pressure. Our circadian rhythms are delicate and can be disrupted by everything from lifestyle changes to more serious causes such as PTSD.
When these rhythms are disrupted, a patient will commonly suffer from either short-term or long-term insomnia. Sometimes these disruptions are temporary, like a life event that comes to pass, but other times the cause is chronic and can lead to insomnia that lasts for months or even years.
Microglial Cells and Our Circadian Rhythms
One of our bodies' main devices for regulating our circadian rhythms are microglial cells. Those cells are sensitive to cannabinoids, including CBD (cannabidiol).
Dr. Benjamin Caplan M.D. is the founder and Chief Medical Officer of Massachusetts-based CED Clinic and CED Foundation, as well as co-founder EO Care, Inc, a digital platform providing personalized cannabis-care plans. He is not affiliated with House of Wise, but he is a pioneer in the medical cannabis industry.
"Microglial cells are basically the janitor/maintenance of homeostasis cells," says Dr. Caplan M.D. "They are very sensitive to cannabinoids, and one of the ways that it seems like they interact is to reset a circadian rhythm."
For a patient suffering from insomnia, using CBD at night may be a way to influence their body to settle into new patterns or reset a circadian rhythm that has been thrown off by an irregular sleep schedule.
The Link Between Stress and Insomnia
On top of affecting our body at a cellular level, CBD can calm overactive neurons and hormones that are released as a reaction to stress or anxiety.
In 2021, over 77% of people say they suffer from extreme stress, and 48% of people report stress that affects their sleep.
Stress and anxiety cause the body to release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, both of which keep the body in a state of high alert. One of the side effects of these hormones is an overactive brain that is firing off neurons left and right, searching for a solution to the problems plaguing our daily lives.
CBD has the ability to affect these nerves at the terminal junction (where one nerve connects to another) through a process called feedback inhibition.
“The way electrical signals are transmitted in the human body is a nerve basically ends at a terminus and dumps small packets of chemicals to [another] nerve," explains Dr. Caplan. "Cannabinoids help modulate those signals, they help calm down those signals.”
Read more >> HOW TO NAP WITHOUT MESSING UP YOUR SLEEP SCHEDULE
If your nerves are overactive, whether it's due to stress, anxiety, or just life in general, it can be hard to flip the switch and fall asleep. While CBD may not be able to cure the cause of your stress or anxiety, it can help our bodies calm down and reset when it is time for us to rest. CBD can give a patient back the ability to take control of their own body chemistry, the very thing that is taken from us by all the stress and anxiety that fills our daily lives.
The Inconsistent Consistency of CBD
While CBD can have dramatic effects for someone struggling to control their own sleeping patterns, results aren't guaranteed.
"Basically people have difficulty sleeping for all sorts of different reasons, and addressing those reasons with cannabinoids can make sense," says Dr. Caplan. "But it's not formulaic."
That's because depending on who you are and what amount of CBD you ingest, it can have vastly different effects on your physiology. Some studies have shown CBD can even improve wakefulness, causing some patients to have difficulty falling asleep on the drug.
"For different people, different cannabinoids have different effects. It’s not a one-size-fits-all," Dr. Caplan explains. "For some people, [CBD puts] them into a relaxed place, actually lets their mind relax. On the other hand, there are products that are so activating that a mind that's been busy thinking about things all day can quiet down because it's tired from being activated more."
CBD's effect depends on our individual physiology, but it also depends on what CBD product you’re using. The CBD market is filled with a myriad of different products, all of which carry different doses of CBD and different complementary ingredients, such as melatonin.
According to Dr. Caplan, there is no "standard" dose of CBD; each product varies widely depending on how much CBD is included in each dose.
The Road to Effective CBD Treatment
In Caplan’s experience, effective CBD treatment requires trial and error. CBD and insomnia both require an in-depth knowledge of a patient, and it takes a personal relationship to understand what is going to work and what symptoms CBD can help with.
Even with all of these factors, for Dr. Caplan and his clinic, CBD has been an extremely effective treatment when administered properly.
“My experience when cannabinoids are guided by a knowledgeable source is that 80 percent of the time people will have the effect they’re looking for," he says. "It's not always instantaneous, it takes learning, it takes adjusting. But if someone is willing to put up the energy to figure out what works, there is a way for almost anyone to find success.”
CBD is especially attractive when you consider traditional treatments for insomnia. Some studies show that even small doses of sleeping pills can put your life at risk, and it is estimated that sleeping pills contribute to up to 500,000 deaths a year. On the other hand, there has yet to be a death reported that could be attributed to an overdose of CBD.
CBD is not necessarily the miracle cure for insomnia or even the answer to a perfect night's rest. But CBD, and its ability to regulate our bodies' neural chemistry and cellular activity, is a tool that can be used for a variety of issues from pain to chronic stress to taking control of your circadian rhythms.